“Well, are you one-hundred percent sure doc?” I sat there on the edge of my dorm bed at twenty-one. A half bottle of warm beer in my hand that started rolling across the crooked boards when I heard the gynecologists news. “I’m sorry sweetie, the polycystic ovarian disease got too bad. You won’t be able to have children. I would have liked to tell you in person but I understand you had classes today.” She continued on about the nitty-gritty details but my brain silenced her uncomforting words. Everything inside of me felt hollow, I knew my condition was getting worse but I just thought I’d have a little more time.
“Yeah, thank you. If I don’t have a period for three more months I’ll come back in, bye now.” I didn’t let her respond to that and hung up the phone in response to a half-spoken “by-” I didn’t realize in those few minutes how much my world could have shifted. The bed beneath my bottom was growing more uncomfortable, almost as much as the doctor’s words but I stayed there because I had nothing else to do. The concept of thoughts escaped my brain, the feeling of nothing took over. I was numb. In those few moments, I was nothing.
Before I completely shrank into the vastness of space I heard the door squeak open and everything in my body bounced up a bit. The shock was still sitting on my tongue like a bitter cherry and it felt as though I had just swallowed the pit of it too. Turning my head I could hear Liz’s words enter one ear and out the other. Upset at me, “Hailey what the hell! There’s beer all over the floor what the fuck did you do? Didn’t I tell you to stop drinking before classes! You only have five minutes to run all the way across campus now for your introduction of earth science class now!” I looked her in the eyes and the whole mood in her position changed when she finally saw the tears rolling down my cheeks.
Her feet shuffled quickly across the floor to reach me as if I were a bomb about to explode. Yet it was the first sign of someone’s comfort that broke me down. Feeling her body crash right beside me on the edge of the tiny twin bed I wrapped my arms around her and cried harder. She puckered her lips, “Shhhhhh”, she told me, kept going on how it was going to be okay. Unaware of why I was a sulking mess and cracking more and more under the pressure of what I heard. She didn’t know that it wasn’t going to be okay though. It was never going to be okay again. I couldn’t see something I created from my own womb be birthed. Could never hear the first cries, celebrate their first birthday, watch their first steps be taken. Couldn’t hear the soft whimpers form into their first words, see them make their first friend. Can’t see them grow, see them learn, see them walk across a stage to their diploma, see them get married, see my grandchildren.
I saw my life flash by in one big wave, one huge moment when I was younger. I knew what I wanted to achieve career-wise but now the family side of life had been ripped away from me in one fell swoop. I wanted to fall in love and marry a man better than my father. I wanted to become the mother my mom couldn’t have been to me. But for right now I smelled the lavender wafting off of Liz’s short golden hair and decided to direct my attention to her mournful confusion.
As the shallow breaths grew heavy and a bit more consistent Liz raised me from her arms. “What’s going on honey? You can tell me anything, what happened?” The deep breaths helped only a little, it was up to my brain to carry on with the words though.
“You remember I had that gynecologist appointment last week?”
“Well that was the doctor that just called. Apparently my polycystic ovarian disease got too bad and now I can’t have kids.”
“No, no that can’t be.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“I- I mean, we had a plan Hails, we planned to, to give birth at the same time. To grow our kids up as best friends. We- we were gonna dress them up and go out as families for brunch every Sunday to catch up. I can’t believe this oh my God I’m so sorry. Oh shit, I mean I know this isn’t about me, what are you going to do?” Tears started bubbling in her eyes and it gave light to how much she cares about me. I was unsure if that comforted me or made me want to cry harder. “Thank you for your sympathy.” We giggled lightly through the terrible news at my comment. “But Liz I’m not too sure what to do. I guess that’s it. It sucks so much it just feels-” I could feel my throat getting tight again. “It just feels like my life is over before it really started, you know? It feels like all my future plans have been ripped away. Other than being a stupid data scientist.”
She was crying, but I started crying harder at the thought of this. “Even though the only reason I educated myself for this field of science was for the salary to provide for my future children.” No more words were said for a while and the beer was already starting to stink the whole room up. I wrapped my arms around her again, both with tears running down. The feeling of uneasiness grew and the warm beer didn’t help it too. I looked over at the clock and realized I was already twenty minutes late to class so why bother going. Instead, I held onto Liz a bit longer, longer than what was usually comfortable to me.
I felt Liz unwrap me from her hold again to wipe away her tears and snotty nose. Grabbing a tissue from the small coffee table that sat dusty most times in the left corner of the room and handed it to me. Blowing my nose is when I realized how much of a mess I looked like. Mascara being swept away with each wipe of one-ply cotton tissue. Liz reassured herself, sitting up straight to look me dead in the eyes. She spoke with intent, I knew she was thinking this for a while now. “You know, the frat down the street is holding a big party tonight because it’s the beginning of the year. You remember it from last year too, right?” She continued without allowing me to answer. “Well if I can remember correctly it was definitely the best party of the year. So you know what we’re going to do?” Didn’t let me answer, again.
