I held the stick in my “urine stream.”
I thought that was a funny thing to call it: urine stream. But what else would you call it?
There’s this thing I do when I don’t want to face reality.
“It’s okay,” I tell myself.
“You’re freaking out for nothing,” I’ll say.
It never works. Ever.
After three minutes passed, I looked at the stick and my heart sank. My stomach was immediately in knots and I thought I would vomit—again.
I was pregnant. Seventeen and pregnant.
I was not ready to be a mother. But I wasn’t the only person in this scenario to consider.
Madison, Mickey, Zoe and I have been close friends since high school. We live in Torrance, a California beach town south of Los Angeles.
Madison was, and still is, my best friend. We get each other. We both have the same crude sense of humor. She has an earthy beauty and rarely wears make-up. We met when we were juniors and shared a science class. Our teacher, Mr. Jennings, would assign the class a chapter with questions at the end. Earlier in the year, Madison and I discovered the answers were in the back of the book. We’d finish in ten or fifteen minutes and spend the rest of the class talking about guys. Mr. Jennings would try to shut us up, but we’d argue that we were finished. Instead of assigning us more work, he’d just shake his head. We took advantage of the fact that he wasn’t the brightest bulb in the teacher’s lounge.
Madison was a lot more experienced with sex than I was. She and her boyfriend Kevin had sex all the time. I was the only one in our group who hadn’t gone all the way, and also the only one without a boyfriend. I had one—well kind of, in my junior year—for almost ten months. A tall, emo dude named Luis Sanchez. He wore stereotypical hideous outfits meant to shock people. I used to be completely obsessed with him. We fooled around a lot but never went all the way.
I broke up with him after I found out he was seeing another girl, Liz, while he was seeing me. Even worse, after we broke up, I heard Liz had gotten pregnant, then had an abortion and dropped acid that same night. Not long after that particular incident, they sent me an invitation to their six-month anniversary party. Their invitation shocked me. It was from both of them. I’ll never understand how she could have agreed to be a part of something like that, especially when she knew he was seeing both of us at the same time. How could she be okay with it? Did it make her feel better to taunt me? Did she feel like she had won?
Madison suggested I reply to him with “Why don’t you invite me to your six-month abortion party? I’ll drop a tab of acid to commemorate the joyous occasion.”
Filled with anger and self-pity, I decided to take Madison’s advice and sent it, but only to him. I knew it was dark and mean, but he deserved it. I must have really upset him because later he sent me a scathing, five-page letter. He did his best to rip me a new one. He’s quite intelligent and has a way with words, so his letter was acerbic and very well written.
Luis seemed to be under the mistaken impression I’d dropped acid after we broke up.
He even had the audacity to suggest I lacked the maturity to handle the invitation like an adult and wrote things like, “In all of your imaginary purity and egotistical blindness . . .” and called me a “worthless, mindless puppet,” as well as a “cruel fork-tongued bitch.” Maybe I had been cruel, but what the hell was he thinking, sending me the invitation in the first place? He ended his letter with, “I thought you would realize I sent the invitation as a way to say I’m sorry about the way things ended between us, but I’d hoped you’d accept it with grace and maturity. Only then could we be able to put the negative feelings behind us and be friends.”
What a dick! See what he did there? He put everything on me and he honestly thought I would see his bullshit invitation that way? This is why I call him Turd Sanchez.
Aside from being a wordsmith and smart-ass, he’s also a bit of an artist, and he included a drawing of me with his angry letter. In it, I was naked with my legs open and skulls were pouring out of my vagina. He wanted to upset me; however his attempt to piss me off failed miserably. It was so crude, so nasty, so dramatic. It didn’t hurt my feelings; it made me laugh. In fact, I took the picture and the letter to school and proudly showed it to everyone. It was incredibly entertaining and mock-worthy.
Madison pointed out if he didn’t care about me, he wouldn’t have taken the time to write to me. As soon as she said it, I knew she was right. He still had feelings for me despite also having feelings for Liz—which I hated—but it made total sense. It might sound odd, but his drama, intelligence and intensity are what initially drew me to him. He wasn’t the best looking guy—a little overweight, horrible dresser and long black hair with a severe white streak in front.
Some of my friends said they thought he was ugly or, at best, homely. In fact, many referred to us as Beauty and the Beast. I didn’t care what anyone else thought about his looks or crazy clothes; I loved him, or thought I did. I was immature. Sometimes though, I would still miss him and think about him. I had to force myself to remember what a jerk he is. I knew I had to be strong and move on. I just wished I would stop dreaming about him.
When I was little, I didn’t care about my looks, and my mom called me a “raggamuffin.” When I began looking at boys as if they weren’t pond scum, I started to pay attention to my appearance. Eventually I developed crushes on boys, and I wanted my crushes to crush on me. They didn’t. I’ve always stood at least a head taller than everyone in my classes, including the boys, and I carried some extra weight. It also didn’t help that I wore glasses. One day in seventh grade, all the boys were assigning numerical value to the girls in my class and my crush, Mark, made sure to let me know in front of everyone that he rated me a three out of ten. In front of my friends I acted like his words didn’t hurt me, but my heart was broken. My ego was crushed. He made me feel ugly, unwanted and unlovable. The deliberate cruelty of Mark’s insult blindsided me. It had a negative and lasting affect on my self-esteem and significantly impacted my self-confidence.
