narrative - 074. alone
ends of the earth
June 2013

"I don't think we should see each other anymore."

"What? Why?"

"This is it, Karyn. I know we said we'd try to make it work, but… high school's over. You're going to DU, I'm going to UCLA, and it's— I'm sorry. I don't think I can do the long-distance thing. It's too much."

"You don't even want to try?"

"I just feel like we should end it on a good note while we still can."

"Do you not love me anymore?"

"Of course I do. I'll always love you, just… not—"

"G-Go away."

"Karyn, I—"

"P-Please j-just go."

As she straddled a public toilet at the mall where she worked, holding a home pregnancy test between her legs, Karyn wondered what she had done to deserve it. She wondered what she had done to deserve getting dumped by her boyfriend at her senior all-nighter. She wondered what she had done to deserve getting sick in the middle of her History final. And she wondered what she had done to deserve this — squatting over a public toilet, peeing on a stick, staring down at the unused sanitary napkin stuck to her panties and praying to whichever deity was listening that she wasn't that girl. She couldn't be that girl. All her life, she'd promised her mother she wouldn't be that girl.

Tears burning behind her eyes, Karyn finished peeing and put the test back in its box, setting it down on the toilet paper holder before wiping herself and peeling the pad off of her panties. Dejected, she disposed of it in the waste receptacle and — without putting a new one in its place — stood, pulling up her pants as though the prospect of ruining a good pair of underwear would remind her uterine lining to shed. Taking a deep breath, inhaling that unmistakable public bathroom smell, she turned, lifting up her foot to flush the toilet as she exhaled, reluctantly retrieving the pregnancy test from where she'd left it. At eighteen, it was the heaviest burden she'd ever had to bear.

Knowing that she would have to wait another three minutes for the test to decide her future, Karyn trudged over to the sink to wash her hands, setting the box down again in the hope that she would be able to savor her last moments of ignorance. Of possibility. Of freedom. Of youth. Limbs shaking, stomach churning, she splashed cold water on her face, staring at her reflection in the mirror. Long dark hair. Skin like honey. A deer in the headlights. Terrified. She barely recognized herself.

More than fifteen minutes later, she pulled her future out of the box.

She didn't recognize herself at all.