“Thanks for coming”
It was as if the voices came from miles away.
My eyes darted from left to right as I looked for a boda boda that would take me to town. I spent the previous night drinking, dancing, and laughing with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. It had been a long time since I had that much fun, but a night of drunkenness and debauchery often comes with consequences.
The minute I realized I had messed up, my joy turned to worry. I smiled when anyone’s eyes met mine. I laughed when I was lucky enough to hear a joke. In those moments, when I was present, I was grateful for the friends and the joy in my heart. But like it was on schedule, I would remember the previous night.
I remembered the moment I knew I wanted to sleep with him. It was how he kept checking in, asking if I needed anything, how he smiled when our eyes met. I knew him from back on campus, but it took me a minute to remember him. He wasn’t disappointed I didn’t know him, he brushed it off and introduced himself. Nights like these don’t fade from my mind. I might not have had the sense to make the right sexual decisions, but I can retell every moment; how he reached his hand out and asked me to dance, how I objected because I didn’t listen to that kind of music. He didn’t care; he wanted to dance. I hated new things, but my reservations faded in a minute. What if I took his hand and he pulled me towards him? What if his hand met my waist and I swayed in agreement?
What was the worst that could happen?
He leaned into me, and I felt his breath on my skin, and then he squeezed my hand, enough to get my attention, but softly, so it wasn’t painful. Then, I looked up at him, how he towered over my 5’1 body. I smiled and he pulled-away and started walking, taking me with him. I followed him with building anticipation. That morning, when my friends expressed their gratitude for my presence, I was standing in the worst possible scenario, sexually speaking. I was ever so careful and always had a condom inside my purse, which was the only form of contraception I ever used. This was why I always carried the same five bags, but I had decided to try something new, a new look for this party, and I forgot a few essentials when packing. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t that sexually active, or perhaps I was petrified at the thought of suffering any of the possible adverse effects of other types of contraception. I had heard stories about the potential side effects of some forms of contraception and wasn’t ready yet to talk to friends or a nurse to find out more. I had interacted with little reliable information, and I had heard many scary things. Still, the little knowledge I had wasn’t credible enough to make an informed decision about long-term contraceptives. I cringed at the thought of being more hormonal than usual. A packet of noodles, two eggs, and bread, these are the things that could narrate my hormones’. The things that feel like heaven when my body is acting up. The idea of adding more hormones to my body freaked me out; it still does. So, condoms had to be it. The first thing I needed to do was board a boda boda to town. You should have heard my sigh of relief when I heard the engine from a distance. I turned to my closest friends and hugged them goodbye, one after the other. I could finally start fixing the mess I had gotten into. I looked at buildings as the wind hit my face. I wished I had longer hair, maybe watching it blow away in reckless abandon would ease my anxiety. I watched people push their carts uphill, ready to start their workweek. And here I was sitting in fear. What if I got infected with anything? What if I got pregnant? My head was buzzing by the time we got to town. I was picturing myself 10 years later, as a mother, but that picture wasn’t clear; it has never been clear. I adjusted my clothes, reached into my purse, and paid for the ride. There I was, outside the pharmacy. That would be my first stop. I walked in there, looking for the person with the friendliest face, leaned in, and asked for the morning-after pill. I bit my tongue immediately after the last sound caressed my lips. I waited for them to get it. They took their time, as they went to the back, then walked to where the little envelopes were placed, and then towards me. They handed it to me, and I gave them the money that was sweating my hands.
I slipped the envelope into my bag and headed out. I thought everyone around me knew what I bought; maybe it was the shame I was unlearning when it came to sex, perhaps it was that I felt like an irresponsible adult. Perhaps, and maybe this was the most likely, I was uncomfortable with the idea of contraception. The day before was a Sunday; I wondered if the pharmacist had judged me, because, you know, morning-after pills didn’t have a good reputation. But this was in my head, likely, it was all in my head. Maybe one day, I wouldn’t think I needed to feel shame whenever I wanted to take charge of my sexual health. Perhaps, I would stop imagining judgement, based on the misguided concept that contraception equaled promiscuity.
Maybe I would to read more about it and get facts instead of making ill-informed decisions. Maybe, I would muster the courage to walk into a clinic and have an extensive conversation with a professional about my options.