Turning thirteen was pivotal. I grew three inches that year, lost twenty-five pounds and went from awkward pre-teen to a pretty young woman. When I lost the weight, I thought I’d have an easier time with guys, but I was wrong. They still didn’t like me. They called me four-eyes or some other name that made me feel worthless.
When I was fifteen, I finally traded in my glasses for contact lenses. The very first day I wore contacts to school, a very popular senior, Danny Miller, flirted with me. I was walking out of gym class and he called out to me. I couldn’t believe it. Danny was not only popular, he was tall, had facial hair and a deep voice. I walked over to where he was sitting. He told me I was beautiful and asked me for my number. This was it. I’d arrived. It was as if the dark clouds parted and sunlight was streaming down directly on me. I would finally get to be like everyone else. For the rest of the day, I walked around campus with a new, more confident perspective.
That night, Danny called. We chatted for a while and then he brought up his girlfriend, Michelle. I’d seen the two of them walking around campus but I didn’t know them, so I assumed he was single when he asked for my number. He told me he loved her. I asked why he wanted to call me. His answer was like a punch in the gut. He explained that although he loved his girlfriend, he thought I was hot and he wanted to see me on the side. He wanted me to be his side chick and wasn’t even embarrassed to ask.
Rather than tell him off with a long, loud stream of profanity, I told him I wasn’t interested and hung up. Talk about feeling worthless. I should have recognized that he was an asshole right then and there. I should have realized that I was better off without him, but I didn’t. Even though he and I were the only two who knew of our conversation, I was humiliated and devastated. I thought he liked me. I thought that I finally got to join the dating pool and fit in with my friends. Instead, I was treated like some kind of dirty secret, and I thought something was wrong with me.
Guys my age never really liked me. They liked my friends, but not me. It isn’t as if I thought I was better than anyone, but I was truly puzzled. I’m a nice looking person. I have many friends and a decent sense of humor. My grades were excellent, but my love life might as well have belonged to a third-grader. I will say this: adult men liked me. They told me I was a heartbreaker. Thankfully, they weren’t pervs, but they took every opportunity to tell me I was hot. It was always kind of gross and flattering at the same time.
There were many nights when I cried myself to sleep because I felt like an outsider—nights when all of my friends had dates while I was home studying or watching television with my mom. I often felt like I was on the outside looking in. I wanted to be loved like anyone else. I wanted to know what it feels like to be loved for who I am. It was tough and lonely at times.
I firmly believed it would be easier for me after I graduated high school.
Prom was a little more than two months away. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I didn’t have a date or a dress. The guys in my school were so infantile. They were either jocks or surfers/stoners. Ninety-nine percent of them were shorter than me, and most of them acted like children. I’m almost six feet tall and they called me names like “giraffe” or “amazon.” Of course all my friends were set with dates. It was painful for me. The only guy who was ever almost my boyfriend was a liar and a cheater. My mother told me it’s because I intimidated them. I wasn’t sure if she was right, but I was certainly looking forward to college men. I hoped my love life would improve when I had the chance to meet and mingle with men, not boys.
Spring break was approaching and I was going to spend it with my friend Kara and her family at the lake. She and I only see each other once or twice a year and we don’t talk as much as we used to, but we’ve remained friends since I switched schools after my sophomore year. She told me her twenty-year-old cousin, Brad, would be going. I saw a picture of him from a few years ago and he looked pretty cute, but I decided I’d reserve judgment until we were face to face.
Every Sunday morning the four of us girls went to breakfast. None of us were allowed to wear make-up. I’m not sure why we decided on that rule, but we all followed it. We’d roll out of bed, throw on some clothes and Zoe picked all of us up in her cherried-out silver ‘57 Chevy pick-up and we’d have breakfast at a diner by the ocean. I loved that we did this. I always ordered the same thing: Eggs Benedict with English muffins instead of toast. We drank a lot of coffee.
Sunday morning, I stood outside and waited for Zoe. I was always the last one to be picked up, so when I squeezed into the cab of her truck, the gang was all there. They were chirping about what they would be doing for spring break. Madison was going on a trip with her boyfriend, and Mickey was volunteering to be a counselor at a camp for physically disabled kids. As usual, Zoe was working. Zoe and I have the same last name—Andrews. She’s like a hardcore working woman compared to the rest of us. She’s tall and blonde like I am, and her boyfriend James is older and lives on his own. He’s twenty-two, has blonde, curly hair and a mustache. They look like Ken and Barbie. He works construction and she works in a department store, so she was busy and didn’t hang with us all the time. Zoe always looks very professional and super important, but really, she’s wild and parties like a maniac.
Upon our arrival at the restaurant, we were immediately seated.
Zoe had an announcement. “I have to tell you guys something and it’s totally gross.”
We all fell silent, wondering what it could be.
“The other day, James and I were in bed and I saw something crawling out of his mustache.”
Horrified, we all let out a collective “eeeewwwwwwwww!”
