By Emma Eisler
“You should really get birth control before leaving,” my best friend said. “You’re gonna be camping in the desert for three months, and you might not have access to Planned Parenthood or a doctor. It’s just a good idea.”
“Yeah, but I mean, I probably won’t even need it. And also…”
She raised her eyebrows. “What?”
“I’m worried if I get birth control before leaving, I’ll jinx it and won’t end up having sex with anyone.”
I would come to regret these words.
It happens at 4am. Because these things always happen at 4am.
We are lying in his tent in the moments after sex. He is kissing my shoulder, whispering that even if I’m leaving in a few weeks, he’s still glad to have met me. That it’s still worth it.
I take a deep breath. I am ready to say what I want to say, what has been on my mind for weeks, through nights stargazing in Capitol Reef, and leaving our friends behind, hiking too fast up Angels Landing. Through weeks of missing him while working on our separate trail crews, and then the giddiness of reuniting. The words that first curled on my tongue autumn mornings waking in the canyon that was our canyon. How he would rain handfuls of leaves over my eyes, so I lay on my back, held up my hands and laughed, pulled him down and held him against me, tried to say it without having to form the words.
But this time, this time I will tell him.
He pulls away.
I’m ready, I think.
“Oh God,” he says.
“Emma, there’s something I need to tell you.”
Is it possible we’re thinking the same thing?
He clears his throat. “I think the condom broke.”
Instantly I sit up, curl my knees to my chest. No, no, no. I look down at myself, my legs lean from days hiking; my shoulders and arms muscled from chain-sawing Russian Olive where it grows by rivers. Scraped knees and stomach I’ve never been totally happy with. My body that still feels so new and so raw held in his arms.
I am trying not to panic, but my heart is beating in my ears and my stomach is starting to clench. “I need to get Plan B. I need to get Plan B right now.”
He reaches out as if to touch me, then changes his mind and drops his hand. “Okay yeah, for sure. It’s the middle of the night, though, can we just wait until morning?”
I check the time on my phone and start crying. “No, we can’t wait!” I gulp short, hiccup-y breaths. “I leave on hitch in two hours, and I’ll be chain-sawing all day. It has to be right now.”
“You’re fine, Emma. It’s gonna be okay. What about Walmart, would they have it?”
As we drive out of the canyon, the sparse lights of Logan glimmer on the horizon beneath the shadows of mountains. I try to steady my breathing as I dial. A mechanical-sounding voice informs me Walmart does carry emergency contraceptive. Relief fills my body.
I feel slightly better as we pull into the lot. Still over an hour until I leave on hitch, and soon I’ll have taken the pill and this will all be over. I even manage to joke as we walk past the gardening section; “Gee, maybe we don’t even need Plan B, and we should just buy some plants, and start a family.” He laughs and throws an arm around my shoulder, “See, Emma, it’ll be fine.”
I wander up and down the medicine aisles, past condoms and diapers (do they put them next to each other so people will feel extra compelled to buy condoms?), and Tylenol and Sudafed. But no Plan B. Finally, I ask an employee.
“Oh,” she looks both ways. “Um, we only sell Emergency Contraceptive at the pharmacy, and the pharmacy doesn’t open until 7.”
My lip quivers, “But… Isn’t there any way?”
The woman looks back and forth as if searching for an escape. “So sorry.”
My body slumps forward. I let my tears puddle on Walmart linoleum. Weeks of exhaustion rush over me. Of too-late nights talking to him, of feeling the contours of my body and heart as if I’d never fully lived in them before, and how sometimes I think it’s just too much, and I want to run as fast as I can into the sand under the desert moon, until I forget I am this person.
He pulls me to him. “Emma, Emma, Emma. You’re okay. It’s gonna be okay, I promise.”
This boy with his beard that tickles my cheek, his thumbs that know how to hitchhike and his fingers that know how to touch. How is it possible to trust someone so completely but still be so afraid of what they can make you feel?
We stand together hugging for a while, then walk back to his car to try the second Walmart. I close my eyes and concentrate on sending out my kindest, most-deserving-of-Plan B vibes into the universe. Luckily, unlike the first Walmart, the second doesn’t lock its Plan B away for the night, and I am able to buy one. I giggle manically at the register. It’s almost 5am now, one hour until I leave on hitch, and I haven’t slept at all, but all I feel is relief and strange joy.
We walk outside, and I lean against the side of his car, take the pill with water while he lights a cigarette. I start laughing; a year ago I was walking from class to class in my crumbling, concrete high school, and now here I am. Where will I be a year from now and who will be in my heart?
I turn to him, voice shaking slightly, “I know this is a weird moment to say this, but … I kind of love you.”
He whispers back, “I kind of love you, too.”
In a few hours, I’ll be sawing, inhabiting my body fully in a way that is completely mine. A week after that I’ll be driving on to the next adventure. A year later, that moment and that boy will be a memory. But here is what I knew then and what I still know now: I cannot regret being that person who believed in jinxes, because she is also the girl who let her heart flow out over the desert, and loved and loved and loved.