An excerpt from my first book, Type A+.
The beginning of February is always a little depressing. The appeal of having just returned to school after Christmas break has worn off, most rush events are over, so the social aspect is gone, and yet ridiculous amounts of new pledge class training and initiation rites begin to take over your life, and it’s freaking cold. On top of that, sunset is around 4:30 PM in central time, making nights out a little hard to sustain after a six o’clock pitch-black, blackout dinner. All in all, it’s enough to make you too depressed to make it outdoors or to the gym, leaving you with your 20-pound winter weight gain.
Volunteering is no different. Rolling into the clinic on a particularly cold day, I geared up to be treated like your average criminal, performing thankless grunt work for angry/overworked doctors. To my delight, the waiting room was nearly empty when I arrived, save for a scantily-clad woman who was probably headed over to her late shift as a stripper after hitting up our free clinic for condoms or a morning after pill.
“Twenty bucks says she’s here for birth control,” a man whispers to me, flirtatiously sliding my hair behind my ear. I’m a little startled but rather excited to see Dr. Eliot, batting his ridiculously full, yet perfectly manly, dark eyelashes. I am surprised to see him. He’s not on the schedule as a volunteer physician for the evening, but he explains that he switched with someone so he could see his son for his spring break the following week. Delightful.
I don’t actually have $20 to spare, unless Dr. Eliot takes credit cards, which are paid in a full lump sum of upwards of $12,000/month by my mom, so I up the stakes to a massage, and even saying it creeps me out. I feel like this May-December romance is hitting all the normal milestones of sleazy relationships between young women and older men, and I’m getting a little concerned that I may be sacrificing some of my purity to play in the big leagues with this seasoned playboy. It’s a little thrilling, though, so I decide to just go with it.
Dr. Eliot is absolutely correct: Bambina, legally named Christina Cecilia Carolina Gonzalez, is here for a shot to the ass for her quarterly contraceptive fix of Depo Provera. She missed her shot last month, though, and even more problematically, Bambina may actually be pregnant. We find this out as she nonchalantly mentions that she can’t remember if she had sex with anyone this month or not. This is weird to me, because it’s never stuck me as a casual, forgettable act. I’m just a virgin, though, so perhaps I have no idea.
“Have you been under the influence of drugs or alcohol around a man, and are therefore concerned you had unprotected sex?” asks Hillary, who is giving this woman way too much credit. Obviously Bambina has never even seen a condom, unless you’re talking about those balloon thingies overly cautious people use when one of the two to 16 people involved in the sex act has A) a menstrual flow (gotta keep everything dry) or B) visible genital warts (you can only contract them if you can see them, right?).
Bambina throws her head back in what I guess she thinks is flirtatious laughter. Unfortunately, none of us is really going for it, as we are all straight women who are not attracted to her muffin top hanging out over her jeans, which are being held up by a plastic grommeted belt, nor her tattoos, which are of your garden-variety bimbo icons, such as roses, butterflies, and yin yangs.
“Of course I wasn’t drunk when I was with Hector,” she laughs off. I have no idea who Hector is, but I can only imagine he enjoys the finer things in life, like Colt 45s and Swisher Sweets. “I was just really tired and fell asleep while we were fooling around,” she explains, though I’m still not thoroughly convinced she wasn’t willingly roofied and gang banged by a flock of horny bikers.
Dr. Vere bolts in through the door. He is a primary care doctor, which puts him susceptible to the general downfalls of the Short Man Syndrome of doctors. By this I mean that all doctors think that their specialty is the hardest/most interesting/God’s gift to hospitals, and primary care physicians are the most defensive, because of their “choice” not to specialize, instead “choosing” to treat unspecified pain, kid’s ear infections, and obese people with gall stones. Primary care physicians, who are used to being relegated to the title of glorified physician’s assistants with three times the student loan debts, are generally one of two distinct breeds. There are friendly, genuinely concerned primary care doctors, who remember the names of your children and ask about your mom’s bowling league, and then there are those who have obviously been way too lauded by overprotective parents who think doctors should be the only person to touch their child. These kinds of parents are the idiots that demand only doctors administer vaccines or stick their kids for blood samples, which is dumb because it’s the nurses that are most experienced and familiar with phlebotomy work.
