Originally published in Hill Rag, April ’08

Within the city of Washington, Capitol Hill is a village.  And that’s a good thing. But in certain rare, uncomfortable occasions anonymity would be a welcome friend.

The other day I popped down to the local drugstore, affectionately referred to in our home as “The Epicenter of Evil,” because every time we set foot inside it’s like being trapped in the retail version of the Hotel California. The stock looks as though it’s been sampled and returned, and the people who work there stare at me in a confused and indignant manner whenever I ask them something crazy like, “can I buy these things?”

But sometimes The Boy has an eye infection, or he’s out of Similac (not that they ever have it) or one absolutely must know what Britney is up to. These visits are necessary.

Thanks to an ongoing battle of “I don’t like condoms” (The Husband) and “I don’t want to be fat and on the pill anymore” (guess who?), I loaded up The Boy and schlepped down to the E of E to purchase a pregnancy test.

Stressed about the concept of Irish twins, I decided not to leave without a fancy new pack of condoms.   Because, I suppose, people shoplift condoms (illegal, yes, but responsible!) they are safely locked in a Lucite case.  A prophylactic for prophylactics. How meta. 

In theory, one can press a simple red button to release one single pack to the sexually active, or optimistic, consumer.  Not unlike birth control itself, the machine is not 100% effective. I pressed and pressed as The Boy began to grouse. Pushing the stroller back and forth to soothe him, I swore at the machine and continued to press.

“Hi, Hill Mom,” I heard behind me. I turned and waved, forgetting the pregnancy test in my hand. It was Scooter’s dad from the dog park. Super. His eyes quickly darted from baby to pee-stick to condoms. I smiled, wanting to say, “There is SO much sex happening at our house!” Instead I said, “Hey, Scooter’s dad.”

Not wanting to prolong this experience, I peeked over the pharmacy counter and discreetly asked for assistance. “What’s that?” The Pharmacist fired back. “The condom machine.  It isn’t working.” He turned to his white-jacketed peer and reported, “It’s the condom machine again.  She says it’s not working.”

“Who needs condoms?” the other one demanded. She does,” the pharmacist said, pointing at me.  “The one with the baby.” Lord.  Help.  Me.

He came around the counter.  And pushed the button. “Thanks,” I said.  “I’ve tried that.” He informed me, and the entire store, that we needed a manager’s key.

Manager and key arrived and didn’t she have one heck of a time figuring out which ones I wanted.  “Ribbed for her pleasure?” I squirmed, “No, the purple-ish box.” Two nannies skulking in the greeting card section watched me like I was their favorite daytime drama.

“Flavored?” she asked. No.  Purple-ish with the green stripe.”

“Oh, extra sensitive?”  She may have screamed it.  I nodded.  She handed me the box and I sped The Boy to the front of the store. I set my pregnancy test and condoms down on the counter: my purchases and progeny, a small drama in three acts, climaxing there at the register.

Later that afternoon The Boy and I took The Hound out for a romp. As we joined the afternoon dog park posse I couldn’t help but notice all eyes were on me. “So?” the brazen one with the rolled cigarette and quick wit asked me. “You knocked up?”

For a second I fantasized about being lost in a throng of anonymous Manhattanites. Then I realized that Manhattanites don’t make you lasagnas when you’re sick, or walk your dog when motherhood is kicking your ass. These people were my villagers. My business had become theirs.

“No, I’m not” I replied. “But I am feeling a spell of abstinence coming on.”

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