* Note- This was written for a writing class about a year ago when I was six months pregnant.
A week after serving as my bridesmaid on a sunny June day in City Park, Amy left for Korea to teach English for a year, her first time setting foot outside the 48 contiguous states. Mike and I were to head to Thailand for our honeymoon at about the same time; however, our plans were thwarted by a job offer. I couldn’t turn it down, so we opted for a few days lounging poolside and mountain biking in Sedona, making a mutual promise to take our Asian adventure the following summer before babies came along.
The timing of our Thailand trip a year later coincided with the end of Amy’s teaching contract and the start of her own multi-country, 90-day Asian adventure before she would head back home to Denver. Although it was our honeymoon, we were both close to Amy and jumped at the chance to spend a few days with her on the other side of the world. We made our plans via email and Skype. Come August, Mike and I would meet Amy in Bangkok. We’d travel together by bus to the mountain jungles of Chiang Dao and share a tiny hut at a nature preserve. After that, we would all fly to the Phi Phi islands to enjoy some beach time before going our separate ways, Mike and I to honeymoon in the blue-water islands of Kho Pnanag and Amy to meet up with friends in Laos. After not seeing her in over a year, I was excited to catch up with my good friend in the midst of her first big adventure.
I met Amy when I started a new job in 2006; my daytime home became the cubicle right next to hers. She was several years younger than I but had been at the company awhile. She taught me the software systems, where the bathroom was, and tips on whom to avoid (the lady with the British accent and the man with the nipples that shone through his dress shirts). After a month of sharing a wall and daily jokes, we had lunch together. That turned into occasional, hilarious after-work drinks, and we became fast friends. When my mom died suddenly a couple months later, Amy made the hour-long drive to the funeral in Colorado Springs. I had no idea she was there until she appeared before me at the reception, tear-streaked face, enveloping my tall frame in hers. She spent the next few months listening to me talk and cry. We barely knew each other, but we learned quickly.
We created Wine Wednesdays. Mike was my live-in boyfriend then, and he had a volleyball game every Wednesday night, Amy’s cue to pick up takeout and dress in her finest yoga pants and giant University of South Dakota sweatshirt for her weekly visit. I poured the Pinot Noir and we sat on my back patio smoking cigarettes, discussing our terrible jobs and big life decisions ahead, drinking too much. More than once Amy and I both called in sick on the same Thursday. People knew what we were up to, but who could stop us? We rationalized that we were given sick days for this specific purpose.
Amy grew up on a farm in South Dakota. She graduated from USD and headed to Denver shortly thereafter, her goal to escape the prison where so many of her peers found themselves incarcerated. She told me once that she would be suicidal if she ended up working at a tanning salon in Watertown for the rest of her life like her sister. Because of the way Amy was raised, she possessed a naiveté that I found hilarious and endearing. She was whip-smart with a memory for numbers and processes that rivaled a computer, and she finished her MBA while we were working together, but she would regularly ask questions a three-year old might come up with. She half-shouted everything in a high-decibel, scratchy voice, never realizing people across the room were privy to everything she said. I was never embarrassed by Amy, always protective; I didn’t want anyone else laughing at her. She once returned to our workspace after giving a presentation, complaining that she felt like people were laughing at her while she spoke. I asked what her presentation was about.
“Egg mutual funds,” she said, still perturbed.
“Egg?” I asked, “I haven’t heard of that fund family.”
“Yes you have, we just did that brochure for them.” She scolded my bad memory over our wall, “A-I-G, egg.”
My heart sunk. “Um, Aim? How about from now on, you just call it AIG. Ok?”
She slumped into her chair with flushed cheeks and an “Oh shit.”
While we waited for Amy to arrive at our Bangkok hotel following her late flight, I started to worry. She had become another little sister to me, and a year of low-grade worrying about Amy on her own in Korea suddenly manifested itself into full-on freaking out by two in the morning when she still hadn’t arrived. I woke my husband. “You’re making your jetlag worse” Mike muttered without opening his eyes.
“But, hon, her plane was supposed to land at midnight. Getting her luggage and a cab here shouldn’t take that long. And I have no way of calling her. And I’m worried!”
My husband, used to my constant worrying, told me he loved me then rolled over to escape the beam from the bedside lamp I’d illuminated. Minutes later, his snoring resumed and Amy knocked on the door. She apologized for the late hour explaining that she’d opted to share a cab with an Australian guy she met at baggage claim. “I was pretty convinced he was a serial killer for the first part of the ride, but he turned out to be super nice.”
The cabbie had dropped the Aussie off first, causing the delay.
She looked the same except her naturally stick-straight black hair was longer and wavy, the result of an experimental perm she sprung for in Korea. It looked beautiful. “I hate it” she rasped and slung her giant backpack on the twin bed she had already claimed as her own. We hugged and pulled back to look at each other.
“You need to pluck your eyebrows,” Amy said, matter of fact and as if we had been apart for an hour instead of a year.
I laughed. “Thanks, Amy”
Several days later, the three of us sat in the open-air restaurant of Malee’s Nature Lover’s Bungalows in the middle of the jungle drinking Chang beer, the label depicting a foil elephant who dripped constant condensation. The air was thick with insects and sweat, and we fanned ourselves while we talked about the amazing things we had already seen and what else we were going to cram in before heading south. We passed the three cameras between us, scanning through the digital images, comparing different shots we had taken. Amy went to the kitchen to get us another round. I thought this seemed like the right moment to mention something to Mike.
