By Rachel Harmon
“Please don’t be pregnant. Please don’t be pregnant. Please don’t be pregnant.” I hovered over the toilet of my unkempt bathroom, as my hand struggled to steady the testing stick between my legs. This magical stick had the special ability to give me life-determining news just by inspecting my pee. I actually found the science of pregnancy tests fascinating, but in my current position, I deemed myself incapable to deliver an informative lecture on lateral-flow technology. When my fresh stream of urine finally made contact with the almighty stick shaking in my hand, I promptly counted down five seconds per the instructions. “Five. Please don’t be pregnant. Four. Please don’t be pregnant. Three. Please don’t be pregnant. Two. Please don’t be pregnant. One. Please don’t be pregnant.” I removed the stick from the yellow stream, let the rest of my pee trickle into the toilet, stretched my arm out to place the pregnancy test on the bathroom counter in front of me, and began my ten minutes of waiting. Now started my resistance against my most notorious nervous tics: licking the inside of my teeth, knocking my knuckles on my thighs, and occasionally envisioning my deceased grandfather.
Sam and I were en route to her drug dealer’s house. She just wanted some weed, and I was bored enough to tag along. I always liked to think of myself as bored, not impulsive. Reckless, hormonal teenage girls named Bianca or Kristi were impulsive; barely dignified, sprouting college students like myself were just bored. It was a Saturday night of early October. It was a good evening for a trashy house party, and this residence was an exemplary testament to that. The unmistakable chorus of Ray J’s “Sexy Can I” exponentially swelled, as we closed in on the house. Once we arrived in the front yard, three drunk underclassmen spilled out of the front door, laughing at Becky for tripping over her three-inch, strappy heels. “Becky, you stupid hoe!” Becky #2 hollered, as Becky #3 attempted to descend the stairs without falling. Becky #3 was surprisingly successful. After thorough observation and well-executed critical thinking, Sam and I decided the Beckys could survive on their own, shimmied past them, climbed the stairs, and opened the front door. As Sam entered the crowded house, we were slapped in the face with the pungent fumes of a well-made jungle juice and sweaty bodies. Ray J’s hit of 2008 finished as Outkast’s “The Way You Move” commenced. I theorized that whoever was in charge of the playlist was going through an existential crisis, desperately wanting to return to the simpler times of the 2000s. I could imagine a sad man named Ben huddled over his phone, auxiliary cord, and half empty can of Natural Light, internally sobbing.
Weaving through the mass of sloppy folks, Sam searched the first floor for her dope supplier, and I followed. I scanned the floor for spilt drinks while politely denying the alcoholic offerings of the house party’s finest Ryan or Chad. “Fuck, he’s not here,” Sam said. “Turn around,” she ordered, and I followed. Sam was Sherlock Holmes, and I was the supportive Dr. Watson. We were doing our best detective work at the bottom of the staircase when she exclaimed, “There he is!” She marched up the stairs to meet the man and woman standing halfway up. I followed. The two strangers both stood with drinks in hand. The woman was drinking Woodchuck Hard Cider, Granny Smith flavor, tart and dry. The man was drinking a summer ale from a trendy microbrewery that was a sweet mystery to me. I could already tell who I liked more.
Sam talked with her marijuana source, as I turned toward the party below to admire this Saturday’s most shameless from my spot on the stairs. After deciding that Tina shouldn’t go home with Tommy and that Blake and Chris should definitely go to Taco Bell, I finally turned back to the conference next to me. I took better notice of the woman unknown to me, Granny Smith. Besides her poor choice in beverage, I had no reason to be bothered by her. Sam and her cannabis connection were talking business, and this stranger and I just happened to be the witnesses of the exchange. We acknowledged each other’s existence with small smiles. We didn’t think to do more than that, expecting this transaction to conclude quickly. Just then, the man with the Mary Jane ran up the rest of the stairs to go fetch the desired drug for Sam. This is when I noticed his nice posterior. I privately objectified him as he lunged up the stairs, only using every other step like cool dudes did. I subconsciously approvingly watched his derriere for a bit too long. This was where I goofed up.
