The Bad Project

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Chapter 34. Pregnancy Testing/Marianne

“Okay, let’s go ahead and test you,” Crystal said. It was Thursday, and neither of them had class that afternoon. “That way, maybe one of your problems can get solved.”

“Huh, no doubt I am pregnant and it’s just one more Bad problem.” Marianne felt grim. When she was alone in their room, she admitted to herself that no good could come of her relationship with Andy. They had talked and Crystal had convinced her not to go there this afternoon so they could do the test. She felt her hands shaking a little. What if she was pregnant? She was almost sure she couldn’t stand to kill her own child. But it was going to mess up her life if she had him and gave him up for adoption.

“Where’s the kit?” Crystal asked.

Marianne realized she was putting off the bad news by not cooperating. She did want Crystal to be there with her in case she was pregnant. She hoped but didn’t really believe it was just stress that had stopped her period. She pulled out the bottom drawer. The kit was in there. She handed it to Crystal.

“Okay, let’s make sure we understand the directions,” Crystal said.

“Yes, Dr. White,” Marianne said, half-mockingly.

“You know, I’ve done this before with my friend Sondra. This is serious, don’t get all silly,” Crystal commanded.

“What if I am pregnant?”

“Let’s don’t get ahead of ourselves.” Crystal took off the plastic wrap. She opened the box and took out the directions. She read aloud, “Collect urine in cup provided by the customer.” She started giggling.

Marianne was offended. “What’s so funny? You wouldn’t be laughing if it was you we were testing.”

Crystal said, “No, I know. It’s just that the word ‘customer’ made me think of a prostitute’s marks.”

Marianne felt a little better. She even smiled a little herself and said, “Oh, so that’s it. Okay, I guess I have a couple of plastic cups left from that birthday party we had for Elise.” She checked in her bottom drawer, found a blue plastic cup, and took it into the bathroom.

When she returned, Crystal read on, “Remove a plastic strip from the individual wrapper and dip the end into the urine so it’s totally submerged.” She looked puzzled.

Marianne said, “What’s wrong?”

“I can’t tell which end to dip.” “

Oh, just put the whole damn thing in there; I can fish it out with a Q tip.” So that’s what they did.

Crystal read on, “Observe for 10 minutes. Positive tests turn blue. If a pale blue appears, retest three days later. Confirm positive tests with a physician as soon as possible.” Her brow wrinkled, “Nothing like their taking responsibility for their own results, huh?” She looked at her watch and said, “Two fifteen.”

They sat on their beds and watched the strip for the whole ten minutes, as nervous as if it was a snake that could bite them. It was still white.

“Whew,” Marianne said. She was still in a load of trouble over Andy Sandstrom, but the Liu situation felt like it was over and done with. “I’m not, I’m not!”

“Yes, you’re not. If you like, we could repeat it to make sure?”

“No, I don’t think so. I would if it was pale blue, but it was just plain white! I’m okay.”

“On the pregnancy score, yes. But what will you do about Dr. Sandstrom?”

“You know, it’s not his wife, it’s not that he’s white, all that shit. It’s the kids. I feel bad about it, I really do. But it’s almost like I’m addicted.” Marianne was ashamed of what she had to say, but she felt she was telling the truth to the best of her ability. Maybe that would make up, in part, for her withholding Sex Bad discussion from Crystal. Maybe someday she could even write about this. At least use the pregnancy test in another kind of a story.

Crystal seemed to know she was making an effort. She got up and hugged Marianne and said, “I know it’s hard. I’ll stick by you, whatever you decide.” She opened her biology text to the problems and opened her notebook.

Marianne felt light as a butterfly, she couldn’t begin to think about biology problems. She thanked Crystal and put the kit away. Then she put on a raincoat and went out for a walk in the drizzle. It was not cold, but the leaves on the sidewalks were slippery and her high-heeled boots made her feel a little insecure. She walked over to the coffee shop and went inside. Her co-editor for the Carson Circus magazine, Jim Elder, was sitting alone at a table nursing a latte.

She said, “May I join you?”

“Of course,” he said. She put her backpack on a chair, then picked up a latte for herself and sat across from him.

“You remember worrying about reviewing when we just started out?” Jim said.

“Yes, but it’s gone fine for us and we have our section all set, right? I really liked some of the articles we got, and the ones you and I brought in are awesome.” Marianne said.

“A little problem has come up. Lindsay gave me an essay by Professor Rothan Kadarko and told me to put it in our section.”

“Professor of what?” Marianne asked.

“English, but his essay is about feminism, kind of social science-y.”

Marianne wondered what Jim felt about the essay, and about the procedure. “You are just telling me what happened. I want to know how you feel about it.”

“Mad as hell. The essay sucks, not to beat around the bush. It’s not a reasonable analysis of feminism, and it’s written by an old white male, and I don’t like being told to put it in, not one bit.”

“Okay. Let me read it too?” Marianne said. He silently took it out of his backpack and handed it to her.

“I’ve been meaning to bring it over to you, but not getting there with it,” he said.

Marianne read the essay, backtracking several times trying to follow the argument. He felt that feminism was a kind of whining or special pleading. Marianne naturally hated the idea, but she tried to be fair and evaluate the argument on its own terms. It didn’t seem to her to be either clear or novel. “I don’t like it, even though I’m trying not to read it as a feminist,” she said. “Why does it have to go in our section?”

“Lindsay wants it to; she says it’s nonfiction. Shall we tell her no?” Jim looked across campus and wiggled his shoulders, like they were sore from supporting an invisible burden.

“Yes. She can find somewhere else to put it. How about fiction? OMG, I think I see her coming across the quad.”

Jim laughed. “You know that won’t work, although Bella probably wouldn’t mind. Kadarko wouldn’t accept that, I’m sure. So what shall we tell Lindsay now when she gets here?”

“No, no, and no. We can’t hold up our heads if that thing goes in our section. Okay?”

“Okay. We may not be editors after that, is that what you want?”

“Better than this. I don’t have to be an editor, although I’d like to. Circus Circus isn’t the only publication around here.”

Lindsay walked up to the counter. Both Jim and Marianne gulped. But they looked at each other and nodded. Jim went up to her and invited her to join them for a little talk.

“Hi, Marianne. I liked the essays you and Jim found for the magazine,” Lindsay said.

“Good. I don’t like the Kadarko one, though,” Marianne said.

Lindsay didn’t look shaken to hear this news. “I don’t know, even though I don’t agree with it, he takes a defensible position,” she said.

The logic is weak, it’s basically a polemic,” Jim said.

Lindsay looked back and forth between them. She looked down at the table and thought for a minute, then said, “Look, this is a political issue. Can you do it to help me out, please?”

Marianne felt put upon. “We’d like to help, but it’ll make us look bad for picking that essay.”

Lindsay stirred up the dregs of her expresso, drank a swallow, then said, “Let’s do this. I’ll put it in as a special contribution, not part of your section.”

“Okay,” Jim said, “as long as it’s clear it’s not part of the nonfiction selections.”

“Right,” said Marianne.

“Then I’ll handle it that way. Nice to see you,” Lindsay said, gathering up her belongings. She got up, smiled at them in a slightly strained way, and left the coffee shop.

“Whew. That was awkward. But it’s good to have it decided,” Jim said. “I gotta go. Thanks!”

“No problem. She shouldn’t put it in at all, but at least it’s not in our section. I agreed with you,” Marianne said.

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