Dr. Vere, fortunately, falls into the former of those personalities. He always seems a little over-energized, as though he has just done lines in the bathroom before getting really excited to diagnose Swimmer’s Ear or Chicken Pox. He tries to not stare at the tattoo of an overly sexualized kitten on Bambina’s chest, but seems oddly mesmerized, as though the tattoo were the Cheshire cat of this woman’s diseased body.
I quickly relay the situation to Dr. Vere, who replies, “Thank you, Katie.” Cute. At least he tried to remember my name.
Dr. Vere asks Bambina why she did not come last month when she was due for more contraceptive, and she says that she was too busy. I can only imagine what keeps this woman from the rather necessary appointments that prevent her from procreating, but I resist the urge to ask.
The team of Hillary, Dr. Vere, and myself has a small conference outside the door, and it’s decided that we have to give the woman a pregnancy test before doing anything. I direct Bambina on how to use a pregnancy test, which she takes to the bathroom. She returns with the stick, and I recoil in disgust, which is far too overwhelming to even try to hide. I’m pretty sure touching anything upon which this woman has peed is not going to end well.
Hillary, the more professional of us, takes the pregnancy test stick and places it on the lab table, which is covered in diaper paper. The deal with this pregnancy test is that it takes a few hours to give a clear answer, but the stick is indicating “unclear,” and Dr. Vere is eager to get to his next patient (or next round of lines in the bathroom, either one). He makes the judgment call to administer the Depo, and Hillary is left with the disgusting task of shooting this woman’s tattooed ass. On the plus side, she isn’t wearing underwear, so we don’t even have to mess with the awkward discussion of removing everything below the waist. Bambina really thought about what she wore to this appointment.
The rest of the evening is filled with my doing way less interesting crap, like filing paperwork and answering calls. The clinic is supposed to close at 10, but usually it won’t close until 11 because homeless people are way too busy to get their government handouts in a timely fashion.
Around 10:45 I start cleaning up. While generally I like to just discard everything in sight and bleach the bejesus out of all surfaces, I see that the pregnancy test stick is still sitting on the lab counter. I walk over to it, armed with six layers of latex gloves and 30 paper towels. I’m a little concerned when I grab the stick and see that it says, “PREGNANT.”
I immediately regret seeing this. I have only two options: tell Dr. Vere, who will probably try to cover his ass and maybe even blame Hillary for this predicament, or I can throw him under the bus during wrap-up. Either way, this cannot end in any good outcome, and I really just want to get home so I can start pre-gaming for our standard Tuesday activities at Tootsie’s.
I grab Elle, who immediately freaks out, thus causing everyone to ask what the heck is going on. I slip out a back door, realizing wrap-up is not going to happen for another hour now that we have to track down Bambina and figure out some crisis management. I jump in my car and make my getaway before Dr. Vere can attack me with a needle to the jugular or Bambina can return to throw a punch to my face, which would inevitably end in a cat fight that results in my ripping out her jet black polyester hair extensions and gold-tone hoop earrings.
When I first started volunteering at this clinic, I always went with other med students. However, upon realizing that carpooling with others meant sticking around until midnight or whenever the doctors decided to stop talking about what incredible diagnosticians they are, I decided to try driving myself out for the first time. Located in the heart of the Nashville projects, the roads leading to the clinic are mostly dark, with only a few streetlights dotting each street. Crack whores with booty shorts and midriff-cut T-shirts would always congregate around the sparsely distributed lights. All that was missing was a billboard of T. J. Eckleburg’s optometry practice.