“Please don’t be pregnant. Please don’t be pregnant. Please don’t be pregnant.” Only three minutes had passed. In that time, I finished my business on the toilet, anxiously washed my hands with water that was a bit too hot, and sat on the floor with my back against the wall opposite of the shower. I watched and monitored the stick resting on the countertop, thinking that staring hard enough would speed up the pee-deciphering process. When I wasn’t busy muttering my humble request, I licked the inside of my teeth. My nerves barely settled, as I pressed the tip of my tongue against the backs of my incisors. I always did this with my lips pursed, not wanting anyone to notice. But that was all for nothing as I sat in the bathroom alone. No one was there to question, yet I was too nervous to change my behavior. To accompany the dental licking, I knocked my fists on the side of my thighs. All five digits of each hand were situated in a ball, my fists on the verge of being clenched. I wasn’t violent, just extremely nervous. I knocked on my thighs in groups of three beats. 1, 2, 3, pause. 1, 2, 3, pause. Typically, I only knocked on one thigh, but now I was seriously nervous—you know, pregnancy-scare nervous. So I knocked on both thighs, double time.
“What the fuck? Are you checking out my boyfriend?” the strange woman on the stairs asked me. Her voice wasn’t what I expected to hear. I was hoping for her to sound as cute as Becky #2, but she was more stormy like an Emma or a Morgan. Also, I couldn't deny that the smell of alcohol on her breath reinforced her storminess.
“No,” I lied, hoping we all could just forget it and move on.
“Really? You were obviously checking him out!”
“Okay, maybe I was,” I admitted, naively hoping that Emma/Morgan was the kind of person who would settle for a confession.
“Oh, come on! You don’t even know him!” She threw up her free hand, the other tightening its grip on her drink.
“I’m sorry. I really am.”
“I don’t even know who the fuck you are!”
“I’m Katherine,” I answered quietly.
“I’m Katherine,” I repeated, pushing my voice this time so that she could hear me over the Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’t Cha” blaring around us.
“Well, Katherine, fuck you!” Emma/Morgan had now adopted her drink’s personality for her own: tart and dry. She looked sour, with furrowed eyebrows and mad eyes. She was terrifying yet a bit inspiring. “Fuck you!”
“Jesus, Courtney!” Sam interjected (Courtney? Really? That’s her name?). “She said she’s sorry.”
“But she was checking out my man,” Courtney (I’m not buying it) pleaded.
“He’s my man!”
“I know. I get that, but he does have a nice ass,” Sam casually added like the fierce jungle cat she was. She had an exhilarating disregard for manners. She said everything you were afraid to say and more.
“Courtney, you of all people should know this.”
“Fuck yeah, I know he has a nice ass, but does that give you sluts permission to thirst after my man? No!” Courtney was possessive as heck.
“Courtney, you need to calm down,” Sam said, annoyed as heck.
“I need to calm down?” Courtney dramatically questioned. With this, I carefully made my way down a few steps, to further distance myself from the intensifying tornado of one intoxicated and endlessly defensive girlfriend and one ruthless and weed-smoking rule-breaker.
“Courtney, we don’t want to admire your boyfriend’s ass all night. We just came to get some weed.”
“Fucking pothead,” Courtney muttered to herself, trying to act like she didn’t want us to hear her but clearly wanting us to hear her.
“Really? You can’t call me a pothead. You suck the dick of a drug dealer.” Sam challenged her with a light chuckle.
“Excuse me?” Now, Courtney was just about to go bonkers.
“What? I’m not wrong, am I? You suck his dick!”
“Sam, stop,” I added, trying to remind her that all she came for were drugs.
“I get it!” Sam continued with her unruly sucking-his-dick bit. “Oral sex is a vital part of many healthy, intimate relationships.”
“Jesus! I’d suck his dick, and I’m not even dating him!”
“Bitch!” Courtney officially lost her hat. She busted her hinge. The tornado had touched down. I got out of the way just in time for her to shove Sam down a few steps.
