When You Have to Get an Abortion

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Ned and I were in the middle of dinner. We were at Handlebar, a vegetarian restaurant we used to go to a lot. He probably ordered 3 sides: vegan mashed potatoes, smoked Gouda mac and cheese and collard greens. I probably got the “green meanie” a sandwich with sprouts and avocado. Plantains on the side. We would drink tall glasses of beer that made us feel a little too drunk before dinner. This place isn’t very romantic but in this memory, we are laughing and his face is warm, as though bathed by candlelight.

At a nearby table, a visibly young girl held a baby. We made eye contact with the baby. We made silly faces. “Can you imagine?” I asked. He shook his head. “I mean you…could’ve had one” I said, my jaw feeling loose.

That night Ned dreamt that he and I were on a date. The ceiling peeled back like a sunroof and we dined under a huge starry sky. Later in the dream there was a pickup truck and two kids tried to hitch a ride. The driver purposefully crashed into an industrial flatbed. He says: “see, that’s what it feels like.” This scene loops two more times.

I was spread like a starfish on my bed. Heidi flipped through a magazine. “Well I haven’t got my period completely, but I’m spotting”" she said after a few moments. She was a couple weeks late. I looked at her, calm. “Okay. I am buying you a pregnancy test and you are taking it.”

I drove to WalMart. I took back roads so I didn’t have to go through town. It was a small town, the kind where the thing to do on a Friday night is drive around in a loop, windows down, then park and stand in front of your car. I zoned out, Heidi talked about him. He was her teacher from the previous year, when we were in high school. It was a one night stand and she was obsessed with him. She always seemed to be obsessed with someone.

“First Response, you get two for one price.” I grabbed a test from the shelf. Heidi bit her thumbnail then faced me,  “Should we get some snacks?“ she asked, her face serious.

Ned and I were in the car when he told me. It was a summer night and we were exploring North Chicago, under a clear suburban sky. He told me that he recently had an abortion. The girl he was seeing before me. They weren’t serious. But when she got pregnant they became closer. Ned said “I always trust women to know if they are ready or not, they just intuitively know.” I think of the animals who eat their newborns when there isn’t enough food for them to survive.

Heidi read the instructions while I sat on the sink, legs dangling. She squatted over the toilet, hair hanging in her face as she peed on the stick. “Let’s not wait in the bathroom.” We went to my bedroom and felt better. We waited probably 20 minutes. “You check it” Heidi’s eyes were large with water. As I walked to the bathroom I thought when I picked up the test there would only be one pink line, not two. I picked up the test  “Two lines“, “Pregnant.” Heidi’s face looked waxy, then pink as she burst into laughter. I started sobbing.

It was rainy and cold. It was Mother’s Day. The protesters were pumped. “It’s Mothers Day! You’re a mother! How could you do this?!” But I knew that Heidi made the right choice. I got why she did it. And it was out of respect for life, reverence for children.

When Ned told me, he was distant from it.  When she had the abortion, he was  in Puerto Rico for work, where he didn’t speak the language. He was visiting the Ortho Tri Cyclen factory. The concrete city was swamp-hot. Outside of his hotel window he could see a cock-fighting pit. Just beyond was a jungle.

Sometime after we got engaged, I found him in bed, early in the evening. He gripped a pillow, curled in fetal position, the overhead lighting dimmed. I stoked his hair. “I’m grieving.”

We were in the car when we made the decision. It was bright and snowy. “I think we need to make the decision ahead of time” said Ned. “Because if you get pregnant, with new hormones and emotions it’s hard. Now that we’re married it will be even harder.” I winced.

“So we’ll make this decision once a year, whatever we decide sticks all year, no matter what.” It was harder. But I knew I wasn’t ready. And if you think you are not ready, it can’t be right to bring a human being into the world. “We’d get an abortion” I said, thinking of where I’d want to be and am not. Because I value human life way too much.


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