“We’re going to shape up, make ourselves look all pretty, prettier than usual I should say. Then we’re going to head own and make a good thing out of an awful situation.” I sat a minute in confusion, “So the way we’re going to solve my problem of not having children is partying and drinking?” Liz looked in awkwardness, hoping she did not overstep her boundaries in this situation, “Yes?” Her eyes opening wider, cocking her head back in case I rejected her unempathetic answer to my problem. “I’m just fucking with you, let’s get fucked up tonight.” Laughing, the mood in the room changed and I decided to not allow this pity party anymore.
Though looking down I forgot about our next little problem, it threw me back into the reality of my situation but I did not cry. “Hey, sorry about the beer. You know I was holding and then she told me and then I guess the shock came over and it went rolling. You want me to clean it up?”
“No, I’ll take care of it. You pick out a movie to watch so we can chill before getting ready.”
“Okay, thanks hun, I’ll go pick something out for us.”
“I FEEL FUCKING ALIVE!” She tipped the already half gone bottle of merlot to her puckered, glossed lips. “Okay, enough pre-gaming for you cheerleader.” I heard her shout back in celebration, excited for another night out in the prime of our years. Yet I took another look into the mirror and couldn’t feel that way about life. Bags were already shadowing my bored, unnoticed verdant eyes and the elasticity was fading with every fake smile given. Mostly to douchey frat boys who don’t remember my name the next morning.
But a part of me didn’t feel like pretending tonight. A part of me just wanted to stay in and cry to sad movies to hide the fact that I’m crying about my ovaries. But college just feels like the world is rolling over your shoulders in an attempt to gently massage you into the real world. In reality, it is more so crushing all the bones in my upper arms and back. Sometimes it can be specific to the people you meet in college and Liz was rolling me flat like pizza dough to try and help. She comes from a sweet place but sometimes it feels like after four years she doesn’t know me at all.
Some days it feels like the world will never leave me in silence, complete peace, total bliss. Looking at the person next to me staring in the mirror, I realize it’s not the world, it is her. Who is now taking shots of awful tequila only affordable and bought by broke college students? My best friend since the move-in day of college. Introducing my parents to her, amusement lacked in their faces, disappointed I didn’t choose their dream college for me. Disappointed that my roommate’s shirt wasn’t buttoned up to her chin. Sad that her shoes didn’t stop at her ankles, but came up to her midthigh.
Disappointed I didn’t pick the college right down the road, a community one, of course, though most importantly the college is close enough to stay at home. Thinking of it all again before the party made me want to forget so I could have fun tonight. Doing so the best way I knew how tipping the tart cherry wine into my mouth and feeling as it’s bitter after taste struck my taste buds and throat.
But I was not quite tipsy enough to forget, so I stared myself silently in the eyes. Trying my best to sort my thoughts, the hair straightener heating up right beneath me. Knowing my intuition and my dreams told me that the college they chose for me would never feel like a second home. Knowing I’ve drained their money enough through eighteen years I tried my best to work three jobs down in the blazing heat of Miami. Any job thought of I have worked. My red hot visor covering my face, serving snobs on the beach. Silently sitting in solitude, reading books all day in the library. Wiping the sweat off my face picking weeds and making money under the table for a family-owned Lawn Company.
Though I am twenty-one now and a senior at the same university. Each year finding myself victorious on the dean’s list, proving my parents wrong. This is the only school I could imagine attending, Liz being the only true motivator to inspire me daily. But being this age my parents expect me to find a loyal man, settle down already, pop out some grandbabies. I hadn’t told them the news yet, I didn’t feel like breaking my mom’s heart on her and my father’s scheduled date nights. I’d tell them tomorrow, or maybe on Monday, maybe Tuesday.
It only helps my case a little more when I still reassure my mother every day that I don’t need a man. I tell her it’s too early and I love her but I don’t want to do what they did. It’s always a bittersweet reminder in the middle of our fights that they never wanted me. I want so much more than they’ve got planned for myself, just no route or way to execute my dreams. Going through the movements with my hands, I found myself picking up the eyeshadow brush. Music in the back flooded my brain and I was finding myself progressively present with the world again.
I did not know for how long, but Liz was giving me the look. Frustrated constantly with my habit of staring off into space. There have been too many brunches where I find myself gazing off to the future, she hates it. Although we are best friend soulmates, as she likes to call it, she is the opposite in life. A person who loves to live in the moment and hates thinking of the consequences. Now I am no prude, but I do have the sense to panic in rushed situations, luck in life has never been my crown jewel.
