Month: October 2014

Positive

This is a true story. Only the names, dates, places, and actual events have been changed.

***

Craigslist is one of those websites where you can get sucked in and the next thing you know, it’s three hours later and you’re wondering what you’re doing with your life.

I am looking for a couch. I moved into a house and I got rid of my old one, mainly because when moving, it accidentally got dropped off the edge of the moving truck and broke into four pieces. I’m also cheap and can’t afford brand-new from a retail store, so I take to the internet, hoping I can find a decent one. So far, my luck hasn’t paid off. They’re either full of pet stains, kid stains, or as one brutally honest seller noted, “sex stains.”

I can’t find what I’m looking for, and I’m going cross-eyed. I start looking around the site for other things to distract myself. It’s truly amazing what people want to sell or just plain get rid of, thinking that someone else is going to immediately fall in love with their trash. Dirty underwear is a hot seller. I spot a poorly constructed model of the Death Star from Star Wars made of Lego’s. An autographed picture of Rick Astley, which I do kind of want, but I’m not paying $50 for. My eyes come to rest on an ad and my hand freezes over my mouse and I stare at it, unsure of this is for real or not.

“Hey girls! Have a non-committal guy who you want to pop the question? Want to play a joke on your man, family, and friends? Why not trick them with a positive pregnancy test! Ever since I’ve gotten pregnant, a lot of people have asked me for a positive test, so I finally decided to turn this into a business venture and charge people for them! I will test the same day you want to pick them up. You supply the test and $30. Discretion is my specialty, and you have my promise of full confidentiality! Contact me at 402.555.7795 for more information!”

Is she serious?

Even more unsettling, why am I grabbing for my phone to text this woman?

Hi, I saw your ad on Craig’s List. You’re selling positive pregnancy tests?

What am I doing?

I have a boyfriend, but we’re both divorced and have talked about how we’re both happy being in a relationship and not ever marrying. We don’t want kids, either. Oh, and there’s the fact I had hysterectomy a year ago, so…

I don’t expect a reply, but a few seconds later, my phone buzzes.

Hi! Yes, I am! $30 plus the cost of the test for you, but I’ll do it! Interested?

I look at my phone, the cursor blinking, waiting for me to type my reply.

I am. How do we do this?

Just buy a test and text me when you’re ready. I’ll tell you my address and you can come over. 🙂

***

Standing in front of the wall of pregnancy tests is just as overwhelming as trying to buy pads or tampons. This test promises accurate results first. So does this test. That test over there guarantees results within five days of your missed period. That other test is foolproof and easy. This one gives a clear plus sign if you’re pregnant, minus sign if you’re not.

A bored-looking college guy with a face full of acne scars comes shuffling over to me and asks if there’s anything he can help me find.

“No, I’m fine, thanks.”

He looks relieved and shuffles away, grabbing his phone from his baggy khaki pants and starts texting someone.

I pick one and walk briskly to the check-out line, hoping I don’t run into anyone I know and they see me with a pregnancy test. I drop the box with a thunk on the conveyor belt. The elderly female cashier looks up at me, her bright blue eyes shining.

“Oh! How exciting! Is this planned or a surprise?” she chirps as she scans the bar code.

“Uh…surprise,” I mumble as I fish out the store’s discount card from my purse and hand it over to her. It takes five cents off my purchase. Hot dang.

“Oh, sweetie, all of God’s most precious gifts are surprises,” she says. “That’ll be fifteen seventy-five, please.”

I hand over a damp twenty-dollar bill I’ve been palming in my sweaty hand. She uses one of those markers that checks to see if it is real money or not. It is.

“…and a quarter makes twenty,” she says as she give me back my change. “Here you go, dearie. Good luck!”

“Thanks.” I shove the box into my purse and walk out the sliding door of the store, and I text my pee dealer.

***

Her house isn’t anything like I expected it to be. She sent me her address and I am surprised by the location. I expected it to be in the more run-down area of town, but the map app on my phone takes me to a newer housing development on the outskirts of town. There’s a kid’s bike on its side in the front lawn. I walk up the front steps and ring the doorbell.

An adorable, petite brunette opens the door, a row of perfect, white, orthodontia-straightened teeth shine through her dazzling smile. She ushers me inside and into the living room. More brightly colored toys litter the floor, and there’s a giant black lab sleeping on the couch, his front paws twitching as he dreams, probably chasing rabbits through a field of fire hydrants and chew toys.

“Don’t mind Buster, he won’t even wake up,” she says. “Please, sit! Make yourself at home!”

