walk of shame

I parked my car in the dimly lit garage downtown. Holding my keys tentatively, I started to pray.

Please, Lord, don’t let there be protesters. Please, Lord, not today.

If I could just make it down the block, through the unmarked door and into the elevator, everything would be okay. My weary eyes blinked against the bright sun. The street wasn’t busy. A few people waited for buses, and professionals darted past, briefcases in hand. The brunette in a tailored suit and heels was not headed to the clinic for her annual exam. Her skyscraper job surely came with benefits.

The walk sign lit, and I stepped off the curb, tucking my hair behind my ears. It still smelled of espresso from the chain coffeehouse where I moonlighted. I'd hoped graduation would confer an end to latte slinging, but their promise of health insurance was too alluring, and I tacked another twenty hours onto my work week. In just a few more months, I, too, could access birth control without the specter of public humiliation. I'd get my wisdom teeth out, order new contacts and glasses, and stop refusing emergency care, terrified of the cost. It would be a glorious day and tremendous relief.

But this was not that day. As I turned the corner, the clinic door came into view. Mercifully, the way was clear, and I exhaled, realizing I'd been holding my breath. At my next appointment I might still need to psych myself up for a confrontation with demonstrators, but today I was grateful for the quiet.

Plus, I needed to get back to the office soon. The Christian Ed committee couldn’t very well meet without their youth minister.

A version of Walk of Shame once appeared at a storytelling website. It also appears in the 2014 book, Speak.

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