Danielle Davis is a San Diego native living in San Francisco as she works toward her BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. As a writer, she likes to shape and mold time to serve the greater narrative. In her free time, she enjoys facebook and spending time with her family. This piece was originally developed and performed as a part of a literary and performance art nonprofit organization in San Diego called, So Say We All.
One Pink Line
I hear the toilet flush and I cringe, curling my naked body up into a ball in my childhood bedroom. I feel the all too familiar shame that washes over me whenever Jack and I have sex while Dad is away at his weekly chemo appointments. I lie there, waiting for Jack to return, and wonder if this is how I’m supposed to feel. I always thought sex is part of what cements the bond in a relationship, that it was supposed to evoke feelings that are responsible for making me fall more in love with him. Maybe it’s because I’m not this girl. I promised myself, Dad, and God that I would wait until I was married to have sex ...a lot of good that did.
I sit up in bed when Jack returns from the bathroom. I turn my back to the mirror above my dresser. I’m not ready to face myself, face what I did. I wish he would kiss me or wrap his arm around me as we start to dress, but I know he won’t - he’s only affectionate before sex, never after. When we’re ready to go, I look around the room to make sure there’s nothing to give us away. I'm met with the fluffy faces of stuffed animals gathered on the shelf near my bed. Reminders of how, at eighteen, I’m still a child. I glance up at the yellow poster on the wall and silently read the words from First Peter, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment but rather the unfailing beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” I wonder if the words still apply to me.
“Did you get a haircut?” I ask Dad several weeks later while we’re on the patio at a party, noticing the straight and clean hairline at the base of his neck.
“Oh...I guess I haven’t been home enough to notice.”
When was the last time I spent the whole day at home? When was the last time I really even LOOKED at him? He seems so different from the man whose arms I would run into at recess. Would he ever be that way again?
These questions and more run through my head as Dad and I stand on the patio. I guess I stopped looking at him after the first surgery to remove his brain tumor. He came home changed. The incision looked so red and raw that I was afraid to touch him or even get too close. I didn't want to face the idea that he was mortal, human. Dad was always the one who fixed things, whether it was a doll with a broken leg to my own broken heart...but I don’t think he could fix this, fix himself.
Another chemo treatment, another forbidden morning spent in bed. This time Jack doesn’t pull out in time and drips on me. I hold my breath as I feel rough paper scraping at my softest parts. When he’s done, I try my best to put it out of my head. A few weeks go by and I notice that my period is late...first, only by a week, then two.
How could I have been so stupid? “Great worth in God’s sight.” Right...I’m not worth anything anymore. What am I gonna do? What if Dad finds out? He won’t even be able to look at me.
“May I have a pregnancy test, please?”
I ask the woman at the front desk of the Christian crisis pregnancy center that I’m helping raise money for at church. I look around the small waiting room and am struck at how pleasant it looks. Simple white walls frame a few chairs, and parenting magazines are neatly stacked on the coffee table near the desk. There’s nothing to betray the push for abstinence that they preach as gospel.
“My name is Lydia, can you tell me when your last period was?”
“I’m not sure…”
I’m two weeks late and it’s the middle of August, so it must have been during Comic-Con? This shouldn’t be so hard!
Lydia’s voice snaps me out of my head. “Would looking at something help?” She offers, handing me the calendar from the wall. I put it on the desk and tap the boxes, counting back the days.
“I think it was the middle of July, maybe the twenty-first?”
“Any breast tenderness, nausea?”
“Um, no nausea, but my boobs have been a little sore.”
“Okay, I need you to fill the cup up about halfway,” she says.
Joy. The biggest test of my life, and my bladder is empty. Why won’t my hands stop shaking? Focus Danielle, just breathe.
When I come out of the restroom, I walk into a small sitting room holding the cup. A tray holding a test strip and a small plastic dropper is on a shelf against the wall.
“Take the dropper, draw up urine then put four drops in the window in the middle of the strip.”
I do as instructed and then settle into one of two chairs in the room with Lydia sitting in the other. She looks over the intake form that I filled out earlier before opening her mouth to speak.
“How long have you been with your boyfriend?”
“Only three months...and I’m already here...”
“What’s his name, and where did you meet?”
“His name is Jack, and we met at church…I feel like the sole focus when Jack and I are together is having sex. I don’t really know how to fix it”
Why am I even telling her this? Everything has been fucked up for so long--it feels good to tell someone. I was so proud of myself when I promised to wait to have sex. Then,I fuck it up? I can’t have a baby now. Not with Dad so sick. What would people at church say?
“You two shouldn’t be alone together anymore, I know that having sex with Jack probably makes you feel closer to him but...isn’t your virginity, your virtue, worth more?” Her serious tone startles me and I want to curl up in a ball and disappear. She looks back down at my intake form and mentions that while it’s a good thing Jack and I have been using condoms, they aren’t perfect.
“Let’s check your test, one pink line means the test is negative and two lines means the test is positive.”
One pink line. One pink line. Please God, don’t let me be pregnant.
With a deep breath, I walk to the shelf holding the test strip, bracing myself for what it could reveal. I can see one line, but it’s barely visible. I wave Lydia over and she rules the test inconclusive. My heart sinks.
“You might have come in too early, so you should come back...maybe on Saturday if you haven’t gotten your period yet, so you can retest.”
On the bus ride home I lean my head against the cold, glass window, grateful for its cooling presence in the late summer heat. Stop number one, and a trio of giggly teenage girls in flip flops gets on. Next stop brings a young blonde woman, not much older than me, wrestling with a stroller. As the bus pulls away from the stop the baby in the stroller wakes up and starts to cry. If I am pregnant, is this what my life will become?
I don’t know what to tell him. My stomach churns as I dial his number.
“We really need to talk...are you busy?”
“Not really, what’s up?” I feel guilty when I hear how happy he sounds.
“I’m two weeks late, I think I’m pregnant”
“I don’t know what to say...How could this happen? We were careful.”
“Please don’t be mad. I took a test today and it wasn’t clear one way or the other.”
“Okay, well are you going to take another one?”
“Saturday-if my period doesn’t come first, Come with me?”
“Sure, whatever...I gotta go” As I hang up the phone, I close my eyes and let my mind drift as I try to imagine what my life with Jack was supposed to be.
I’m kissing Jack goodbye as he leaves for work in the morning. I pass our wedding picture hanging on the wall as I sweetly nuzzle the sleeping baby in my arms. That’s when the daydream playing in my head stops.
Maybe getting pregnant wouldn’t be such a horrible thing. People would disappointed at the beginning, but as time passed they would be happy, even excited for us. It wouldn’t be easy, but Jack and I could make it work, couldn’t we? Maybe a grandchild could even give Dad the strength to pull through and win the battle.
A couple of nights later, I wander into the living room at around three am unable to sleep. I find Dad lying on the couch watching TV. He watches me as I settle into the floral print recliner and smiles.
“Hey Little Bit, can’t sleep?”
“No, mind if I join you?”
“Nope, but you can’t complain if I’m channel surfing.” We watch together without speaking for awhile. Every commercial seems to be about diapers or baby food...but maybe it’s just me.
“I don’t know if I’m cut out to have kids...I can barely take care of myself.”
Dad smiles, and his eyes soften. “You’re going to be a great mom, someday, when you’re ready. You have such a beautiful heart, a child would be lucky to have you, my sweet girl, as a mother.”
Saturday came and my period didn’t... so, back to the crisis pregnancy center I went. I repeated the process just like the last time and waited for the result.
One pink line.