and i oop

7:03am. In a quiet corner of the library, I find a place to nest. While letting out a miserable groan, my apathetic body plops clumsily on the thin plastic chair. Last night I saw a tweet that read, “Let them sleep while you grind. Let them party while you work. The difference will show.” It gave me a momentary rush of inspiration to be a productive college student. I set my alarm clock for 6 in the morning and began micro-scheduling my work for the following day.

9:34am. I haven’t finished one thing on my list. BUT, I did take a personality test that I found on Facebook and discovered my spirit animal is a Fire-bellied toad. I watched a 7 minute YouTube video of a girl doing her makeup while on edibles. I added my signature to a petition that advocated for more meatless options at McDonalds.  And I signed myself up for a free STI screening offered by our University’s clinic. So, I’ve been productive.

12:21pm. Familiar faces being to storm into the library. Every 4 -5 minutes or so, I’d take a productive work break and say hi to all my friends. Eventually I would find my way back to my spot in the corner and pretend to vigorously type on my laptop. Occasionally, I opened a book and highlighted a sentence to see how straight I could draw a line free-handedly. In my back pocket, I suddenly felt a surge of vibration followed by the obtrusive sound of the Apple ringtone which blared throughout the room. Many heads snapped toward my direction, glaring their eyes in disapproval. My body brimmed with the warmth of embarrassment. I whispered into the phone…

“Hello?”

“HI, YES IS THIS CHRISTINA?”

 My heart jolted from how loud the lady was speaking into the phone.

 “THIS IS FATIMA FROM HEALTH SERVICES CALLING IN REGARDS TO YOUR STI’S.”

I frantically crushed down on the button to lower the volume level, my head was doing 180-degree swivels to see if anyone had just heard my conversation. “Um, actually ma’am, I signed up for a screening as a precautionary measure. Self-care, you know?”

“OH YES, OF COURSE! I JUST NEED TO ASK A SERIES OF PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS PRIOR TO YOUR APPOINTMENT.”

“Okay I understand, but I’m not sure if right now is the right ti-“

“PERFECT. SO HOW MANY PARTNERS HAVE YOU BEEN WITH IN THE PAST 6 MONTHS?”

“Um, 1,” I lied.

“AND WHAT FORMS OF CONTRACEPTIVES HAVE YOU BEEN USING?”

The boy at the desk next to me who was pretending he was not listening to my phone call, laughed. Grabbing the hood of my sweatshirt and enveloping my face in its fabric, I sunk down as far as my back would slide until I was practically laying on the seat of the chair with my body underneath my desk.

My mind was scurrying to find a synonym or a code word that I could use to answer this question. But I ultimately murmured back into the phone, “condoms.”

“WHAT WAS THAT SWEETIE? DIDN’T CATCH THAT. YOU REALLY NEED TO SPEAK UP, AN OLD FART LIKE ME CAN BARELY HEAR A THING.”

Ahem, CONDOMS!” The room falls silent, every face is directed toward me, and I hear faint giggles from each direction.

1:21pm. I begin to fill out college transfer applications.

Author’s Note

this exercise was about contradicting dialogue with setting; in this case, the private conversation between the nurse and the character was contradicting the quiet, public setting of a university library. the inspiration came from an actual phone call I received from my dermatologist while I was in a public restaurant where she asked a series of personal questions- including questions about my recent bowel movements.

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