I sit down opposite of Buster and he snorts in his sleep.

“So, do you have the stuff?” she asks coyly. “I always feel like a drug dealer or something when I do this!” She laughs.

I reach into my bag and hand her the box. She takes it from me and turns it over to read the directions. “Easy peasy. Let’s get you a positive test! Do you want something to drink while you wait? It should only take about ten minutes or so.”

“Oh, just a glass of water would be fine, thanks.”

She trots into the kitchen and I hear her rummaging around the cabinet for glasses. She returns with two full of ice water and hands me mine.

“Thank you,” I say politely.

She takes a drink from hers, and crunches loudly on an ice-cube. “So, mind me asking what you’re using this for? I know in my ad I said I don’t want to know, but curiosity always gets the best of me.” She looks at me with dark brown eyes and I can’t help but wonder how she got into this business. She doesn’t seem the type to offer black market pregnancy tests.

“Oh, I’d actually rather not say, if you don’t mind.”

She looks disappointed, shrugs a shoulder, and takes another drink of water, crunching again on the ice. “Okay then. Well, let me get this started.”

She leaves the living room and goes down the hallway to the bathroom and shuts the door. I pick up a copy of Cosmopolitan magazine from the coffee table.

“Ten Ways To Please Your Man!” “Must-Have Fashions For Fall!” “I Forgave The Man Who Raped Me.” “Get That Thigh Gap In Five Easy Steps!” “The Big O: Your Guide To Mind-Blowing Orgasm!”

I flip through the magazine absently. Buster wakes up and gets off the couch, coming over to sniff my shoes before he goes into the kitchen to lay down in a patch of sun on the hardwood floor.

She comes out a few minutes later, patting her swollen belly. “I always get nervous taking these things. I’m afraid they’ll come back negative,” she says sheepishly.

“May I ask you a question?” I ask.

“Sure! Shoot.”

“Uh, well, how did you get into…this?”

She tosses her head back and laughs. “It started out with my little sister. She wanted to play a joke on her boyfriend. Then all of her friends started asking me for tests and I saw an opportunity here, so I took it.”

Her phone starts going off. She set a timer on it to alert her when the test is done and excuses herself to the bathroom. She returns a minute later with the white plastic stick.

“Congratulations! It’s a fake baby!” she giggles as she hands me the test. I stare down at the window that displays the results. Sure enough, a neon pink plus sign is there. “Oh, here; let me grab you a plastic baggy. You don’t need a stick with my pee getting all over the inside of your purse.”

She goes into the kitchen and comes back out with a baggy. She takes the test from me and drops it into the bag, seals it, and hands it back to me.

“There you go. That’ll be thirty dollars, please.”

***

Stage One of my plan is complete, I just need to start Stage Two. In case you’re wondering, yes, my boyfriend is in on this whole thing. We have a plan.

At work the next day, I tell one of my coworkers about the positive pregnancy test. She eyeballs me suspiciously.

“What do you mean you have a positive pregnancy test?”

“I mean I took a pregnancy test and it came back positive,” I reply matter-of-factly.

“But…wait a second here. Didn’t you have a hysterectomy? That’s impossible!”

“I did. I know.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t a false positive? I mean, your hormones could be out of whack still.”

“I know. I took three. All positive,” I lied. I’m amazed at how easy it is to do so.

“But…I…hysterectomy!”

“I know.”

“Hysterectomy!”

“I know!”

“Have you gone to the doctor yet? I mean, there has to be an explanation.”

“I go after work.”

I placed a call late last night to my contact and after a big of haggling and $200 later, I am in possession of a jar of urine.

***

My doctor’s office waiting room is quiet. The only other people waiting are a young woman and her toddler. He’s sitting at her feet, playing with a plastic police car that every time he presses the blue and red lights on top, the siren goes off. He giggles and drives the car into his mom’s feet. She isn’t paying attention to him because she’s too busy on her phone, her thumbs moving around quickly. I’m relieved when the nurse calls my name.

I follow her down the hall to a bathroom.

“Okay, sweetie, you know what to do. Just label the cup with your name and birthday and put it in the metal door in the wall when you’re done, okay?”

I shut the door and carefully take the jar out of my bag and set it on the sink. I write my name and birthday on the specimen cup and carefully pour the pee.

The nurse is waiting outside the door and we walk to my room.

“Doctor’ll be in soon. Enjoy a magazine from 2009 while you wait.”

