When I was sixteen or seventeen, I had developed the habit of wearing a little bag around my neck at all times. This bag contained a few special secret treasures: the photos of my best friend Shawn, and his promise to return to me from that dreadful summer of 1996, some semi-precious stones, most likely an emergency quarter, and -- a condom. Just In Case. (I'd embraced the Health Class instruction that the wallet is the worst place for them, or else it would have been in there, and there wouldn't be this story.)
My high school fencing buddies and I had gotten down to the gym a little early. We were hanging out waiting for class to start and making all manner of disturbances. "Hey, I wanna see what's in that bag," Shawn said. I'd taken it off, since it didn't mix well with the fencing jacket and mask, either under or over. Not thinking, I handed it to him. He undid the drawstring and began poking through. Then I remembered the condom.
"No!" I cried, and launched myself after the bag. "Ack! Give that back!"
He dangled it out of my reach. I swatted after it. He dodged away and tried to run. I attached myself to his ankle after the fashion of a particularly stubborn toddler and clung with all my might. He started limping across the gym floor, dragging his shrieking shackle along with him.
He eventually twisted free, and made for sanctuary: the boys' bathroom.
I hesitated outside the door. Would-- could-- should--
"Ooo, rose quartz!" he said from inside.
I dove in after him. Surprised, he dodged inside a stall and barred the door. I got down on the floor and poked my head inside the stall. He retreated to the top of the toilet, crying out in alarm. He dangled the little bag over the stall next door. "If you come in here, I am going to drop this in the toilet!" he warned me.
I pouted, huffed, and retreated back outside. I stood there with arms sulkily crossed as he went through the bag in privacy. "Oh, that's what you didn't want me to see?" he said as he came out. "I have one in my wallet."
I started berating him for his general lack of attention in health class, and life returned to normal. Almost. "Hey, where's my earring?" I asked some minutes later.
"It must have come off while you were gnawing on my ankle like a three-year-old," Shawn said, and we set about searching the gym floor for the missing earring. It should have been easy to spot: it was a post earring with a little white dot, a long purple squiggle, and then a hot pink ball at the end, a very distinctive refugee from the 80s that fit my quirky personality perfectly. Alas, no earring was to be found. I left its mate on and started gearing up for class.
Other students arrived. I put out a general call for my lost earring. Before class started, the cute TA Dave approached me. "Is this it?" he called out. "I found it near the water fountain."
It was! I thanked him and accepted it and started to put it back in my ear.
"I don't want to know what you were doing in the mens' restroom," he said, quietly enough that only I could hear him.
I turned bright pink, considered the possibility of denying that it was my earring after all, and decided that no cover story in the world would be good enough to get past him. "I guess I'd better wash it first," I said, and scurried off to put on my jacket and pick a foil.