She does not look like a rebel. Rather, she looks like someone trying to be a rebel. But her baby face cannot hide behind even the stark white of malnutrition or black eyeliner. Her hair is chopped blunt, reminding of razors and bathrooms with closed doors and other things. The eyeliner does not hold back the sadness in her eyes. It comes through, watery and blue.
When she finds out she is pregnant she keeps it to herself, all seventeen years of her. Her parents did not raise her to be who she is, so she is alone, she thinks. And she makes her decision alone.
This is her story.
A sign in the waiting room says, No Children, for the Courtesy of Our Patients. As I wait, I count. There are one hundred and forty-seven ceiling tiles. Outside the window, the day is too beautiful.
Ted* is here but he’s off in the corner, checking his pager. I’m sure he’s cheating on me, and I say so when he returns. But he just laughs.
He stays seated when I’m called in. As I walk behind the nurse, I tell her I think I’m Rh-negative so she steers me into a room and hooks me to an IV antibiotic. A brunette forty-something woman is in the chair next to me and I can’t help thinking she looks like a motherly type, and I want to know why she’s getting an abortion.
Next, I’m taken to a room where a woman behind a desk counsels me. There are papers scattered in front of her and I don’t want to have this conversation. I tell her I want the abortion. “Ok,” she says. And that is that.
I’m taken to the ultrasound room, where they check to make sure I’m pregnant. A young woman with long, brown hair points to the embryo on the screen and takes a moment to look at me with shame. I don’t blame her. She has a job that makes her do this all day, find embryos that will be aborted moments later.
The operating room doesn’t look like the ones on TV. It should look more important. But it’s just a regular doctor’s office. I lie back and can feel the cold vinyl on the other side of my gown. A collage of flowers is taped to the ceiling. Pitiful red and purple flowers cut from a magazine, not even cleanly. I laugh, almost.
It reminds me of a 1970s shop vac, but I don’t look long. They put the gas mask on me and begin counting.
When I wake, I am lying on a cot in a large recovery room filled with other women. Some women are sleeping, others sit with their heads in their hands. Some are simply getting dressed, tying shoelaces, and I think of gym class. I notice I have on just my shirt and underwear, lined with a large pad. My pants are at the bottom of the bed, so I put them on and check out.
Ted has a card and a balloon that says, “I’m Sorry” or some shit like that. In the car on the way home, the balloon keeps hitting me in the head.
I struggled with it for a long time. My psychologist told me to create a makeshift gravesite, so I did, at a local park. I went a few times and tried to mourn. But I couldn’t. I felt sad other times, but I couldn’t feel sad on demand. I gave up the makeshift grave shortly after I started it.
It’s still hard to wonder about who he or she would have been. I’ll think about it, briefly, every time I see a 7-Eleven. That was the date, July 11. And when I meet someone born the same year. But I’m not as sad about it as I once was. Saying that makes me feel inhumane. But it’s honest. I have come to terms with it. I was not ready to raise a child the way a child deserves to be raised, and I made the right decision.
I’m happy I had a safe place to go. I was 17 and desperate–I would have had an abortion no matter what.
But hopefully now women are treated better after the procedure. No one should have to wake up and figure out where she is by herself.
*All names have been changed.