swallowing it

I wait six years then tell my sister.

“Wanna hear something?” I ask. It’s midnight, the last hour of 2021 slipping away. We are two glasses of wine deep. Maybe three.

More like four.

I start crying.

“Shit,” my sister says, she asks, “Are you pregnant or something?” and laughs, because she can still think this is a joke and then I’m crying more and I tell her, the word abortion is out. And neither of us are laughing.

“That dude you dated was a fucker,” she says at last.

And, yeah. There’s that. There’s more wine. The bottle slips away like the year. She doesn’t get it. That it’s not about him. It’s not about us. It’s not about pro-life or pro-choice. It’s about having to live with it.

I start a new job in January and I walk in with a smile all over my secrets. Smiles are good. They make people like you.

I wear it well.

I wonder, if they knew, these coworkers, would they still like me?

My sister doesn’t bring it up. I read the news about Texas, about Ukraine. There are worse reasons to cry than mine.

I kiss a new boy and let him smile with me. I wonder what he’d do if he knew. When I’m with him I turn the lights out, making sure that ugly part of me can’t get up and glow.

I walk by a Planned Parenthood on my way to the bus stop. There is a man outside with rosary beads and one of those signs and before I know what I’m doing I have to clamp a hand over my mouth because I am screaming at him.

Apparently, I am the kind of person who does this now.

I call my sister and tell her about my screaming. I try to make it funny.

It isn’t.

I spend the day with the new boy. We go ice skating! We bake brownies! We watch Avatar! When we climb into his bed and I pull away he says nothing and then it’s morning and he makes me waffles.

I bury the abortion in my body like the secret it is, swallowing it whole, forgetting to chew. In that burying it starts to define me, radiating out through my pores every time I exhale. I wanted it gone, and now it is holding me. I swallow and swallow and swallow, the abortion bleeding back out in my thoughts.

I see the new boy again. He doesn’t own a coffee maker, so I buy some instant to leave in his kitchen. This seems like a nice step. Not quite a toothbrush. Just something to keep there that’s mine.

I wonder, if I told him, would that coffee still stay on his counter?

About the Author

Emily Shawn is a Bostonian native, English teacher, and yoga instructor. She writes for the blog Introvert, Dear, and her writing has appeared on The Mighty. She loves cats, plants, and vegetarian food as well as writing healing narratives. Her blog writing can be followed here: https://introvertdear.com/news/author/emily/

Supporting Reproductive Rights

This is a critical time in our fight to preserve access to abortion and reproductive healthcare. We believe that every action counts. Here are three things you can do.

  1. Fight stigmatization by sharing your story and/or supporting people who have shared their stories. Supportive comments and likes make a big difference to the people who have chosen to share their personal experiences.
  2. Reach out to your representatives on the federal, state, and local levels and tell them that you want them to pass legislation that protects reproductive rights including abortion access.
  3. Donate to organizations committed to protecting access to safe and legal abortions. This writer recommended Exhale Pro Voice for the work they are doing to help people deal with stigma and shame.

2 thoughts on “swallowing it

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