I spent a lot of my first two years of college sick. The source of my physical unraveling had little to do with the normal collegiate vices. I didn’t experience a hangover until my senior year and I was often struck by a case of temporary muteness around people of the opposite sex. I even avoided The Great Pink Eye Outbreak that ravaged our campus during my freshman year. (How bad was that outbreak? So bad that the CDC investigated it.) No, stress was the culprit. Although I was dealing with any number of stressors, the root cause of this particular reaction was schoolwork. I was, and still often am, a perfectionist. I spent most of my time during those first two years in my books. Or trying to be in my books. Or falling asleep in my books. Or, during my sophomore year, trying to sleep in the top bunk while being dreadfully afraid that I would roll out, fall on the floor, break an arm, and not be able to type that English paper or be of any use in Physics lab.
On the eve of every crunch period, I found myself fighting off a sore throat and a low fever. My body reached the height of its revolt during the winter of my sophomore year. No more were my fevers low. Instead they raged. I responded by spending even more time in the library. Whenever I was hit by a particularly unbearable wave of illness, I would take a quick nap on one of the many available sofas.
Thanks, everyone, for not stealing my laptop. I’m sorry that I repaid the favor by covering large swaths of the engineering library in my germs.
But around midterm time during sophomore spring, my body had a completely different reaction to the stress. I was late. My period had always been remarkably reliable, often to the day and sometimes to the hour. If I had been another type of girl living a different type of life, each day that passed without its arrival would have left me fighting off panic attacks. But between my inability to actually, you know, speak to boys and the falling asleep in my books, there was definitely no sex occurring. There was little of anything occurring.
It was simply the stress. It was the clusterfuck of taking Physics and Organic Chemistry at the same time. It was the approaching series finales of Dawson’s Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was the fact that soon my age would have a two in front of it instead of a one. Apparently the most significant skill I picked up in those first two years of college was the ability to manufacture stress out of any situation.
When the delay moved from a few days to an entire week, I told my best friend and roommate.
“What if you’re having the Black Jesus?” she asked excitedly.
“I’m pretty sure that I would not be the vessel chosen for that particular task.”
“I think you should take a pregnancy test. It’ll be funny!”
My response was a non-committal shrug. I had proven myself to be rather blasé about my health in that way that teenagers so often are. Much as my fevers had a way of eventually subsiding despite my refusal to rest, my period would eventually appear. But it didn’t. One week quickly became two weeks and no matter how smart and reasonable we generally were the idea of some sort of Immaculate Conception intrigued us.
I had a way then, as I think the overly studious often do, of falling ass backwards into youth’s milestones. So there I was with my best friend browsing for a pregnancy test when my womb was definitely empty. We pondered why you couldn’t just purchase a single one. We debated early response versus traditional. And as we had already let all logic escape us, we undertook this endeavor at the local CVS.
That year we lived directly above the bathroom, so with the test in hand I took a quick run down and an even quicker run back up. I fidgeted with abandon as the seconds passed, nervous for a result that I already knew. When time was up, I looked at the test.
My best friend sighed. She was really hoping for the second coming.