A few minutes later, there is a soft tap on the door and my doctor walks in, a piece of paper in her hands. She looks at it, over at me, down at it again.

“This has to be a mistake,” she says as she sits down on her wheeled stool. She looks over at me again.

“I took three tests at home,” I tell her. “I’ve also been kinda nauseous the last few days.”

Lies.

“Well, stranger things have happened, I suppose.”

***

Another $200 and I have a copy of an ultrasound. I post it to Facebook with the caption, “God has a plan for me.”

Let the fun begin.

***

The next few days, my phone won’t shut up. Calls, texts, and notifications from Facebook explode constantly. I even got a call from a local news station that wants to interview me. The reporter is coming over tonight around five o’clock.

***

The reporter knocks on my front door at 5 p.m. sharp. She’s a frumpy blonde with big hair. She’s wearing too much makeup and a light blue blazer and skirt, surely aware that this color makes you look ten pounds thinner on camera.

“Hi! Nice to meet you. Don’t mind my crew as we set up. Living room okay? It has the best light.” A bunch of guys swarm in with their equipment and get to work. Ten minutes later, my boyfriend and I are sitting side-by-side on folding chairs and we’re facing the reporter. She’s busy looking down at some note cards she has written out and another woman is touching up her makeup. A little before six, the cameraman says, “On in thirty! Places!” Everyone scuttles to their spots and the cameraman starts counting down loudly from ten and then shuts up and points a finger at the reporter, signaling her to talk.

“Good evening, and welcome to Channel 8 News. Medical mystery or act of God? You decide. I’m here with a woman who by all things medical should not be pregnant, but is. Mind telling us a bit of your story?”

The lights are glaring in my eyes and I can feel sweat on my brow. I hope it doesn’t trickle down into my eye.

“Well, yes, like you said, I shouldn’t be pregnant. I had a hysterectomy a year ago. A few weeks ago, I started to feel kind of…’off,’ and on a whim, I decided to take a pregnancy test. It was positive. I took two more, and all were positive. I even went to my doctor and she confirmed it. Look, here’s an ultrasound.” I pick up the picture that is laying face-down on my lap and flash it at the camera.

“What do you think about all this?” the reporter asks.

“Well, to be honest, we’re thrilled,” says my boyfriend from beside me. He takes one of my hand in his. “It’s a miracle. God has blessed us.” He squeezes my hand, our signal for me to really hit this out of the ballpark.

“That’s right,” I say. “This may sound crazy, but I truly feel the Lord has decided to use me to bring another savior into the world. It’s time.”

The reporter can’t believe what I just said. I can practically see her mind churning away at the ratings of this newscast and her envisioning herself as a lead anchor instead of a measly street reporter.

“It’s truly a miracle,” she says solemnly. “Back to you in the studio.”

***

After our story aired on TV, that’s when people start coming to the house.

I’m in the kitchen doing dishes when there’s a knock at the front door. I grab a towel and dry my hands as I walk to answer it. Standing on the front steps is a tiny Hispanic woman and she’s clutching something in her right hand. Beads, I can see. Rosary beads.

I open the door and the woman immediately falls to her knees and stretches her left hand out to touch my belly.

“La virgen! La virgen!” she cries, then she starts praying in Spanish. I touch her hand and start reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

***

The table in the kitchen is full of religious relics, flowers, and cards from all the people who have dropped by. I even have my own Facebook page with over 50,000 “likes.”

My favorite is a three-foot statue of Jesus that glows in the dark. My boyfriend moved it into the bedroom. He likes to have sex with the thing on the bed with us and whispers “I’m fucking the next Virgin Mary! Cum for me, Mary!” as we screw. It’s a weird turn-on for him.

***

The best part about this whole thing is the money. At the rate the checks and cash is coming in, I can pay off all my bills and put a nice down payment on a new car. I know I should probably feel bad about taking people’s money, but if they are willing, who am I to stop them?

***

I call my contact a few days later. I need another ultrasound picture.

“No,” she says when I ask her. She’s crunching on ice cubes again. I can hear her chomping through the phone.

“What? Why?”

“Not unless I get half,” she says flatly.

“Half of what?”

“The money, bitch. I want half of the money you’re making off this. You wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for me. Half the money, or I expose you.”

She hangs up on me.

Shit.

***

The prison allows for an hour a day in the library. I sit at a creaky old desk in the corner, trying to browse Craigslist, but the internet connection here is so slow. I’ll find a couch to buy if it kills me. I have two years to search for the perfect one and it’ll be the best couch.

I hear through the grapevine my contact had a baby girl. That’s nice.

