by Unfocused Me
Mike ripped open the letter from Becky. He hadn’t heard from her in weeks, though he had sent her three letters in that time. It was two months into their freshman year, Becky at Vassar, Mike at the University of Chicago, and after being together all through high school, they had been sure that distance wouldn’t break them up. He hadn’t gone home for Thanksgiving, so he hadn’t seen her since late September.
Mike read the letter in the courtyard, ignoring the early December cold. Suddenly, he turned and vomited into the bushes. His roommate, hurrying from the dining hall across the yard to their dorm, spotted him.
“Hey, Mike! You okay, man?”
Mike thrust the letter at him. “Tommy,” he croaked. “Read this.”
Tommy took the letter. “Is it your brother?” Mike’s brother was in Vietnam. Mike shook his head. Tommy read. The handwriting was neat and feminine.
We always said we’d be honest with each other, and not beat around the bush, so here goes nothing.
Oh, God, I’m so sorry. I think it happened the weekend before you left for Chicago, when I came home from school to send you off. I must have skipped a day with the pill that month.
I haven’t written because I didn’t know what to say. Please don’t hate me. I love you.
“Oh, shit, man. You sure it’s yours?”
Mike launched himself at Tommy, but Tommy ducked Mike’s flailing fists and grabbed him around the chest. Mike quickly settled down.
“C’mon, man, let’s get you inside. It’s freezing.” Tommy dragged Mike inside and upstairs to their room. He dumped Mike onto his bed, then started rummaging in his closet.
Mike sat up. “It’s over. I’m gonna hafta quit school. First one in my family to go to college, and I didn’t even make it to Christmas.”
“Take it easy, man.”
“I’m gonna hafta get a job at the plant. With my dad.” Mike winced. “I’m gonna get drafted.”
“Take it easy, man.” Tommy emerged with a small box and a lighter. He dumped the box out onto the desk, rolled a joint, lit it and passed it to Mike. Mike took a hit, passed it back. After a while, Mike’s panic subsided.
“You should call her, man. She’s probably scared, too.”
Mike thought that over. “Yeah. I’m gonna call her right now.”
“You wanna wait ‘til you’re not so baked, man?”
“Nah, I’m cool. I can maintain.” Mike pulled the change jar off of his dresser, weaved out of the room and down to the phone booth.
Mike plunked a nickel into the slot, and dialed the number for Becky’s dorm. The operator told him how much more to deposit for the first three minutes; he dropped in the coins, and waited.
A woman answered. Mike concentrated on speaking clearly and quickly. “Becky-Jordan-please-tell-her-it’s-Mike.”
“You’re Mike? Hang on.” He counted the seconds. Then, Becky’s voice, nervous and hopeful: “Mike?”
“Hey, Becky. How are you, baby?” Baby? You dumbass.
She started to cry. “What are we going to do, Mike?”
With that, Mike lost all hope. She was pregnant, the baby was his, his life was over. Still, he tried. “Are you sure?”
She sniffed. “I’m sure. I missed two periods, and went to the clinic. They did the test. What are we going to do?”
His panic flooded back. “What about… you know. Isn’t there something you can do?”
She cried harder. “I can’t, Mike. It’s our baby.”
He hadn’t expected any other response; even though it had been her idea to go on the pill, she was pretty conservative. “Okay, Becky, okay. We’ll, uh, we’ll think of something.”
The operator broke in; their three minutes were up. Mike had exactly enough change for three more.
“Mike, are you still there?”
“I’m out of change, Becky. I’ll try to borrow more and call you back.”
“I love you, Mike.”
The phone cut out. Mike went back to his room.
“Did you talk to her, man?”
“Nah. She wasn’t there. Gimme another hit.”
* * * * * *
Mike didn’t sleep that night, and just before dawn, he found his answer. At eight o’clock that morning, he walked to strip mall north of campus. The office was open, and the recruiter was happy to see him. If he passed the physical — and everybody passed the physical, these days — he could be on the bus to basic training within a week.
Mike couldn’t wait.
(c) 2008. All rights reserved by the author. See more of my work at The Unfocused Life (http://theunfocusedlife.com).