Gypsy, my GPS, has not been working lately. This could be because it’s really old, or because Maria spilled her Code Red from Taco Bell on it. I’m trying to get it to direct me back to the safety of areas with >$100/month rental homes, but it keeps telling me I’m in Montana. I sigh and decide to try to find signs for the highway.
I’m just beginning to gather my bearings when a man wanders in front of my moving car. I’m going about 40, so of course I slam on the breaks to avoid hitting this jaywalker. The man turns and stares at me, flashing a mouth full of gold teeth. He grins, which sends shivers up my spine. He is frozen in the headlights of my car, and we both pause for about ten seconds. Then, out of no where, a group of about seven or eight young men jump out from behind a bush, two carrying guns, and one holding a large knife. They are running towards my car, yelling something terrifying.
Freaked the HELL OUT, I slammed my foot on the accelerator. This is definitely not what these thugs expected, and I actually hit two of them as I went flying out of the area. They come chasing after me, but I quickly lose them by going 100 mph in this residential neighborhood. I still have not a clue where I am, but there’s no way I’m stopping my car again, so I just keep driving until I see a better lit area. I roll into a Kroger parking lot, where I call Dr. Eliot, sobbing.
Dr. Eliot tries to determine where I am, but all I can tell him is that I’m at a Kroger. He advises me to ask someone inside. I’m way too scared to get out of my car, but ask a very old man where I am. I’ve rolled the window down about four centimeters, and he tells me that I’m about half a mile from civilization. I race back home, with my priorities in order: finish crying, shower, blackout to forget this terrifying experience.
I don’t tell anyone the story back at home, because I really just want to forget about it completely. I overcompensate by telling everyone the Bambina story, and Heidi, a perky blonde friend who also has aspirations to go to medical school in the future, pours me shot after shot of mid-grade alcohol. Heidi is particularly fun to be in your going out group because she is so delightfully happy-go-lucky that you could suggest pretty much any location, part of town, or horrible idea and she would willingly accompany, gin in hand.
“What’s your man situation?” Heidi asks while tossing back a double shot of Ancient Age. I grimace, not because tequila tastes like a dusty old man, but because she has just sucked on a lime, which is horrible for your enamel and I am extremely anal about my teeth. I ponder her question, and am not sure exactly how to answer. I’ve now been “dating” Dr. Eliot for a month or so, but I am certainly not being the best girlfriend by entertaining texts from random men who seem to keep coming out of the woodwork. I definitely won’t be saying anything about Preston, because that relationship has always been clandestine, and exposing it now would take away the only allure of that whole situation.
I answer with some non-committal response, and that seems to satisfy Heidi. I realize that her question has made me reevaluate what exactly I am doing with men these days. Is there an actual future with Dr. Eliot? On the plus side, he is definitely not some dumb frat boy, but on the other, he is a little old, has a child, and would probably not be pleased with my partying schedule when I should be performing my stepmotherly duties of chaperoning on overnight trips or making sure prepubescent boys keep their hands at arm’s length at the middle school dances. I’m pretty sure I’d be encouraging students to spike the punch just to get through such a disgusting event.
I’m snapped out of my reverie by Roxie, who has joined us. She is wearing liquid leggings, of which I immediately envious /disgusted. She is really working them, though, since she has legs the size of my tharms, and we have different tastes in men, anyway, so this shouldn’t be a problem. Accompanying Roxie is Miranda, who is wearing her standard Forever 21 attire, which looks surprisingly chic on her. When I once commented on how up-to-date her wardrobe always seems, she responded that this is only because all of her synthetic clothes fall apart after one trip through the spin cycle, forcing her into twice-weekly shopping excursions.
A few other people follow, and eventually we have a group of 10 ready to go out. It’s pretty late though, since we all had a delayed start and I had been at the clinic/almost getting carjacked for so long, so we don’t end up getting out until around 12:30. It’s actually just a random Tuesday in February, so I’m only expecting seasoned alcoholics and other college students to be out, but, to my surprise and delight, there’s some sort of college football coaches’ convention happening at the Gaylord. The bar is packed with strapping 30-somethings and almost no women. Jackpot.
