1975. Something bad is going to happen. Something sad.
A couple of months ago, before school let out, I found out I was pregnant. I don’t know what to do. I’m sixteen, just finishing sophomore year.
I know I don’t have much time, so I went to an abortion clinic this morning, all by myself. But I couldn’t do it. I ran out of there, scared to death, not wanting to abort the fetus.
I have to tell my parents. I’m scared, so I talk to my sister Lorraine first.
She yells at me in a whisper, like she does—lips pursed in a sneer with deep lines furrowing her upper lip like an old lady who’s been smoking for sixty years, even though she’s just turned eighteen in May. She jabs her pointed finger in my chest and says, “You have to get an abortion, you have to.”
As always, I listen to her, and reluctantly tell my parents.
Well, there’s no way they’re going to allow me to have this baby. After all, they can’t let their friends find out I’m not a virgin. I don’t want an abortion, but they harass me so much about it, I can’t refuse.
I’m almost five months pregnant now, so I can’t get an abortion at the clinic. I secretly waited so it would be too late. But, no such luck. My parents are arranging for me to have an experimental abortion, a brand new procedure being performed on humans for the first time, and only at one hospital, in Chicago.
My parents originally planned to send me to New York for a saline-injection-miscarriage-abortion, and are so happy to have found something closer to home. This forced-miscarriage-abortion in Chicago is performed by a hormone injection—estrogen or progesterone, I don’t know which. Could be testosterone for all I know.
I can’t believe how much time and effort my parents have put into this abortion. It’s the most attention I’ve gotten from them since . . . well, it’s probably the most attention I’ve ever gotten from them. Not exactly the type of attention I’d like, though.
The day has come and I’m not happy about what’s going to happen. So, I leave this morning and run over to Jim’s house, whom my father has now forbidden me from seeing. To my utter astonishment, my father shows up at Jim’s door! I had no idea my father knows where Jim lives; maybe my sister Lorraine told him. He drags me to the car with an angry grimace as if I’ve caused him the greatest inconvenience ever.
I look out the back window at Jim on the sidewalk as we drive away.
The nurses are nice to me. There are two other girls sharing a room with me, fellow guinea pigs.
I’m begging for drugs to make me sleep. I want to be totally unconscious for this. They consent with a morphine drip, I think it is, from an IV bag. Too bad for me I can’t go fully under, so I’m half-awake when the cramping starts, but mercifully in and out of consciousness for the next several hours it takes for the fetus to die. Die! I keep waking up, talking, but have no idea what I’m talking about, or to whom.
The moment has come and I wish, I wish, I wish I could be unconscious. I don’t want to hear the nurse and doctor talking about how much it weighs. I will myself not to hear, humming “lalalalalalala” under my breath.
* * * *
It’s Wintertime. The day is getting late. Snow falls in a flurry as the sky begins to darken. There is a fog over the field where deer are emerging for their long night foraging.
My loneliness now is like a comfortable blanket, surrounding me with warmth, a comforting solitude as I watch the snow. Sitting here in the baby-blue VW Bug I share with my sisters, I gather myself into my private solitude. No one knows where I am. I am safe. I am me. In the quiet of the countryside, I can dream of becoming whatever I wish to be.
When did this desire for solitude begin? On that lonely night in my childhood when my abusers abandoned me in a dark room in the city? It was then, I think, that I gathered myself up and turned my abandonment into a comfortable sense of self. To survive.
Since the abortion, I’ve been spending every night after dinner in my bedroom. I close the door, turn off the lights, and listen to music all night. I’m drained after a long day at school, followed by my first job as a typist at the travel agency. I’m still grieving.
I had my blow-ups when I was a kid, like the time I swept everything on my dresser to the floor, screaming in anguish, throwing everything around the room—no words with that rage, just screaming—an overload of frustration.
Now, beyond frustration, ever since that day I saw my father drive up to Jim’s house to get me for my abortion, I’ve been running. I run and run from portending disappointment, escaping my life in the Chicago suburbs when it’s my turn for the car. I drive to the Wisconsin border, dreaming of the day when I’ll live in the mountains of Colorado, like John Denver:
He was born in the summer of his twenty-seventh year
Coming home to a place he’d never been before
He left yesterday behind him
You might say he was born again
You might say he found a key to every door
–John Denver, “Rocky Mountain High”
I haven’t been taking much LSD lately, not even since the abortion. My mind has cleared up some and I think I’d like to go to college.
I try to tell my father that I want a degree in Anthropology, but why do I bother? He doesn’t even give me the chance to tell him how much I’ve always loved the world’s cultures. He grunts his disgusted “Tsk” and says, “That’s a Mickey Mouse degree.” Then he stands up and walks out of the room, like he always does. Why do I think he’d ever do something different, such as listen to me, or encourage me? Hundreds of times, he’s turned his back on me and walked away, and, still, I try to talk to him. My father smiles sarcastically when he walks away; it feels like he’s kicked me in the gut. My face flushes with embarrassment every time he does this. Still, I hope one day I’ll be able to say something he’ll approve of.
My father applauded me only once that I remember, when I was small. I was learning how to read. I sat on his lap in one of the gold-brocade wingback chairs, reading to him from a picture book. I sounded out the word soldier, and he whooped and hollered, his face beaming with pride. I felt guilty because I only guessed the word because of the picture of a soldier.
How the hell am I going to get to college?
Maybe I won’t go to college. Maybe don’t deserve to live, not a good life anyway. Every day I try not to remember the nurse saying it was a boy.
As the years have gone by, it has been difficult to admit my relief for that abortion. I feel sad when I think of the abuse that child would have been exposed to. Many people may think that it is not for me to make that decision. Ultimately, I wouldn’t wish for the consequences of going full term and giving birth to a child that would have been sexually, psychologically, physically, and spiritually abused within my family—as I had been.
What I would like to see is money and energy going into campaigns to stop child abuse, to have a world where abortion isn’t necessary. But as far back as humans have been on Earth, abortion has been a necessity.
About the Author
Ann Willow resides in the American Southwest, inspired by its mystical landscapes, unique history, and diverse quirky folk. Her BA in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin enriched her curiosity in the development of culture—specifically cult and white supremacy groups, which she escaped with a passion for enlightening society. Ann’s short stories and special interest articles have appeared in Parabola Magazine, Tangled Locks Journal, Navajo Times, The Talihina American, Clayton Today, and Latimer County News-Tribune. Excerpts from her forthcoming memoir series, Aboveground, have won the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Award semi-finalist, two Anne Hillerman Awards for Nonfiction, and Rose State College New Author Award. Performances and readings of Ann’s humorous short plays have been staged at Santa Fe and Albuquerque playhouses in New Mexico.
Supporting Reproductive Rights
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