From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

To Pee or Not to Pee

Friends have come to an agreement. You put up with my idiosyncracies and I’ll put up with yours.

Pam Brown

Judy didn’t look like she’d be a friend of mine. We weighed about the same, only she was five inches taller. All through our adolescence she had boyfriends and later curfews, cooler part-time jobs (she lied about her age and was one of those perfume spritzers at a department store in downtown Brooklyn; I worked checking in dirty clothes at my father’s cleaning store) and great makeup. Judy excelled at everything I had trouble with—math, Spanish, standing up for herself and tampon insertion.

After high school we both went to Brooklyn College. We traveled back and forth together each day and both graduated with degrees in elementary education. So it was that on a cold December day, we arranged to take the necessary physical exam needed before we could be licensed as teachers—together. We took the subway downtown to the Board of Education and stood on the long lines, filling out endless forms, one behind the other. It was how I pictured the Army—hundreds of us, single file, going from office to office, doctor to doctor, getting our application stamped.

Midway through the long day, we made a pit stop at the bathroom. We used the facilities, reapplied our lipstick— mine a pale pink, Judy’s a hot tangerine—and quickly rejoined our comrades on line.

“A through F, follow me,” barked a heavyset woman who looked like she probably moonlighted on the weekends as a warden in the movies.

Perfect. Forman and Finkelstein, we obeyed as she led a group of us back to the bathroom we just left. Then she handed each of us a paper cup.

“I need a urine sample,” she growled, “quickly, please. We’re on a tight schedule here; don’t hold up the works.”

Now the last thing in the world I wanted to do was hold up the works. But I had just gone to the bathroom, not five minutes before. No way could I urinate again.

Judy and I sat down in adjoining stalls. Not five seconds later, I heard Judy fulfill her responsibility. That unnerved me even more.

“How do you do that?” I whispered.

“Nothing to it,” she giggled. “Let’s get out of here. Dragon lady gives me the creeps.” Then I heard her flush.

Nothing I had ever admired about Judy—not her thick black hair, her ability to memorize the lyrics to a song after hearing it once, the edge she had over me in sexual experience— rivaled my awe at how she could pee on demand.

“I can’t go,” I hissed. “How is a person who just emptied her bladder supposed to have enough left for a urine specimen?” I tried to joke but there was nothing funny about how I felt.

“Meet me at the stairwell,” boomed the matron. “We’re due at the lab for a blood test in three minutes.”

I started to sweat. “Go on without me,” I sighed to my friend next door. “I don’t want to get you in trouble.”

“I’m not leaving here without you. Calm down. There’s no problem. I’d donate a kidney if you needed it; don’t you think I could spare some urine? Just pass your cup under the stall. I’ll divide whatever I have in half.”

I did, and she did, and we both emerged from the toilet. We handed our cups to a woman posted at the door.

Relieved, I gave Judy a big hug as we continued onward to the stairwell.

“I’d be happy to return the favor and supply the blood for your test,” I said, wishing I could.

Judy smiled. “By the way, don’t freak out. There’s a chance they’re going to notify you that there’s some albumin in our urine. It’s not a big deal. Between my mother’s diabetes and my whatever sex life, it sometimes shows up.

Just ignore it.”

Albumin? A letter is going to come to my house, the house my father lives in, that says I have albumin in my urine? Albumin that signifies sexual stuff is going on? That my mother will make me go to the gynecologist for? My life was over.

I sweated out the next week. And the next, till the notice arrived with the news that I was indeed a healthy, albumin-free New York City schoolteacher. Someone once said that in real friendship the judgment, the genius, the prudence of each becomes the common property of both. Judy and I experimented with expanding the definition, just a bit.

Marcia Byalick

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