The Bad Project

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Chapter 33. Doctor Dilemma/Crystal

Crystal walked into the dorm room to find Marianne crying, huddled into a tiny ball, looking crumpled rather than coiled. She threw her backpack down.

“Baby, what’s the matter?” she said, stroking her shoulder gently. What could have happened to Marianne? Was this about the mythical new guy she had worried about in Marianne’s life?

“I’m so stupid, I’m wrecking everything, it’s …” Marianne started crying again and couldn’t speak.

Marianne’s face was flushed and she felt hot to Crystal’s hand. Crystal sat.slowly stroking her, and after a while, Marianne stopped sobbing. She looked up at Crystal with tears still on her cheeks, and said, “It’s Andy. Doctor Sandstrom. I can’t stop. I can’t go on. What can I do?”

“What about Doctor Sandstrom, Marianne?” Was the mysterious new boyfriend a professor? Crystal remembered how Sandstrom looked and thought it could be true.

“He… I…. we love each other.” She sounded passionate and looked miserable.

“Oh, my God. That’s what it is. I wondered if you—you’re in his philosophy class, right? Oh, Marianne, how did this happen?” Crystal’s heart sank.

Marianne wiped her face with an Aloe tissue from her silk-covered box on her bed stand, and said in a shaky voice, “It was because of Liu. I was so worried about what we were doing, could we have a child because of what we did on the Asian American retreat, could I have to break his heart, it was all so hard. I don’t love him, but I had to have sex for my next Bad.”

Marianne gulped, got herself together and continued. “You know, it’s too hard for you to talk about it. So I just let it happen and then, Liu… Well, he said he couldn’t stand if I break up with him. His whole life would be ruined. He’d want to die. He might kill himself. And Dr. Sandstrom is teaching me ETHICS!” She burst into tears again.

Crystal had a knot in her throat. But even though she felt dread about bad results for her that might be coming, if the deans blamed her for encouraging Marianne’s bad behavior, she felt sorry for her. She stroked her back and imagined how it must have been tempting to consult an expert on her ethical dilemma. What an expert! He must be about as unethical as they come to do this to Marianne when she was in trouble. It sounded like Marianne didn’t love Liu, but she didn’t want him to commit suicide. There seemed to be no right answer for her, and then what she had done to try to find an answer had made it so much worse. Crystal felt her own eyes begin to water.

“Aren’t you worried that he’s so much older? And white?” she said.

Marianne looked up at her, tears still leaking down the sides of her face, and pushed back her hair with a trembling hand. A wave of sandalwood scent rose from her. She said, “I didn’t do it on purpose. I think it’s a terrible idea, with my mind. But my mind has no control over this. It just happened. White, professor, older…all that doesn’t matter. I tell myself, no. NO NO NO, I just don’t listen. I can’t stop.”

Crystal, trying to deal with disaster by fighting through it using logic, wouldn’t let her off the hook. “Doesn’t he have a wife?” Crystal felt cold. Her eyes had stopped watering. She needed to measure out the dimensions of the morass. How bad was this going to be?

Marianne burst into sobs again. “Yes, a wife,” she finally choked out. After she cried a few more minutes, she slowed down again.

Crystal asked again in a tiny, frozen voice, “And kids, right?”

“Yes, and kids. He has big picture of two kids on his desk.” She wiped her face and clasped her hands together. “He can’t leave them. I can’t leave him. What can I do?”

Crystal gritted her teeth. She thought Sandstrom was just using Marianne. She felt angry about his seducing her when she was distressed. There had been rumors about his sexual involvement with other students, but Crystal didn’t imagine Marianne being sucked into his trap. How could Marianne keep on being in his class? Crystal was pretty sure professors who got sexually involved with their students could be fired, even if they had tenure. Not to mention whether Marianne was pregnant from her sex with her first boyfriend, Liu. What a mess. She focused in on the only detail where a little control was possible: pregnancy.

“Do you know if you’re pregnant? I could get you a pregnancy kit.”

“I got one, but I’m…well I guess I’m scared to use it. Liu and I only had sex once on Asian American retreat in the mountains. Before that, we just fooled around. But then, we went ahead and…” She broke off and looked down at the floor. “I had condoms. Little packages, you know like they told us in orientation. I didn’t know how to use them, and I was so embarrassed. You know Liu is pretty sophisticated. So Liu…he said you can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex. Is that true, Crystal? I don’t think so.”

“You’re right, it’s not true. What a line. Okay, I won’t say anything else bad about Liu, I know you don’t like me to do that. But at least you have a date to check against. You should do it pretty soon. I can be there, if you want. I don’t think you should do the test all alone. I know about some things you might want to do if you are. But you’d have to decide if you want to do them. We won’t go there unless you need to, sister. I wish I had something to tell you to help with the professor.”

“I’m using condoms with him. He taught me how to do it.” Marianne’s eyes got wide as she realized she’d probably misunderstood what Crystal meant. “Oh, I bet you meant the whole situation not the birth control. Me too, I wish you had an idea to help me,” said Marianne. “Maybe I just should go home and go back under parents’ thumb. I am doing such a terrible job with the Bad Project.”

“In one way, you’re not. You’ve tried a lot of Bad things, and you’re surviving them and learning things, right? You do have to grow up some time. And you’ve written some great stories this semester.”

Marianne’s shoulders drooped. In a way, the next Bad had just happened to her with no planning. She might get thrown out. Was there any way Crystal could help her? Nothing occurred to her besides her Grandma’s advice: time heals all. But no one can accept that idea in the middle of a crisis, so she kept quiet.

“Could you eat pizza if I call in an order?” Crystal asked her. She knew Marianne wouldn’t be up to going to the dining hall, and she usually ate pizza, unlike a lot of Chinese American students. Marianne looked uncertain, but finally she agreed. Crystal called to order the food. She looked in her wallet. Ten, fifteen, seventeen dollars. She had just enough cash left to pay for the order. The phone rang; pizza was outside. Crystal went to get it.

When she came back to the room, Liu sat on Marianne’s bed in his black jeans and leather jacket. His spiky hair was perfectly pointed today. Marianne had washed her face. His arm was around her and she looked hunted, but didn’t tell him to stop. Crystal was disgusted. She had hoped at least that Sandstrom had put an end to the mess with Liu.

Liu just touched the tips of his spiky hair, stood up to his full five feet ten, looked Crystal in the eye and said, “Never mind that pizza. She’s feeling sick, can’t eat it. I’ll take her to Monterey Park for some Chinese food.” Marianne kept her eyes down, didn’t even look at Crystal. They got up and went out, leaving Crystal with a large pizza and a big question mark about what Marianne was going to do about Liu and about Dr. Andy Sandstrom.

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