“Really, cunt?” Sam grabbed Courtney by the arm and shoved her toward the floor, but the woman miraculously stayed on her feet and kept her drink steady. Once the party’s singular Brody noticed the two women readying themselves to brawl, he hollered “Girl fight!” for the whole house to hear. With Brody’s bugle call, the near-by party-goers realized the circling lionesses at the pit of the stairs. As I ran up a few steps to further distance myself, Sam readied her fists and her game face. Courtney took a sip of her drink and assumed her shallow interpretation of Super-Woman posture. As Courtney swung at Sam and got nothing but air, the drug dealer and his inspiring backside descended the staircase, with weed in hand. “What the fuck?”
The women awkwardly tussled for a bit. They slapped at each other’s hands, avoiding their faces. Sam inched forward for the lead, slapped Courtney, emptied her drink onto her shirt, and slapped her again. The crowd went wild. “What the fuck is going on?” the drug dealer asked again.
“Please don’t be pregnant. Please don’t be pregnant. Please don’t be pregnant.” Six minutes had passed. Four minutes remained. I was more than halfway there. My nerves violently persisted, so I reasoned that a vision of my departed grandfather was needed. I only did this for the most extreme situations. I had always known it wasn’t typical to envision one’s deceased grandfather in high-stress situations. However, the spirit of that Alabama-grown southern gentleman had always been the most comforting force I knew. My Washington-D.C. lawyers for parents could only be so empathetic. I always imagined Grandpa sitting in his favorite lawn chair with a cold bottle of Budweiser in hand. His Crimson Tide baseball cap was snug, and his two feet were firmly planted on the ground before him. In my bathroom now, Hallucination Grandpa was sitting right in front of the shower, facing the testing stick resting in front of the sink. I imagined his laughter filling the space, swiftly shrinking my nerves. He flashed his smile of fake teeth, reminding me that I was still capable of doing the same. I had only seen him smile in the most intense moments. I sat in depression, he in radiance. He knew I’d figure it out.
No one besides the cashier of the CVS Pharmacy down the street knew I was taking this test. If my roommates noticed the large chuck of time I was spending in the lavatory, I could easily persuade them that I had a diarrhea-inducing burrito for lunch. Embarrassingly, I had yet to tell Lucas.
“What the fuck is going on?”
“They’re fighting,” I uselessly pointed out the obvious, hesitant on whether to share with him that me checking out his butt was the start of this whole ordeal. Just then, Sam slapped Courtney again.
“Okay, ladies,” the drug dealer interrupted the fight, pulling apart the feisty females. “Let’s stop this! Everyone, move along! The fight is over,” he addressed the gathered crowd as Courtney reached for another jab at Sam currently being held back by maybe a Tim or a James. “There’s nothing to see here!” Once the crowd broke and returned to their drinking games and slurred conversations, the drug dealer turned to Courtney, “Babe, what’s going on?”
“It’s all because of these two sluts.” She pointed to me and Sam.
“Alright,” the drug dealer started as he glanced at us to see me knocking on my thigh and Sam boldly projecting her chin upward. He turned back to his girlfriend. “How about we go upstairs, clean you up, and calm down for a bit?” There wasn’t much to clean up besides her stained shirt and nicked ego.
“Hey, Lucas,” Sam called out to her drug dealer walking his girlfriend up the stairs (Lucas? Really? A drug dealer named Lucas?). “Can you just give me the pot so we can get out of here?”
“Just give me a second,” he gave Sam an unsatisfactory answer and ran to the bathroom with his girlfriend. There we were, Sam and I, yet again admiring the man’s buttocks as he worked his gluteus maximus, ascending to the second floor.
“He does have a great ass,” Sam added, permitting us to laugh at ourselves. We waited at the bottom of the stairs for the man to return. We didn’t come for the squad of Beckys, the greatest hits of 2005, or the finest drug dealer I’d ever seen. We just came for the pot.
“Alright, alright,” Lucas (that’s an interesting choice on his parents’ part) started as he made his way down the stairs to us. “Here’s your pot. Now, where’s my money?” Sam and Lucas (maybe I’m warming up to it a bit now) finally completed their transaction.