’’What were you thinking about now? You know, you almost burnt this whole place down. You’re lucky I was here to pick up your straightener while you were staring off.” I looked at the straightener, that was now bustling with steam from the last time I straightened it. I smiled at her, and in a sharp sarcastic tone replied, “Steam isn’t the same as smoke, stop overreacting you dummy. But for real I can’t stop thinking about how I’m going to tell my parents”. She darted a glance over in short response and I had known what she meant.
That tonight, although about me, really is not. That tonight wasn’t supposed to be my distraction from the situation but hers. But Liz spoke anyways, “Girl, don’t worry. I know your mom can be hard on you but she can’t even blame you for this. Blame her for giving birth to your stupid cyst infected ovaries.” Her hands were shoveling hair back into a messy ponytail, strands of gold falling from the loose band. Hoops already put in, heels on, and I realize at this moment the sudden urge that I am falling behind.
Quickly applying eyeliner, I don’t notice my hand is shaking and lean farther towards the cracked mirror. Making imperfect, uneven lines I leave them be. Blotting concealer until I can no longer notice the way the light is hitting my age and the puffiness from tears. “Hurry up bitch, it’s ten already and if we don’t get out now all the good booze is gonna run dry again.” Finding myself moving at a rapid pace, running the straightener through my hair, applied lipstick, got my heels and black dress on that clung to all the right places, and found myself running out the door in record time.
“Go this quick again and maybe we’ll start making it on time.” Liz said, sarcasm rising from within her, “Well maybe if you were old enough you could bring some booze of your own.” I snarkily replied, knowing it upsets her when I bring up the fact that she’s six months younger than me, also knowing that in any circumstance either from natural ego or trauma, she always wanted to be the best.
Shutting the door behind me I realized how much I still needed to learn about my best friend. How little I knew yet somehow still managing to keep such a close relation to her anyways. Maybe it was because of our shared love for partying and positive affirmations from each other. Validating that our friendship is not a competition even though it feels like it always is, yet somehow for some reason, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I noticed a body shuffling through the door from the stairs, looking up he met me right in the eyes. Staring for a little too long, stopping in my tracks he walked right past, turning the corner he didn’t manage to turn back.
I left the world and it wasn’t even from my excessive thinking. Watching as he turned the corner, me and Liz both knew he shouldn’t have been here. This was the girl’s side, after all, he didn’t manage to look back, didn’t take a second glance, didn’t care to it seemed. I was just a nice gaze on his way to a better hookup. But the world felt like it stopped moving for a second, time stood in place and I finally had control. Until I noticed Liz gazing at me, mouth wide open, saying “Drool much Hailey?” Jealousy writhing within her voice and I could tell as the seconds tick back to normal time she was not satisfied. And when Liz is not satisfied, nobody can be. Trying my best to clean my mess, “What do you mean it was just some guy. I don’t even know who he is or his name.”
Silence at first, then a simple, “Whatever.” I didn’t think it was this bad she must be really hung up on this guy because when her thirty-minute arguments turn into one word I can tell she’s fuming. Trying to get her mind off it I said reassuringly, “Let’s just get to the party, I’m sure there are way hotter guys there.” A smile of annoyance came across her face, taking the lead. I followed her down the stairs, then the campus path to the main road. Taking breezy, carefree steps I noticed lights illuminated the walkway path, lined with brick carved with names of those who tragically died on campus and those who came into success after college.
Reading the names to escape from her fury, I looked back up to notice she was already gone. Sighing of some relief, but mostly irritation, I speed-walked up to the frat house. Watching as different colors hung on dark branches of trees in the night. Toilet paper coating bushes and people laughing, wobbling, dancing outside already. A giant omega symbol hung on top of the white architecture, men glanced at me yet none of their stares held.
I’m so unsure of why I come to these things. Their glares violate me and I can tell that if the doors were closed and it was daytime I would not be welcomed. There are no real connections, only phony friends trying to have sex with me. Frauds persuading their liking to get me into bed. Then there is Liz, who I end up carrying out of every party, they’ve even nicknamed her the endearing name of “Dizzy Lizzy.” Not the most creative, but I’ll give them points for attempting.
As my blood started boiling, I realized I could just as easily buy a bottle of vodka and party in the comfort of my home. But if I do that then who would look out far enough to protect Liz at the party? Grubby hands from filthy men caressing her without warrant makes my skin prickly. Or it could be from the cool breezes of trees, reminding me not only to get out of my head again but that I should have at least worn a coverup. The August wind can be one cruel son of a bitch, even in Miami where it’s always sunny and at least sixty degrees.
Though the feeling of warmth consumed me, as I was standing at the gates of what could only be my technicolor hell.