Babies truly are God’s gift.

 

 

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Untitled

The little girl didn’t say a word as she slowly followed her mother down the hallway. When I spoke to her, she stared up at me with wide, brown eyes. She is Sudanese, so I’m unsure of whether she’s just painfully shy or doesn’t understand me. She blinks twice in rapid succession, then sits down in a chair next to her mother.

Her mother is in pain and hunched over, rocking back and forth. Her daughter gets up from her chair and stands in front of her and places a small hand on her knee. The woman lifts her head for a moment and offers a pained smile to the girl, who gives her mother the same look she gave me a few minutes ago.

I ask the woman my questions, trying to get a bit of history from her. As I do, the little girl focuses her attention to me. She is standing next to me now, and while I’m entering information on my laptop, the girl places her chin on my forearm. She’s looking intently at the screen, as if to browse over what I’m typing to make sure it’s correct. I smile and try to speak to her again, and she lifts her eyes in my direction again, still quiet.

As I’m finishing my typing, I feel a small pinch on my arm. The little girl’s fingers are pulling at my arm hair, twisting them around in her tiny fingers. She’s focused on the blonde hairs, studying them as if she’s never seen anything like it before. I let out a yelp. She got me good with the last twirl. Her mother speaks to her in their language and she stops, and rests her head on my arm again, this time gently rubbing the area she hurt. I poke her nose with my other hand and I’m finally rewarded a smile.

Driving From Somewhere But Still Getting Nowhere

Their faces are blue from the glow of the instrument panel of the car. It’s late. Out of habit, she scans the side of the road looking for deer; they’re thick this time of year, but her eyes go to the white stripe lining the side of the highway. It’s like they aren’t driving, but are being whisked along the concrete like those moving walkways in the airport.

She blinks her eyes slowly, tired, but doesn’t want to sleep while he’s driving. She doesn’t want to be rude…or snore. She shifts her body weight in vain to get more comfortable, but the seat belt digs into her neck. The day has worn her out, so she doesn’t fight with it. Slipping her shoes off, she wiggles her toes into the floor mat, surprised at how plush it is.

She sees him move with her peripheral vision and hopes he isn’t getting overly tired. She thinks about asking him if she should drive, but she blinks slowly again and decides it’s best he remains behind the wheel.

They drive in silence, save the ever-constant music. He reaches for the volume dial on the car stereo. She watches his left leg move up and down to the tempo of the song, and realizes her own toes are tapping along. She wasn’t aware of it until then.

She starts to say something, then stops herself. That’s dumb, don’t ask that. Her mind whirls at all the things she wants to ask or comment about, but always lets those thoughts remain unspoken. Part of it is because he’s enjoying the music, but mostly because she doesn’t feel she has anything valuable to say. That’s a problem with her, actually; always silent. It’s not that she doesn’t want to talk, it’s just that she doesn’t know how to. Secretly, she wishes she could be one of those people that always talks, that always has something to say, always willing to participate in conversation or strike one up on her own, but with as many decades of life she’s lived, she hasn’t started yet, so in her mind, she’s doomed. She is a good listener, though. So there is that.

Miles go by and still no word from either of them until he breaks their quiet.

“I’m tired of being alone,” he says. Despite the randomness of what he said, she loves it when he talks. His deep but soft baritone vibrates in her ears and she can feel herself become anxious to hear what he has to say next, like children huddled around their family radio listening to their favorite program back before television–sitting cross-legged on the floor, their hands under their bottoms to keep them from wiggling around too much, hunched forward to capture every word spoken as to not let a single one fly by their ears. Words more precious than any rare stone.

Those five words are all he says and goes back to tapping his leg to a new song.

Me, too or you don’t have to be alone or you know how I spend my nights? Laying in bed, wishing I was next to you, but true to her form, these words never make it out of her brain, down her tongue, and out of her lips. She tries, please believe she does. She hopes he doesn’t think she’s uncaring and cold by her frozen jaws, because that’s far from the truth. She hopes he knows that days, even weeks from now, those five words of his will be all she can think about, wondering if she can bring it up later, or if the statute of conversation limitations is gone. Too late, lady; you had your chance.

Her eyes close slowly again, this time lingering shut for a few seconds before opening again. The seat belt is digging into her neck again. The floor mat under her feet has deep grooves from her jamming her toes into it so hard. The words remain caught behind her teeth.

From the corner of her eye, she spots the glow of green in the eyes of an animal. The white line blurs as it transports them closer to home.