“Thank you,” Sam added as she stuffed her small, bagged bit of weed in the band of her bra.
“No problem,” Lucas (has he ever tried just Luke?) replied. “Now, who are you?” he asked me.
“Me? I’m Katherine,” I shyly answered the drug dealer, imagining him as an all-powerful lord and me as an innocent pedestrian. Later, I was tuned into the fact that he only sold marijuana, so he was respectively soft for a drug dealer but still exciting. “But you can call me Kat,” I added before I could stop myself.
“Alright, Kat. I’m Lucas. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Please don’t be pregnant. Please don’t be pregnant. Please don’t be pregnant.” Nine minutes passed. Only one minute left. Sixty seconds.
“Hey, champ,” Grandpa said. Oh no. I didn’t know that Hallucination Gramps could talk. This was the only time he had verbalized anything. Whenever I saw him before, he remained mute. Whether for a job interview or for telling my parents I wouldn’t be going to their alma mater, he was supportive yet silent.
“Grandpa?” I whispered.
“Hey, kid, how you doing?” my vision of him casually asked me. “Kid, how are ya?” Grandpa repeated, as I tried to deny what I was hearing. I decided to keep silent, afraid that anything verbalized would be picked up by my roommates. Avoiding any form of eye contact with the talking hallucination, I locked eyes with the ceiling, unflinching. “How goes it, champ?”
“Not now, Grandpa,” I mentally communicated to him and in doing so realized my ability to telepathically communicate.
“I just want to know how you’re doing.”
“Fine, Grandpa. I’m fine.”
“You certainly don’t seem fine.”
“And who made you judge?”
“I know you, Kat.” Gramps always called me Kat. Lucas called me Kat too, but my grandfather, Charles Raymond Beckman, was always the best at calling me Kat.
“Grandpa, excuse my French, but I’m fucked.”
“Kid, you’re not fucked!”
“Woah, Gramps! What’s with the profanity?”
“You started it!”
“I’m just kidding,” I joked with the hallucination of my dead grandfather, laughed by myself, careful to do so quietly.
“Kat?” Grandpa asked for my attention.
“You’ll be fine.”
He kindly smiled at me. I tried my best to read him, to figure out if Courtney had yet to tell him about what I did to spark Woman World War I at the bottom of his staircase.
“Nice to meet you too,” I said before Sam and I turned to leave.
“So, Kat, you like my ass?” he called out to me. Sam and I turned back to face him.
“Excuse me?” I tried my best to act dumb, but Lucas (I could dig it) was smarter, cooler, and better than that.
“Courtney told me that you checked out my ass,” he explained slowly like the undeniably smooth man he was. “Now, is Courtney lying?”
“Well,” I started nervously. I fidgeted, licked the inside of my teeth, knocked my knuckles on my thigh, and composed myself enough to make sure Hallucination Grandpa didn’t make an appearance. I didn’t know how to respond to a drug dealer. I knew that he wasn’t like the serious drug lords, but he had certain responsibilities that I never imagined adopting. “Maybe,” I confessed. Sam and Lucas (I decided he wouldn’t be a good Luke) both laughed at this.
“Well, I appreciate it. Thank you.” This man was one cordial drug dealer.
“Yeah, I’m sorry,” I started. “I didn’t—”
“I just didn’t—”
“She’s fine. Don’t worry about her.”
“Alright,” Sam interjected. “Katherine, let’s go.” She guided me to leave. “Thanks again, Lucas!” she called out to the marijuana man. He waved us good-bye. Once he turned around, I turned back to get one last look at his butt making its way up the stairs.
Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.
My phone’s timer reminded me that ten minutes had passed. Time was up.
“This is it, Gramps.”
“This is it, champ.”
It seemed to take twenty-nine years for me to stretch my right arm out to grab the plastic stick from the counter. It took me another nineteen months to realize that, all while fetching this stupidly important stick, I’d been furiously knocking on my left thigh, triple time. I stopped my hand long enough for it hold the clean end of this life-determining stick. With both hands steadying the stick and my psyche, I looked down to read “Not pregnant.”
