Lauren’s Little Death—Clark Humphrey
Throughout middle school and freshman year of high school, Lauren Pate thought that if she never got a boy it would be the complete end of her.
But then she got one. And it WAS the end of her; that is, of the person she’d been up to then.
The pre-boy Lauren had barely cared about the judgments of the other girls. The post-boy Lauren actively sought every chance to appear in public (after-school stuff, mall, church, sports events), to show off her proud acquisition for the girls’ admiration and/or jealousy.
The previous version of Lauren had found little interest in flights of the imagination. The new Lauren devised elaborate stories to tell her parents about where she had just been or was just about to go to, instead of where she actually had been or would soon go.
Lauren 1.0 held no fascination for logistics, geography, or community. Lauren 2.0 scoured her own and surrounding neighborhoods for places and times at which she could be alone with the boy. She became like a reverse Nancy Drew; instead of searching for hidden places where things might have happened in the past, she sought out hidden places where things might happen in the future. Unlocked tool sheds, tarp-covered boats, the back patios of vacant houses all became potential, and in a few cases actual, trysting spots.
Old Lauren had found written communications media boring. New Lauren devised corny but “hot” texts to send to the boy, describing in lurid detail what she planned to do with, for, and to him, and what she expected him to do with, for, and to her (most of which they never got around to actually doing).
The past Lauren had seldom given a thought to the future, either fantasizing about it or preparing for it. The subsequent Lauren spent two and a half days wandering around her daily routines like a fear-befuddled zombie when she thought she could maybe be pregnant.
She imagined all sorts of horrific but realistic futures for her and her just-possible baby, both with and without the boy. These scenarios raced through a mind that held almost no attention to anything in the proverbial “here and now” during that time. She barely stayed mentally alert enough to get to and from her classes, but she listened to nothing in them. Her mind was too obsessed with future nightmare scenarios.
In one scenario she foresaw herself tending the baby alone, in the single room of a micro-apartment that she couldn’t afford, rejected by her parents and deserted by the boy, with no job prospects and nobody to help care for the child.
She then foresaw herself a few years after that, her temporary state aid expiring, her kid refusing to go to school, her apartment about to become a luxury condo, herself stuck in a community-college program that would lead (at best) into an overcrowded, low-paying career.
She obsessed about this fate and how to avoid it. She realized she had all these newly-discovered skills. She could apply them in school, get her grades up, get into a good college for a good career.
Once she decided that, she also decided to pay more attention in school the rest of the day. Which, with a few backsliding moments, she did. Ignoring the boy in the hallways, she snuck out to a Korean mom-and-pop restaurant she’d never been to before, where nobody would know her. She ordered something, then went into the women’s and peed onto a stick she’d obtained surreptitiously.
She sealed the stick in a Glad Bag, put it into her purse, came back to the dining area, waited the proper number of minutes, then peered into her purse to look at the Glad Bag with the stick inside.
When she saw that, she sighed out enough CO2 to personally contribute to global warming. Then she finished her meal.
A few weeks later, she read online somewhere that an orgasm was sometimes called a “little death.” She silently decided that that was what she’d had from the whirlwind of lust, infatuation, and fear. Old Lauren had died so that New Lauren, Dedicated Lauren, Determined Lauren could be born.
She drifted away from the soon after that. It had never really been about him anyway.