“Five days late,” I told him quietly.
Amy had spidermanned silently up behind me without my knowledge.
I jumped. The other patrons looked our direction, staring, mouths agape. While we were the only English speaking group that we knew of at Malee’s, the word pregnant apparently translated well, especially in a screaming Bette Davis voice.
“Amy, shhhhuussh. Geez!”
She laughed and sat down, accustomed to unwanted attention. We explained that we were ready to start trying for kids after the trip, but that I had run out of birth control in July. Since my doctor told us it would probably take us awhile, considering I was 35 and had questionable ovary service, I decided not to get another prescription just for one month. I continued that it was probably not real, just my body’s response to going off the pill and traveling. There was just no way.
Three days later, the three of us stood in the Bangkok airport Boots drugstore holding a meeting of the minds in the sunscreen aisle. Did we want to spend 1000 baht on the good American stuff for snorkeling and sea kayaking, or would the cheaper Thai sunscreen get us through? We went to pay, Amy in front of Mike and I, her own sunscreen in hand. A stroke of genius met her at the front of the line.
“Do you have pregnancy tests?” she asked, loudly over-annunciating each word, though most everyone in Bangkok spoke English.
The man behind the counter nodded and pointed to the selection behind him. Amy grinned at me.
I hesitated. I did not think I was pregnant. “Fine. If we’re going to do this here, we might as well buy two,” I told the cashier and Amy at the same time.
The man glanced up at Mike who stood before him with two tall brunettes, both requesting pregnancy tests. This is how Americans get a bad name in foreign countries.
We arrived on Phuket, our last stop for the night before catching the morning boat to Phi Phi; we walked to the beach to explore. The sky turned from blue to brown while we splashed in the shallow waves. Within moments, heavy raindrops began their assault, bruising our bare shoulders, plastering our hair to our faces. We found cover in the nearest bar. More Chang beers were enjoyed. Amy and Mike had three each; I sipped one. Just in case. A sloppy, hand-painted sign on the wall stated: Broken English spoken here. Boxes of Kleenex lined the bar, the Thai version of paper napkins. We laughed and carried on; we took photos with the bartender; we meandered across the street to our hotel when the rain stopped and darkness arrived. Inside our room, we all rushed for our chance at the bathroom, a proper toilet in Thailand always worth the wait. When it was my turn, Amy told me to wait and fished a pregnancy test out of her backpack, holding it in the air like a winning lottery ticket.
“Come on! Do it! This is so exciting!” She jumped in place, a child in a curvy five-foot-eleven body.
I laughed at her, nervous. “Ok, fine.” I took the white box from her. “I really don’t think I’m pregnant, Aim”
I took the test into the bathroom and my husband followed. The directions were in Thai, with an English supplement that was in severe need of an editor. I peed on the stick. We waited. Two lines appeared. Everything changed in that second; Mike and I stared at each other, our mouths smiling, our eyes wide in fear.
Amy’s banging on the door broke up the moment.
“Jesus, you guys, you’re killing me! What the hell?!”
I opened the door and told Amy that we were going to have a baby. Amy embraced us, and we stood together like the baby belonged to all three of us.
When we split up with Amy on Phi Phi Don, I watched as she walked toward her hostel down the winding island street, a street that had never seen a car. I smiled at how, just a few minutes before as we packed, she had transferred the tampons from my bag to hers. “You won’t be needing them, and they practically have a street value here, they’re so hard to find”
Always thinking, that one. I already missed her again.
Mike and I returned from Thailand at the end of August, back to our daily grinds and our new reality as future parents. Amy just got back last week, landing first in South Dakota where she could spend a few weeks catching up with her family. I got an email from her yesterday:
Heyo! So I have a huge favor and want you to look at my résumé and use your skills to make me look like a superstar. It is currently a shit-show.
I attached my résumé. What do you think?
If I get a job in Denver I will need to live with you...hahaha. Not kidding.
I will be your own personal nanny.
I smiled and quickly prattled off a response on my keyboard:
I will happily look at your résumé. Please remember that my freelance rates, due to widespread popular demand, are now in upwards of $75 an hour. Hahaha. Not kidding.
One quick question, if I fix your résumé and get you a job in Denver, how will you have time to be my personal nanny?
Her response came shortly after, explaining that she had brought that unborn baby into this world via her gift of a pregnancy test, and that should be payment enough for a little sidework. I like to imagine that she was sitting in front of her screen bright-eyed and smiling the way I was.
I will probably never understand depths of what makes Amy tick they way I do with my husband or my best friend. She is a complete character, always surprising me with the things she says and does and the things she is capable of accomplishing. She is my adopted baby sister and the craziest person I have ever met. She is simultaneously sobering and infuriating. She is one of my favorite friends, yet she is impossible to know. It is for all of these reasons I count myself lucky to have been placed there on the first day of that crappy job, a wall away from the loud farm girl, the one who will stand up for you at your wedding and your mom’s funeral, the one who will crack you up with her internal cocktail of country bumpkin and brainiac, the one with the power to bring your baby to life by laying down 300 baht in a Thai airport and bossing you around a little. People like that don’t come into your life every day.