She went on, “It was a crab!”
“Are you freaking kidding me?” Madison asked.
“No, I wish I was. But it gets worse. I have them too.”
“EEEEEEWWWWWWWWW,” we all groaned again.
The three of us sat there, stunned.
I asked, “How? What happened?”
Zoe explained that she thought she got them from trying on pants at the department store where she worked. I didn’t believe her and I could tell Mickey and Madison thought the same thing because of the way we looked at each other. We all figured James was probably having sex with someone else, but none of us said anything. We played along and tried to be supportive.
Madison asked if I was excited about my upcoming camping trip. She doesn’t like my friend Kara. They met at a party last year and immediately hated each other. I told Madison I was indeed excited, and was curious to see what Kara’s cousin, Brad, looked like.
Madison asked, “If he’s hot, will you fuck him?”
“You’re so crude.” I said. “Maybe, I don’t know. I might actually have my period then, so I doubt the lake will be where I pop my pristine cherry.”
After hearing Zoe’s crab story, I didn’t feel like I was in any hurry to have sex. I was very curious, but I was also frightened. The thought of having some living creature feasting on my genitals was rather disturbing.
Madison was impatient for me to get laid. She loved sex.
“You don’t know what you’re missing,” she’d say.
“All I know is Kara told me he’s hot. And tall. She emailed me a picture of him from five years ago. He looked pretty cute, but I’ll have to see what he’s like now.”
Madison asked, “Does he have a Facebook page?”
“No. I asked. Kara says he doesn’t like social media. He thinks it’ll be the downfall of civilization.”
“He sounds perfect for you,” Mickey said.
Mickey always smells like strawberry body spray and is an eternal optimist. She’s a bit of a peace-loving flower child mixed with a dash of glamour-diva. At any given time you can find items like patchouli incense, pink feather boas and tie-dyed platform sandals in her perpetually messy room. She chooses to see the good in humanity and is crushed when people let her down.
“Just don’t let him give you crabs!” Zoe said as she reached down to scratch her crotch. “It’s awful!”
“How do you get rid of them?” Mickey asked.
“There’s a shampoo. Plus, we both shaved everything off. We don’t have them anymore but I keep itching. Oh my God, you should see James without pubes. His dick looks enormous! He looks like a porn star!”
Zoe cackled and we all burst out laughing.
I love my friends. It feels wonderful to be a part of this group. We’re like family and we’ll all be best friends forever.
After breakfast, Zoe dropped me off at home. I was stuffed, so I took a nice long nap before I started my homework. School is a breeze for me. My mom tells me I’m an old soul and my intelligence comes from my past lives. She’s been reading all about reincarnation. She’s a smart, over-achiever and loves to read. A few years ago she was consumed with dreams and their meanings. When she finds a subject of interest, she jumps in and wants to learn all about it. Now she’s always trying to guess who we were in past lives.
The day flew by and by 4:30 my homework was completed. My mom knocked on my door and asked what I wanted for dinner.
“I don’t know. What do you want?”
“I don’t know either, that’s why I asked you.”
I sighed, “I don’t know.”
“Well, you’re no help,” she said with a sour face.
“I guess we can have chicken stew. I mean, since it’s just going to get warmer, we might as well get in one more pot of stew before summer comes.”
“Okay. Sounds good. I’ll start it. Oh yeah, your dad called while you were sleeping and he said to call him back.”
“Okay,” I said. “Did he say if it was important?”
“No, he just wanted to say hi.”
My mom and dad split up when I was three. They remained friends and he remarried ten years ago. He and my stepmom Rachel have two kids: Mason, who’s eight, and Nicole, who’s five. They live about ten miles away and I usually spent every other weekend with them. Things changed when I became a senior. I usually had plans with my friends and my dad took it personally. I’d remind him that I was almost a woman and our lives would be changing. I also kept reminding him if I had a car, I could pop over on weekdays and he wouldn’t have to always be picking me up and dropping me off. I thought I’d convinced him because my mom sells cars for a living and he’d been making comments about which used cars were the safest and best rated.
My cat, Vanilla, was curled up on my bed. I gave her a kiss and called my dad. “Hi Dad. Mom said you called.”
“Hey brat! I did. I just wanted to catch up with you and see how your weekend was.”
“It was okay. The girls and I had breakfast today and last night, I stayed home and watched movies with Mom.”
“I also wanted to know if I’m ever going to see you again?’
“Daaaaaaad, stop being so dramatic. You know I have a lot on my plate now and my camping trip is next weekend. I’ll see you guys the following week like we planned.”
“I know, sweetie. I’m just giving you a hard time. I’m looking forward to it. In fact, I have a surprise for you.”
“What is it?”
“How is it a surprise if I tell you?” he teased.
“Oy, okay. I’ll wait.”
We chatted for about a half an hour, and despite all of my subtle attempts to drag the surprise out of him, he wouldn’t budge. I had a feeling it was about my new car—my new used car, that is. But I played dumb. I think he hated the idea I was growing up and he wanted me to be his little girl forever. So I let him think he could outsmart me. Ha. No.
The smell of cooking stew filled the whole apartment. It made me feel homey and cozy.