My ex could be a real asshole. There weren’t a lot of days that we went without arguing, and when we did, it was because I was doing my best to conform to his expectations. As I sat in the doctor’s office, I was overcome by a sudden feeling of fear. Thoughts about my ex always made me feel anxious, but this was different. It occurred to me that there was a possibility I was pregnant. I immediately felt like I wanted to throw up.
If I felt a little nauseous before, I felt offensively queasy now. My heart began to race and my chest felt tight. I stared at the linoleum on the clinic floor and tried to focus on what I saw. If I could pull my mind away from him, away from the possible things that could be wrong with me, and focus on the tiles, I could clear my mind. I counted them.
One, two, three, four…
And I took note of their colour.
Black, white, black white…
After some time, my heart finally began to slow down and the hard clenching in my gut returned to a dull hum of discomfort. When I looked up, the chairs near me that had once been filled were empty. I tried not to let my mind go back to him while I waited. So, I took note of the white walls, the grey front desk, and the forty-year-old brunette behind the counter with a sour expression. Thankfully, when my turn came, my mind hadn’t floated back to the bad place.
“What can I do for you today?” the doctor asked when he came into the treatment room.
“Oh,” I said. I paused for a moment. “I’ve been feeling sick?” I said as if I wasn’t sure.
“What are your symptoms?” he asked.
“Nausea, constant nausea,” I said.
“Any vomiting, diarrhea?” he asked.
“I felt like vomiting, but none of the other thing.”
“Any allergies?” he asked.
“Alright then, let’s have a look.” He stood up and motioned for me to lie down on the treatment table.
I took his lead, and soon I was lying down. He began to touch my stomach, first on one side, then the other.
“Any pain?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“Any chance you could be pregnant?”
I didn’t say anything.
I wanted to say something. At first, I wanted to deny it. Then I wanted to tell him I’d been dreaming about babies. Finally, I decided that I had been silent for too long and had to say something.
“Maybe,” I said.
He stepped back and helped me sit up. He looked at me for a moment as if he were assessing me.
“I’ll assign you a pregnancy test,” he said.
“Okay,” I replied.
I wanted to say something about how he’d looked at me. He’d spent time touching my bare stomach, now he’d looked me up and down, and it all made me feel like he was judging me. Did he think I was too young to get pregnant?
“I’m 21,” I said.
“I’ll be back with the test kit,” he said. He walked out of the room without saying anything else.
It was moments like this in particular that made me hate seeing doctors. He’d left the room, and I was now alone, free to let my mind wander to all the worst places. I probably should have been thinking about the idea that I could be with child at that very moment. Instead, all I could think about was whether or not it seemed like he had thought my stomach was too fat, and if that was why he thought I was pregnant in the first place.
Once I left the doctor’s office, I stepped out onto the sidewalk and looked around. It felt good to be out of that oppressively white and grey place. The rain had slowed, and I started to walk back to my car which was parked a few blocks away. As I walked, my mind walked with me and it led us both straight back to thinking about him.
My ex really was the worst kind of person. He would make comments about my body that were so innocuous that I never questioned why he said them. But each and every time he did, I would find my mind flooded with insecurities. For hours after I would be reeling at the thought that he might not think I was perfect.
One night we were sitting on the couch and my legs were draped over his lap. We were comfortable, laughing at the jokes on the television, and having a great time. Sure enough, a commercial comes on and he starts looking down at my legs.
“How thick are your thighs?” he said. “Like in circumference. Do you measure that?” he asked.
“What?” I asked. My body had stiffened up. I had long since learned by this point that whatever was coming when he asked these kinds of questions, I should brace myself.
“I was noticing how big they looked,” he said. “And I thought maybe if you measured them, it would be like encouragement.”
I started to slowly pull my legs off of him and reposition myself on the couch.
“Uhm…” I didn’t know what to say.
I was dumbstruck if I’m being honest. How was I supposed to respond to something like that? I wanted to tell him he was being a jerk and ask why he thought it was acceptable to comment on another person’s body unprovoked. Somehow, I couldn’t open my usually wide-open mouth. He’d commented about my body, made it clear he thought my thighs were big, and suggested I might need encouragement to change that. He’d framed it as a simple curiosity, and a light-hearted piece of advice. But after that night, I had gained a deep new insecurity. Every time I passed a mirror, I would stop and check my thighs. I would squeeze, and jiggle them, and I would wonder if they looked big in the pants I was wearing. For a few weeks after that night, I switched to wearing skater skirts just to avoid highlighting the biggest parts of my legs.
“Just a thought,” he said. “You don’t have to get weird about it.”
After he said that, I felt guilty for being offended. He made it seem like I had made a big deal out of his comments before I’d even had the chance to reply. I went quiet for most of the rest of that night, but my mind was louder than ever.
Story fanatic. Published in the Camosun College literary journal Beside the Point. Former Senior Staff Writer at The Martlet. Current and future freelance writer.