It’s not long before a few suitors sidle up to our group, and we all go for our respective “types.” Roxie has gone off with some huge tattooed man from an upstate New York state college, Taylor is dancing with a short Guido coach for a community-college-turned-“accredited”-four-year-university, Marcy is with some very ugly man that probably is not related to this convention but came to the bar by himself, Bella is with a nerdy college guy, and I’m doing shots with the very attractive, youngest and most recently-hired football coach of Georgetown. He’s 30, and seems to know his way around a dance floor. I guess I’ll make out with him.
I decide he can be Big Spoon for the evening, since I’m still feeling really vulnerable from my brush with death as a project chick. It’s already two in the morning, and I have to get up in five hours to finish/start an essay due at my noon class. This will minimize time that this guy can do anything dangerous, in case he’s an axe murderer. Plus, I’ve alerted Taylor, who has remained relatively sober for the evening, and she promises to keep an eye on things. She has also given him the once-over, and has approved of his appearance.
We take a cab back to my place, and before I can tell him that he needs to leave the next morning at the crack of dawn, he tells me that he has to leave at five so he can go back to his hotel and pack for his 6:30 flight. I’m sort of put off that he has one-upped me in terms of sleep deficits, but I guess I’ll be flattered he’s making the effort to at least make sure I fall asleep.
We pull into my apartment, and he throws the cabbie four crisp one hundred dollar bills. “Stay here until five,” he commands the cab driver, who looks thoroughly confused. I should have warned him that there was no way this guy is sticking around if you give him the money up front, but there’s something adorable about this guy’s naïveté. That, or he’s just showing off, but both are acceptable.
On a sobering four flights of stairs up to my apartment, I suddenly realize that the fact this guy has so many Benjamins should be a red flag. We get upstairs to my apartment, and I decide this is actually a horrible idea, and not safe. I suggest we watch a movie, which is basically the only way I can figure out how to discreetly put him in the most public and well-lit area of the apartment. This will also keep me from feeling obligated to take any clothes off, since I have to be respectful of my roommates.
Not surprisingly, my football coach, who is obviously really in the Mafia (how else would he have so many one hundred dollar bills?), is not happy with my plan. He is polite though, and kind of goes with the situation, as we watch “Mean Girls,” which is my favorite movie. I’m just trying to be as unattractive as possible in case this guy wants to make me his Mafia wife, so I start texting my ex-boyfriends and pretty much any person in my phone book with a male name, showing him each and every ridiculous text. There’s a good chance my uncle was completely weirded out by my surprise three AM text about who knows what when he received it the next day, but it was all in the name of safety.
Since my phone’s out already, this guy, whose name I have long forgotten but will evermore be named Tony Soprano, suggests that I take his number. I come up with some elaborate story that my phone can’t add numbers, and he says he would take mine but his phone’s dead. I refuse to take his number “because I’m a lady,” though, and at this point he is probably beginning to think I’m insane, per my Hamlet-style plan. I’m actually also really drunk, which is helping me get into character.
Tony asks me what time it is. I point out the clock on the oven, which says 4:17. In a stroke of genius, I immediately fabricate that the clock is 40 minutes late, and that he’d better get to his cab to get home and pack! Tony freaks out and starts screaming expletives, because he has a really big recruitment thingie back in DC that same morning that he cannot miss at the risk of his recently garnered position as a coach. I know he’s really just concerned that the Mafia will be mad if he doesn’t get back on time with the money, but he does a good job of playing up this football coach story. I practically shove him out the door, where I see that the cab is long gone. It’s actually only 4:17, as my clock had reported, which means finding a cab will be near impossible, especially without a working cell phone, but I quickly run back into my apartment and slam and lock the door. I don’t want to end up dead in the back of someone’s trunk.
