So, there I was, standing in the bright Alabama sunshine, sweating enough with heat and nerves to have my tee shirt cling to my chest, clutching the two prescriptions in my hand. I was an adult. Taking care of myself. A sexually responsible person.
“Get in the car,” Mom said.
I got in the car, and we tootled off to Eckerd’s pharmacy. Eckerd’s was a large drug store next to the biggest grocery store in Mobile, Skaggs Albertson’s. Everybody did their shopping Saturday morning at Albertson’s. Everybody picked up their prescriptions Saturday morning at Eckerd’s. We parked seemingly miles away and hiked to the drug store. I felt gooey all under, flustered and untidy next to Mom’s powdered and polished exterior.
Shoppers packed the store. By the front door, the cash register and the pharmacy counter used the same queue. I had a moment of panic. The 1980s was the time before privacy laws and barriers to semi-shield you in your discussions with the pharmacist. Mom had a smug smile on her face. I inched closer to her side.
“Mama?” I said.
“You’re a big girl now. Get in line and drop off your prescriptions,” she said moving to the aisle with hair curlers. Mom had great cotton-candy hair – always fluffy in a controlled Brigit Bardot bed head swirl.
Shaking enough to start sweating again in the meat-locker chilly air of the store, I waited for my time at the counter. Handing over my prescriptions, I kept my eyes down and mumbled something. The pharmacist smoothed out the wrinkles of the prescription sheets.
“These are for you?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said raising my eyes to him.
We stood looking at each other across the counter.
“I’ll call you when they’re ready.”
I wandered back to the hair section where Mom hugged me.
“See, that wasn’t so bad,” she said.
Half an hour later, my heart rate had returned to normal. I didn’t blush every time I ran into a student or teacher from my old high school or the Catholic college I attended or an acquaintance from synagogue. I had begun to feel chilled from the wet shirt and had run out of things to look at in the hair section. On the way to the magazine rack in the back corner of the store, I heard a thump on the PA system. Another thump, then the booming voice of the pharmacist permeated every corner of the store.
“Trudi Young, Trudi Young. We have your size diaphragm in stock.”
Shoppers stopped speaking and looked around.
The pharmacist repeated, “Trudi Young, we have your diaphragm, please come to the pharmacy counter to pick it up.”
I turned to mother who burst into laughter. Not her most empathic moment. Mom handed me a couple of twenties. “Go on now, pick up your diaphragm,” she said giving me a little push.
Hurrying to the pick-up counter, I passed a bunch of pimply-faced boys who nudged each other and one open-mouthed girl from chemistry lab. I had almost run the gauntlet when the PA system thumped again.
“Trudi Young, Trudi Young. The spermicide for your diaphragm, Nonoxynol-9, is found in aisle five.”
Sweat dripped down the sides of my bright red face. If the earth could have swallowed me at that second, I would have been grateful.
The smiling pharmacist lay the small paper bag on the counter. I handed over the money stone-faced, stuffed the contraceptive into my purse, then high-tailed it over to aisle five. Through a mist of tears, I examined the array of spermicides in their garish boxes and squeezed my eyes shut. These were the days before waterproof make-up. When I peeked from between my fingers, a hand was holding out a pink and white box of Gynol II. The hand belonged to one of my teachers from college.
“I hope he’s worth it,” she said.
“I do too.”
“Anyway, see you in class Monday,” she said turning away.
Mom walked up to me. “Who was that?”
“Uh. My teacher.”
“What does she teach?”
“Biology,” I said, and both of us laughed until tears streamed down our faces.
Mom wiped away the mascara smudges then kissed my cheek. “You did a good job,” she said.
(Image by morguefile.com)