It’s been over a year since we met, can you believe that? I can remember it pretty clearly.
I was walking into class, it was The Understanding of Art. I chose it because I’d taken art before, and since this was my first semester at the big state university, I wanted at least one blow-off class.
Stains covered the dingy white floor of the classroom. I would know, because that’s what I was staring at as I entered the mammoth-sized double doors.
I was shy by nature (I bet you never would have guessed!) and the thought of being a part of a classroom of 150 students filled me with a bit of anxiety.
As I entered the threshold, I heard our professor greet the class with a quiet, “Hello.” I was flanking the left side of the classroom, looking towards the empty cluster of seating that I intended to make my temporary residence for the semester.
“HEY TEACHER!” Your voice boomed through the classroom and into the tall, echoing ceiling.
You certainly knew how to make an impression, didn’t you Morph?
It was then that I made a decision. I could stay in a lonely corner by myself all semester, or I could sit with the class clown. The opportunity was just too good to pass up.
I walked up to you, with more boldness than I actually possessed, and asked if I could sit by you. You were a bit surprised, but then gave me a beaming grin and said, “Sure!”
What an odd pair we were, huh?
You, a tall, mid-twenties, black man that smelled of cocoa, and me, a tiny, late teens, white woman with a terrible sense of fashion (especially while sporting a baby bump).
You know the first thing I noticed about you?
I hoped you might be married, like me. I didn’t get the nerve to ask about your ring until later in the semester, but I’m glad I did.
As we began our introductions, I was a bit hesitant. What would you think of me? After all, I was younger and married, which usually left people with a bad impression of me. I soon learned I had nothing to fear.
We spoke like we’d known each other for centuries. In fact, the professor believed us to be old friends, and when we, in unison, informed her that we weren’t, she assumed that we must be married to each other.
What a laugh we had over that! I think some of our classmates still believe that.
Despite the teasing, our friendship was never weird, or awkward. That was such a breath of fresh air.
Do you know how hard it had been for me to make friends, Morph?
I worried of making female acquaintances because, as I ended up learning to be true, many of them were vicious and petulant.
I worried of befriending males because when you are married, that terrain is tricky to maneuver. Of course, barring that, there was also my deep-seated fear of men.
I didn’t have to worry with you, though.
You defended me against those who tried to bully me for being different. You protected my reputation and honor. You helped me when I became sick, even to the point of nearly being vomited on.
I remember when I told you I was pregnant. It wasn’t a happy telling. In fact, I recall the sting of tears threatening the corners of my eyes.
You see, you weren’t the first classmate I told, and to my regret, they were not as receptive to my good news as you were.
I considered stopping at, “It’s been a bad morning…” but you knew something more was going on. I told you about the girls that morning. What they had said, and what they had done.
You were furious.
Then I told you why they had treated me poorly.
Every head in the class turned with curiosity as you squealed with delight. That was certainly not the reaction I had anticipated, Morph. Although you thought I was a little nuts (and let’s face it, I was), you were happy for me and my baby.
After this, I decided it was safe to ask you, “What’s with the ring?” Do you know how overjoyed I was to find out your answer?
“It’s a purity ring.” You smiled as you answered.
Our pasts, at least in one small aspect, were similar. You understood part of the way I grew up, and for that I was thankful.
The weeks flew by, and we had each other’s backs. When you slept in, I took notes for you. When I almost threw up on you, you screamed like a girl… I mean, escorted me safely to the restroom. Each day we chatted until class began, and sometimes after class began.
We passed notes about the absurdity of some of the art (like the urinal turned upside-down) and you never once missed a beat when you noticed that my child’s name was written across every line of the pages of my notebook. We took bets on whether my baby was a boy or a girl. We celebrated every day I didn’t throw up or land in the hospital somehow.
You were the only person I had classes with that supported me in the challenges of pregnancy. When my irrational pregnancy hormones caused a fit of crying, you took it in stride, calmed me down, and we carried on. When I showed up to class in a hot pink tutu, maternity leggings and a t-shirt because of my terrible fashion sense, you laughed and sat down beside me, despite being slightly embarrassed.
When I started feeling my baby kick, we celebrated with gluten-free licorice, and even though it was awful tasting, you ate it with me anyways. When you knew I was discouraged with having to drop a class from being sick with hyperemesis gravidarum, you brought a chocolate bar and surprised me with it. When I let you know I was in the hospital and wouldn’t make it to class that day, you made it your personal mission to go, in person, to all of my professors and let them know.
I remember the day of finals I saw you as I was leaving. You had your headphones in and were watching DragonBall Z with a somber look on your face. I turned around and sat down next to you.
We talked one last time before I disappeared out of the large glass doors and onto the dew covered grass on the campus lawn. I walked to the bus stop and climbed aboard my ride to the parking lot.
As I sat there, gazing out the frosty window that December morning, I knew I’d miss you.
I’ve often wondered, since then, if it’s possible to be supportive of a pregnant woman in college.
Then I remember you.
Thank you, Morph, for being a friend to the outcast.
*Morph is a pseudonym to protect privacy.
Rebecca Lemke is a wife and mother bent on overcoming obstacles and living a holistic life with her family. She blogs about her experiences and strategies at her website: New Crunchy Mom. Her work has been featured on sites such as Homeschooler’s Anonymous, and recently won her thepublicblogger‘s annual award for Best Performance of the Year for 2015. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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