“So what is it, kid?” Grandpa asked.
“Not pregnant.” I automatically grabbed my phone, dialed Lucas’s number, held the phone to my ear, and waited for him to answer my call.
“Kat, what’s up?” he answered. With him calling me Kat, Hallucination Grandpa gave me a wave goodbye and started to fade.
“I’m not pregnant,” I confessed impulsively.
“I’m not pregnant,” I repeated for him, myself, or maybe both.
“Pregnant? Kat, what are you talking about?” He called me Kat again. “Did you ever think you were pregnant?”
“Kat! Really?” There he went calling me Kat again. “You can’t keep this shit to yourself!”
“But I’m telling you now.”
“Where are you?”
“In my bathroom.”
“Alright, stay there. I’ll see you in ten.”
“Bottoms up, bitches!” My friend Mia announced our new round of tequila shots for the whole bar to hear. She was dumped the day before, so our only goal was to get shit-faced. As Queen Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” blasted through the bar’s speaker system, Jose Cuervo was pulsing through our veins. After we took yet another uncoordinated group selfie, I stumbled over to the bar with the unique confidence of an intoxicated young woman and ordered another round of shots. While waiting for Trish, the new bartender in training, to accidentally overpour our shots, I surveyed the bar’s offerings: the potential suitors surrounding me. At the other end of the bar, there was Bryce chugging beers with his bros Jason and Tyler. Julian and Martin just entered, scoping the crowd for women desperate enough to grind on their tiny dicks. To finish my observations, there was Dan with his girlfriend Josie, both laughing over a few brewskis.
“Kat?” I nearly tripped over my drunk self to find who called for me. Standing behind me with a fresh beer was Lucas. It had been two weeks since that infamous house party.
“How are you?”
“I’m great! How are you?” My hand somehow slipped and grazed his sweet pectoral muscle. I gulped, and he observed my drunken thirst.
“Here you go!” Trish declared the arrival of my order.
“Thank you!” I furrowed my eyebrows, calculating how to carry nine shots half-way across this establishment.
“Let me help you.” Lucas followed me and transported five shots and his beer to our table of hopeless single women. As he set down the tequila-filled glasses, I peeked at his ass. It was as fine as ever. Shaggy’s “Wasn’t Me” garnered a great response from the crowd, as Lucas and I exchanged a sexy look. With tequila and beer fueling our decisions that night, it took us no more than two lingering stares, a smolder, and a smirk to decide we were going home together that night. We had sex (great sex). Five days later, he ended his relationship with Courtney. My period was late, and now he was on his way to my bathroom.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
“Kat? Are you decent?”
“Yeah.” There he was: the cute, fascinating, alluring, well-endowed marijuana dealer who almost impregnated me. He sat across from me on the bathroom floor with his back against the tub.
“I got you chocolate,” he stuttered. His hand trembled as he handed me the CVS Pharmacy plastic bag as a peace offering. His hand continued to shake. His breathing grew short, as he repeatedly shifted the baseball cap he wore. This persisted, as did the silence.
“Lucas, look at me.” I put down the bag and placed a cautious hand on his knee. “There’s no need to worry. I’m not pregnant.”
“But it was close.”
“Say it with me. I’m not pregnant.”
“I’m not pregnant. I’m not pregnant,” we said together. His hand shook a bit less. His breathing grew deeper, and he finally found where his hat was comfiest on his head.
“I’m not pregnant,” I repeated once more for good measure. “We’re in the clear.”
“You’re not pregnant.” He smiled. I smiled. We sat there for a bit, finally taking the time to know the basics of each other. He studied public policy and psychology and learned that I studied environmental engineering. We finally left the bathroom, with the stick collecting dust in the trash can. Over the best Chinese takeout our college campus had to afford, we saw each other beyond his fine buttocks and my sexual desperation. We heard childhood stories and our natural, sober voices. We felt our nervous tics melt away.
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