This is another one of those stories.
I was nineteen and filling out forms at the Health Department. I was there getting my travel vaccines. I had graduated from St. Mary's a few weeks before and I was going to go spend a month in China with Joanna before I started the job I had lined up to teach English in Thailand. As I checked the boxes marked yes and no on autopilot, I stopped at one. "Are you pregnant or could you become pregnant in the next month?" After a brief pause, I checked no. I was not. I would not. And I said a little prayer for reasons I didn't fully understand.
A little while later I was in one of the back rooms being poked and jabbed, making small talk with a friendly nurse. "So what happens if you are pregnant?"
"You just can't get the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine." We continued to talk. She continued to stick me with needle after needle. She went to get the last one.
"I'm actually out of the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine," she informed me. "We had a group of Papa New Guinea missionaries in here earlier today, and we used them all up." My heart sunk. Or maybe it was my stomach. Something sunk. She told me to come back next week when they would have more.
I called Tom when I got home. I mostly felt silly because I didn't really think I could be pregnant. But I also felt a little afraid.
I decided I would take a pregnancy test on Monday, before I went back for the final shot. He told me to call him as soon as I knew. I said I wouldn't call until five, when he would be home from work. And that is exactly what I did.
On Monday, I called him to tell him that the test was negative, that our plans did not need to change. He would work the summer in Maryland and move to New York in the fall. I would get on a plane to Asia. We weren't going to be parents. Not yet. Not together.
And then he said every kind, wonderful thing you want to hear from the boy who, for a few moments, you thought might be the father of your child. He told me that he hoped one day, maybe, life would bring us back together. He hoped that one day, I would be the mother of his children. It was sweet and ridiculous and everything I wanted to hear. He said it even though he didn't need to. He said it when there was no pressure.
So I went back to the Health Department exactly a week later, told them I was ready for that final shot, and for reasons I still don't understand, they gave me a pregnancy test, which they had not done the week before. And then the nurse who I made small talk with seven days prior, walked into the room where I sat on a white paper sheet and asked me when my last period was. And I just cried.
If this was a movie, the next few months would be a montage. Or maybe it wouldn't be. Maybe I just don't want to have to get into how hard it was to tell people. Tom. My mom. My dad. My best friend, Joanna, who was in China, awaiting my arrival. These months of uncertainty and sadness are not a part of the myth. The months of friends still in college, and other friends traveling around Asia, sending mass emails full of pictures of places I thought I was going to see. If it was a montage, there would be lots and lots of shots of me eating cookies, so many cookies, watching Oprah and Dr. Phil with my mother, with boxes full of cookies.
The montage would end on the day after Christmas 2004 and most likely it would show a television screen reporting on the terrible tsunami that hit Southeast Asia, killing over a quarter of a million people. The tale I tell saves me from those beaches, beaches where I thought I might be. Sometimes the tale I tell puts me on those beaches with certainty. I'm inclined towards the dramatic. But in all honesty, I don't know where I would have been.
All I know is where I wasn't.
I wasn't in Thailand.
I was sitting in my parents' home eating cookies, watching Oprah, awaiting the arrival of a person I would love more than anything I had ever known.