The night of our third date, Michelle and I drove to an all-night pharmacy to go Dutch on a morning-after pill. Her old K-car hadn’t warmed up yet. She wore her winter coat over her scrubs, the ones with the teddy bear print, and we sat silently for a few minutes in the drive-through lane while her St. Christopher figurine rattled itself loose from the dash.
“What if this doesn’t work?” she asked.
I knew she’d have the baby. We both had jobs that paid well, but nobody just out of college has any idea how to manage the sudden influx of money, let alone rear a child. She stared straight ahead, not giving me any clue how to respond. In the fluorescent lights of the drive-through, her skin looked green, and the wisps of blonde hair frizzing out of her ponytail glowed like a halo in the frame of the pharmacy window. There was no center armrest in her car. I folded my hands in my lap.
“Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” I said. “It didn’t take long for us to notice it slipped off.”
She nodded and closed her eyes, her forehead wrinkled in deep concentration as she began to silently move her lips. They were still crusted with dried slobber.
I knew she was scared and I should have tried to comfort her. I even tried to pray. But when I closed my eyes, sitting there in her passenger seat, I saw my old man again. It was the day Kevin shot out Mrs. Rennseler’s basement window with his BB gun, and Dad was storming into the bedroom Kevin and I shared. “Go for a walk,” Dad growled to me, his belt already off and clutched in a trembling fist. I smelled the booze on him as I passed, and even from the backyard, I could hear the cracks and Dad’s shouts and my brother’s wailing. It went on like that for close to an hour.
The memory left my mouth tasting like metal, and when I opened my eyes, Michelle’s hands were folded over the top of the steering wheel. She had St. Christopher laced between her fingers, his spot on the dash now a white patch where she’d torn the vinyl loose. She was still praying, and it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be able to comfort her. To Michelle, having a baby out of wedlock would be a shame on her family. But we hadn’t been dating long enough for her to know the kind of dad I’d grown up with. If we had, she may have been even more scared at the thought of having me as a father.
When the pharmacist opened the window, I handed Michelle my half of the total. She snatched the paper bag and swallowed the first pill dry, stashing the second dose deep in her purse. On her way to third shift at St. Jude’s, she dropped me off at my apartment. I knew she’d call—it wasn’t like the date hadn’t gone well, up to a point. What worried me is when she would call. In my place, I lay on my side, awake, counting down the hours until her lunch break, when I was sure that phone would ring. And no matter how long I lay there, I couldn’t for the life of me think of what I’d say to her.
About the author…
Daniel Prazer got his MFA from Columbia College Chicago in 2009. Hiscreative nonfiction has appeared in Fictionary, Hair Trigger 30, Reservoir, Flashquake, New City, Hypertext Magazine, and his essay “Firefighting” was a runner-up in the inaugural Knee-Jerk Magazine Essay Contest; an excerpt of his novel-in-progress appeared in the anthology Open to Interpretation. He was the Assistant Artistic Director of the Story Week Festival of Writers for two years and is currently the Book Editor for Elephant Rock Books, a freelance editor, and Production Manager for Fisheye Graphic Services. He lives in Chicago with his wife Ann.