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LOVE in 40 Nontraditional, Unpredictable Steps

by Shelly Bell

June 18, 2019

photo by Elizabeth Rudge

LOVE in 40 Nontraditional, Unpredictable Steps

1. It’s June 29, 2013. I host the “I Am Slam” in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington, D.C. as a part of the Songwriters and Poets Series.

2. We go out for drinks.

3. After getting the fun type of drunk, my entourage and I find our final dance destination.

4. I see Paul on the dance floor. My version of this story includes fans blowing my hair, a spotlight, and catching eyes with the geekiest guy on the floor. In reality, he was a dark-chocolate muscle- bound dream come true.

5. We dance all night. He is the only person I dance with.

6. We exchange numbers. He kisses me. That’s weird. We’re black! We don’t get drunk and kiss strangers in the club! Oh well, we’re drunk!

7. I drunk call him later. He says, “Can I come over?” In a dramatic, whiny voice I say, “I don’t know, I don’t usually do this. (I don’t!) If you come over are you going to try to have sex with me?” He says, “We’ll just let whatever happens happen.” Typical guy thing to say.

8. He comes over. Of course we have sex.

9. We wake up. I look over and he is still in my bed. I’m thinking, “Dude! Aren’t these called one- night stands because you should be standing and walking away by now?”

10. I give him the fake wake-up stretch/loud yawn. He rolls over like we’re chilling!

11. According to his story, I gave him like two different reasons he had to leave. I just remember that I wanted him to get out.

12. We agree to keep in touch. He finally rolls out. 13. Life goes on. I don’t call him, he doesn’t call me. ONE MONTH LATER

14. My mood swings are particularly strong, pizza makes me sick, and my breasts grow huge and tender.

15. There’s a stomach virus going around, so I assume my nausea to be the virus claiming me as the next victim.

16. But I’m not sure. So I go to the dollar store, purchase a pregnancy test, take it, and yeah … it’s positive.

17. I’m totally shocked and feeling crazy! I haven’t talked to this dude since the night we hooked up, and I also haven’t had sex with anyone else. I’m filled with anxiety. How am I supposed to call this random guy named Paul and tell him I’m pregnant?

18. I text him first like, “Heeyy, remember me? That girl from the club?” He replies excitedly, “HEY! I’m glad to hear from you. My roommate just asked about you. I lost your number. Call me.”

19. I call. “Hey! So, I need to talk to you. Umm, I’ve been feeling sick lately. I went to the dollar store, purchased a test, and it’s positive. I’m going to Walmart now to purchase another test and will let you know what happens.”

20. He is surprisingly super cool about it! “Okay, call me back after you come back from Walmart.”

21. I am freaking out the entire time! I feel extremely guilty about getting pregnant by some random guy in a club.

22. Of course the Walmart test is positive.

23. I text him the news. He says, “Okay, let’s just talk about it.” I am now beginning to think he is a little weird. I had expected a huge dramatic “it ain’t mine” fiasco upon contacting him. That didn’t happen.

24. I get an ultrasound. They tell me the date of conception is June 30. I’m totally pregnant and it’s totally Paul’s!

25. I ask him why he’s being so cool about it. He says that he’s seen friends and family members freak in a situation like this and then find out the child was theirs, creating a messed-up situation for everybody involved.

26. At some point in the “what are we going to do about this?” conversation, we agree to move forward with an abortion on the grounds that we will continue to see each other. If we like each other, we’ll plan to have another child. Sounded like a deal to me! I didn’t want my baby’s story to be, “Oh yeah, I was being a whore, and you’re the beauty that came from that!” SMH.

27. The night before the abortion, we go to dinner. We just hang out, laugh, and talk.

28. On the day of the abortion, he comes with me to the clinic. They call my name. I go to empty my bladder. While in the bathroom, I text him asking, “Are you sure you want to do this?” He responds, “No.”

29. I reply, “What?! Why didn’t you tell me? I’m not sure I want to do it either.”

30. I beg the nurse for five minutes to go back into the lobby. She lets me go.

31. Paul is sitting in a waiting room chair near the

door. I look him in the eye and ask, “Are you sure?” He says, “No, but this is what we agreed to do. I just don’t want you to resent me after this. I still want to see you.”

32. I assure him that I won’t resent him. We remind ourselves that this is what we agreed to do. I turn to walk away. He grabs my arm, pulls me close, and kisses me.

33. The abortion happens.

34. The next week I go to Miami for a friend’s birthday. The week I come back, he goes to Miami to celebrate his birthday. We barely keep in touch.

35. Randomly, the night of a Cowboys v. Redskins game, I get a text from Paul saying, “Clear your schedule Saturday. I want to see you.”

36. Who does he think he is, texting me and demanding my time like that? No, I didn’t say that. I was like, “Okay!” (LOL.)

37. The next Saturday, we go to Red Lobster. We talk openly about the abortion and how it made us feel. We laugh, we talk, we have special moments in conversation about the decision we made. We both feel a certain level of guilt. We both feel like if we’d only known that the person we had a one- night stand with was this great a person, we would have been proud to keep the baby.

38. After that, we fall in love in a way neither of us could ever have imagined happening. We’ve been seeing each other ever since.

39. In November 2013, we start trying to have a baby.

40. The second time is the charm. This is my nontraditional fairytale love story. Our relationship feels something close to perfect: there are rollercoaster rides, laughs, hugs, tears, and passion. The kids love him, and he loves the kids. We disagree like all couples do. We are dedicated to learning each other like all couples should be. Ultimately, Paul was the missing piece of my family puzzle.

Remember that our stories are ours to tell. We’d love to hear your story too!