A little wired from my recent resourcefulness, I go into my room and see that a few of the ex-boyfs have texted back. This is always fun, because I got what I needed out of them but have no real desire to talk to them, but the fact that I won’t respond to them will drive them insane. I expect to be getting texts and calls from them for the next few weeks, and I even get some flowers and a stuffed teddy bear the following weekend from one of them.
I am sort of interested, however, in a text I get back from Preston. He tells me he just booked his flight for graduation, and that he can’t wait to see me. His brother is my year at school, but I generally avoid him because he’s also a philandering cheater and his smile creeps me out. I forget about all my scary encounters with men of the day and pass out naked.
As I’m relaying this story the next morning over biscuits and bacon, Taylor comments that perhaps my treatment to the mysterious football coach/mafia man was not the most humanitarian. I quickly check outside to make sure he is not still there; if he is, I will make everything right by throwing him a biscuit from the safety of my balcony, where he cannot see or touch me, and would even call him a cab if he really needed it. He is not there, however, which means he got back to his mafia hive safely.
Back in the protective shelter of my home, I turn to Heidi and ask her what her plans are for her big 21st birthday, which will be the following weekend. She is the only person I know in our class younger than me. I had to wait through September to finally ditch my fake ID, which featured some generic looking Asian that my sister apparently knew from Yale whose middle name is “Y.” She isn’t smiling, but as long as no one starts asking me about Great Neck or NYC, I’m fine with it. The fact that I’m blonde, and that Jane Y is not, is all the more helpful, as bouncers seem to live in fear of offending random racial minorities. It’s okay—we really do sometimes all look the same.
“I haven’t decided yet,” she comments, contemplating her blueberry muffin.
“Can we do something wild? Like a destination birthday?” I ask, probably still drunk from last night. I suggest some possibilities, like Rio and Paris, but it turns out international travel is a little too pricey for some people. I offer Vegas, but we had just done that trip earlier that school year for Fall Break. Miranda is all about Florida or someplace she can be tan and skinny, but it’s still a little too cold for beaches, and I might be confused for a beached whale if I roll into Miami after eating these four biscuits and a half pound of bacon.
The room goes silent with hungover college girls thinking of the most perfect, original, outrageous birthday location. “What about DC?” I offer. I’m all about America. Oh yeah, and Preston, Hassan, and apparently this football coach in the mafia all live there, making it a city full of opportunity and surprises.
Everyone turns and stares, confused and maybe even outraged. Way to go, patriots.
“Why would we do that?” asks Taylor, who has probably never watched a cable news channel for any other purpose than to see that crazy Nancy Grace woman go after child molesters.
“I am from DC,” Heidi comments. I had completely forgotten this fact, but it is all the more helpful in persuading everyone to gather at our nation’s capital. I can see the mental cogs turning in her head as she tries to figure out why I would choose such a bizarre location.
“You can commemorate 21 years of unlawful drinking in our nation’s capital! It’s poignant and exciting.” I implore.
“Cherry blossoms!” pipes up Maria, who hasn’t been participating at all in this conversation, but has been reading random blogs and talking to herself about how pretty her hair is.
I guess it would be nice to go home…” Heidi adds.
“What do you think?” I ask Bella, who has started staring into space.
“Hmm? What?” She snaps back in. “Sorry, I began fantasizing about having an affair with George Stephanopoulos.”
“I don’t get it,” Taylor comments. She probably thinks Bella is talking about some sort of vegan Mediterranean appetizer.
Within a few hours, flights are booked. Taylor is not going because of some stupid school commitments (seriously?), Maria is too terrified to leave her boyfriend for a weekend because he is obviously cheating on her, Miranda will be joining our five-day extravaganza a day late because of sorority executive board crap, and Heidi, Bella, and I will be raising the terror alert together on our flight out of Nashville the following Wednesday. Should get experimental.