I’d never been one to ask for a girl’s phone number. Well, OK, you got me; I’ve asked plenty of girls for their phone numbers. The problem is—I’d been rejected more times than I can count. It’s not you; It’s me, they’d say. I mean, I’m a good guy. Mom taught me how to treat a woman, but not the way you might think. You see—I had a fucked up childhood. Men would slap the fuck out of my mother. And from her cries, I’d learned never to put my hands on a woman. I’d been in trouble with the cops for trying to burn down the bastard’s house who put Mom in the hospital. The judge let me off easy and said something about how he thought I’d learned my lesson and that he might do the same thing had someone treated his mother with such abuse.
Anyway, after Mom sobered up, she met a good man who took care of us and treated me well. At first, I’d resented him for it. Why is this guy so kind to me? I thought. Maybe he’s son kind of pervert? But no. He was just a good guy—still with Mom today. I used to think of women as needing a man to fix them, which reflected in my choice of partners. I’d had a passion for working through a woman’s problems with her. You know—taking stuff head-on. But I’d met one girl I couldn’t fix but couldn’t let go. And she said something about how I’ve got emotional issues I needed to work through and how I can’t help everyone. Maybe that’s the liberal side of me, seeing the world with hope and kindness if only you try. But Katie didn’t see it that way.
“Hello?” I said of the phone call. Here it was my freshman year of high school, and Mom finally broke down and bought me a phone. She said something about how I needed to steer clear of porn, which wasn’t a problem for me because I prayed about it and God gave me strength. But girls in the flesh, they were my downfall.
“Hey, Seth, I think we need to talk,” Katie said. Katie was a girl I’d been pursuing off and on since the third grade.
“What is it?” I asked. When Katie said we needed to talk, it was usually about how her mother was snooping through her journal or found that she hadn’t read the Bible in two days. This time her voice sounded different. It was more of a panicky tone.
“I’m pregnant.” Silence blared in my ears and my eyes bulged like Bugs Bunny. Katie was a lot of things but a prankster wasn’t one of them.
“You’re what?” I asked. “But we’ve been careful…are you sure? We always use protection, and you said you’re on birth control, right?”
“I took three pregnancy tests,” she said. I could hear her tears spread down both cheeks. This wasn’t the Katie I was used to. The Katie I knew would kick the fuck out of a girl for so much as checking me out. So my Katie, crying? I felt her confusion reverberate through my being. “What now?” she asked.
“Your dad is going to kill me.” Katie’s dad hated me already and now I got her pregnant? I wondered if I’m subconsciously asking her father to murder me. “Think about this…”
“I have,” she said. “I know what you’re going to suggest, and the answer is no.”
“You won’t even consider adoption?” I said.
“I thought you’d suggest I have an abortion.”
“And why would you assume that?” I asked. “You know how I feel about that.”
“Only in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother,” Katie said. “I remember.”
“What or when are we going to tell your parents?” I asked. I had no interest in telling them anytime soon, but it had to be done. I hate her dad for hating me, but the truth is: I hate him just as much. And he knows it, too. “Your mom is sweet. I think she’ll…”
“You’re delusional if you think my mother is going to be OK with this.”
“I didn’t say OK. I think she’ll understand. I mean, what choice does she have?”
“You’re kidding, right?” I could just picture Katie’s narrow eyes turning to crinkled slits through the phone. “My mom had me when she was 16-years-old. She always said how she wanted better for me, and that she and my dad work hard to save for my college. They don’t want me to take out any loans. But I doubt they’d want to pick up the tab for another child. “Mom’s coming. I’ll call you later tonight.”
I heard radio silence. She usually says she loves me before hanging up but not this time. She had bigger things on her mind — like how she would tell her parents and whether they will still love her or think she’s a complete disappointment. Should she even have a baby with someone like me? I know Katie so well, I could picture her thoughts in my head.
THE NEXT DAY. I hadn’t heard from Katie all day, so I went to her house after school. I knocked on the door and swallowed the lump in my throat. “Come in,” a voice that sounded like my mother said. I made my way through the door and a group of chairs with people sitting in a circle pulled my eyes. One chair was empty, and that chair called my name.
“Is this some kind of joke?” I asked.
“It ain’t no joke, son,” Katie’s father said. Katie’s father was a big man. One could say fat or, to be politically correct big-boned. He stood 6’1 to my messily 5’7. His name was Kyle and he’d grown up in the deep south. The countryside of South Carolina. I hadn’t met anyone with a deeper southern twang than Kyle. He scared the fuck out of me. “Well, you got something to say, son?”
“Don’t look at me.” Mom folded her arms across her chest, and folded her lips under her teeth. Mom did that when she knew I’d run out of excuses, and nothing I said would make it any better. Mom was good at letting her silence speak for her. I was good at reading between the lines. “Have a seat,” a counselor said.
“I’m pregnant,” Katie said as she slumped in her chair and shook with sobs. I’d only seen Katie cry like this once before–when her dog died. At the time, I thought crying over a dog was a bit overly dramatic, but now I can feel her cries in my stomach.
“That’s it.” Kyle stood to his feet and grabbed Katie’s hand, pulling her up and more or less dragging her out the door. “We’re leaving!”
“Get back here!” My mother said.
“For what? Your boy got my daughter pregnant,” he said, pointing at me. “I don’t believe in abortion, but I might just make an exception here!”
“This is a baby we’re talking about, not some kitten or baseball that broke your window. We need to focus on what we’re going to do,” Mom said. I hadn’t seen mother take control like this before. Mostly the men she slept with took advantage of her and beat her. Maybe this is something that could help us all. Maybe the baby is just what she needed.
Kyle returns to his seat and Katie breaks free from her dad and sits next to me.