His hand slid up my left leg, pushing my black jersey dress up around my hips. My stomach fluttered and the space between my legs trembled. This is it, I thought. This is really happening. His fingers found themselves tangled between the thin strings of my thong. He kissed my neck, my chin, and then his mouth was on mine. I tasted the beer he was drinking at dinner, and when he swept my hair to the side I smelled the rosy perfume I was wearing. I hope he smelled it, too — I was wearing it for him. This was foreplay, and it was familiar — something I knew well, though it had been a long time.
His bedroom smelled like clean laundry and minty cologne, and it was dark all around except for the glow of the alarm clock. It was after midnight, my thong was at my ankles, and I kicked my heels off. I watched the numbers pop to 12:06 a.m. and did the math: sixty dollars and counting. He rolled me over onto his plush comforter and put his weight on me. I opened my legs, my dress past my navel now and his pants rubbing against me. If we kept going at this pace, I was looking at eighty dollars, maybe even a hundred.
I’m not a prostitute. I’m a single mother in the city and my babysitter charges twenty an hour. We’d had drinks and an expensive steak dinner — then he’d walked me around his charming neighborhood, holding my hand, telling me I was beautiful. I just wanted to have sex with him without going broke.
My daughter is three. Her father left when I was two months pregnant. We had sex two times after she was conceived and I haven’t had sex since.
I wiggled out from under him and pushed him on his back, gathering my dress high around my waist. His hands pressed my ass down on him and even through his suit pants were on I could feel he was ready. I unbuttoned his shirt slowly. He twirled a piece of my hair around his finger and the clock popped to 12:11. 12:11!
Earlier that day my best friend had texted me: “You need to fuck him tonight. If you don’t fuck someone soon you’re going to die.” She was right. The routine of my days was getting to me. I wake up. I help my daughter go to the potty. I make her a waffle with a blueberry smiley face. I braid her hair, bring her to school, go to work, pick her up. We play. Eat dinner. Sleep. The next day starts the exact same way. I’m growing cold and bitter and robotic. I’m only thirty-one. I’m sexual. My vibrator no longer satisfies me. I crave touch and skin and smell and breath and sweat all mixed together.
He pulled my other sleeve down and undid my bra (in one try, with two fingers). He took my left breast in his mouth, causing a spray of goose-bumps to appear on my arms and “ohhhhh” to sail from my lips. The clock popped to 12:19.
“I have a child,” I said.
“I know.” He inched over the bed, pulling open the drawer to a small Ikea dresser. Between his fingers was a little purple square I hadn’t seen in a very long time. I ripped it open for him. I guided it over his penis. My hand slid up and down, checking to see that it was on, really on — really, really on. I got pregnant when my ex-boyfriend and I didn’t use a condom. He had pulled out and I had prayed — but apparently not enough.
Now I watched as this man disappeared inside me, letting him go deeper and deeper while still looking at the condom. I saw the perfect ring of plastic exactly where it was supposed to be. When he told me he was close, I told him to pull out. “Don’t come in me,” I said. Please don’t come in me, I thought. Hail Mary, full of grace, please don’t come in me.
“I have a condom on, baby,” he assured me, his breath hot on my neck.
“Just don’t,” I said. So he came in the condom, outside of me. I lay there next to him feeling satisfied, numb, and sleepy. The clock popped to 12:36. I pulled the condom off of him and wrapped it in a piece of tissue. “I have to go,” I said. “The babysitter.” He hailed a cab for me and when he kissed me, his skin smelled like shaving cream. I went to bed that night feeling triumphant. I giggled in my pillow, feeling all of those wonderful sex pains again. I didn’t expect to feel anything else. I went to sleep.
I woke up with a start the next morning. It was Saturday and 6:40 a.m. My daughter tugged on my arm. “Make me a waffle, mommy,” she said. When I sat up and saw the beautiful little creature in her pale pink nightgown and big blue eyes (her father’s eyes) staring at me in demand, a single moment of dread filled me. Was I knocked up all over again? Did the condom have a hole in it? Did he pre-come in me? When did I have my period last? Was I ovulating last night? I cooked with stiff arms. I sipped coffee and it made me ill. My daughter watched a cartoon, but it was like the volume was off. I was thinking about my ex and how in the beginning he was fine with my decision to keep our baby; we’d wondered if we should move in together. Two months and six days later, he wasn’t okay with the instant-family we decided to have.
Now it was just my family. I was the girl on the subway with the belly swelling uncontrollably under my shirt. I was that girl — the one who would become a single mother at twenty-eight and consequently not have sex in the pink-tutu, doll-and-cupcake-filled years that followed — until now that is. And now it isn’t what I thought it would be. Last night it was thrilling, today it’s something different. The guy I fucked is just that — the guy I fucked. We mean nothing to each other, nothing more than a thirty-dollar steak. I thought about that all morning, that and how my daughter’s father wasn’t just a guy I fucked, and still he left.
The rest of the day happened in slow-motion. Paranoia set in. I called my best friend to come babysit so that I could go grocery shopping and try to get out of my head. But as I walked into the store, the past three years flashed full-frontal in no particular order: I was in the delivery room alone while friends and family and not my daughter’s father hovered in the waiting room. I was pacing in the dark hallway of our apartment with a crying infant in my arms. I was late to work because my daughter wouldn’t let go of my leg at day care. I was masturbating, staring out at the moon, hoping the guy next door was watching me, that someone was with me. I made the rent, bought the food, and paid the bills with a hundred dollars to spare that month. I came to and threw a few apples into the basket, two bananas, a pint of milk, those overpriced yogurt drinks my daughter likes. Then I walked back to the pharmacy to refill the prescription for my daughter’s fruit-chew vitamins. But when a woman in a white jacket asked if she could help me, I asked for Plan B, unable to meet her eyes.
I know we used a condom. He pulled out with the condom on, then came. Still, I wasn’t getting knocked up again. I’m never getting knocked up again. Plan B made me feel flu-ish and grumpy and like I was about to have a panic attack. Everyone assumed I was just under the weather. I welcomed the chicken soup and free babysitters, but told no one the real reason I was sick. The following week I got my period and started taking the pill. I’m still afraid that I’m that girl who can get pregnant while on birth control, even with a condom. Surely I’m the one-percent.
I don’t think that feeling will ever go away.
This article originally appeared in Nerve’s True Stories.