I was 16 when I had my first abortion…only abortion actually. I’ve only ever had one. I thought I should clarify that. I wouldn’t want to give you the wrong impression. I will start again. I was 16 when I had my only abortion. It wasn’t planned, obviously. These things never are. I mean, it wasn’t on my life’s “to do” list or anything. Climb Mt. Everest, become Prom Queen, kill foetus…that’s not how it was supposed to be, but there it was nonetheless.
His name was Michael. A boring, ordinary name for an equally boring boy. We’d had a few too many tequila shots at Bethany Parks’ party and ended up tangled in her sheets on the floor because I didn’t want to mess up her bed. What happened that night was strange and remarkable in many ways, though you don’t often know what’s remarkable about what you’re doing while you’re doing it, only after, when the shit hits the fan and you’ve missed your period.
I couldn’t believe my luck at the time. I was at Bethany Parks’ house. I was! She was “that girl”. You know what I mean. The high-school deity that you’d get dressed up for hoping one day she’d smile at you in the hall or ask to cheat off your homework…that’s how I got my invite to her party. I let her copy my French homework and I’m not any better at French than she is, but she didn’t seem to know that. Of course she didn’t. She knew nothing about me. I wasn’t very good at school, but I wore glasses and had no friends so it was a common misconception that I was smart. I’m just smart enough to get pregnant moments after my first kiss.
I waited in that room with other faceless girls. None of us looked particularly healthy. None of us wanted to be there. Planned Parenthood. What a stupid name for an abortion clinic. It certainly wasn’t planned and I was there to avoid parenthood. I fought back the bitter, acidic taste of bile and through tightly sealed lips swallowed back the rising vomit. Maybe it was morning sickness, though it could have been my body trying to communicate with my conscience; to plead with it to stop me going any further into the place where you couldn’t feel God. You could only feel guilt. I scanned the room again and settled my gaze on a girl who looked like I must have looked; tear-stained cheeks, gnawed fingernails, crusty nose, ruddy face. That place was the anti-glamour, it was as if all the girls there had held a meeting and made a group decision that being pretty was what got them there in the first place and no way were they making that mistake again. I wasn’t pretty. Still not pretty. I just wasn’t too ugly either. I inhaled sharply and hugged myself before mustering up the courage to approach the receptionist and fully embrace the cliché that I had become.
The receptionist had the look of someone who hadn’t seen the sun in months. She was gray and shriveled and sad. I suppose being around that much death everyday would suck the life out of anyone. I wondered what the hell would possess someone to take the desk job the death factory. She asked me to fill in a form and asked if I had brought anyone with me. When I told her I was alone the corners of her mouth turned up and twitched slightly. This was obviously a gesture she made infrequently. What was there to smile about? It looked unnatural and died quickly on her lips. “Fill out those forms and someone will be with you shortly.”
I filled in the spaces with my neatest handwriting as if doing that well would cancel out the evil of what I was about to do. I turned the clipboard back in to the gray woman and then I waited. While I waited I saw lots of girls go through the metal doors. Big metal doors designed to be bullet-proof, bomb-proof, baby-proof. I wondered if they were heavy. I wondered if any of the other girls had backed out or changed their minds. I wondered if I would. My name was called. It sounded foreign and fuzzy in my ears. Then with one foot in front of the other I crossed the room and walked through those doors. They were heavy and they were cold.