Rhode Island, US
The kid I babysit is fast asleep by the time her mom gets home. Time keeps flying by, I say. How can she be six already? She hands me $40 and says she has no idea. I tell her I'll see them soon. I tell her to have a fun Halloween.
It's cold out so I walk quickly to the car, my hands in my jacket pockets. I roll the two twenties tightly together. I drive towards home, but I don't turn where I'm supposed to. There's a 24-hour-CVS up ahead, I think, and I want some ice cream.
The CVS is no longer open and I think this must be a sign but then I see that the Walgreens on the other side of the street is lit up brightly and I've run out of excuses. I park, walk in, glance around. A woman smiles, asks if she can help me. Yes, I say. I need a pregnancy test, I say. She points to Aisle 3.
I buy a box of three pregnancy tests and a pint of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. I check out at the pharmacy because it feels more private. It's twenty-five dollars, most of my babysitting money. I try to unroll the bills before handing it to the cashier but my hands are shaky and clumsy and I give up. When I leave the store I tell the girl at the front register that I've already paid in a voice I know is too loud.
The ballgame is on when I get home and my boyfriend is stretched out on the couch with his laptop and copies of readings from one of his classes. It's Game 6 of the World Series, the Rangers are up by 3 in the 7th inning and it looks like this might be the end of it. I sit down on the end of the couch, kiss him on the cheek, and say I'm afraid I'm pregnant.
He turns off the game. I turn it back on, mute it. It's the World Series.
We talk for awhile. He knows what he wants. I know what I want. We both know what we can handle. It is not this. We will get through this, he says. We will get through this together. I am not going anywhere, he says. I cry. Okay, I say. I tell him that there is a bag holding ice cream and pregnancy tests in my purse. He laughs and says I might want to put the ice cream in the freezer. The only thing worse than finding out you're pregnant, he says, is finding out you're pregnant and there's no ice cream.
It's the 9th inning and the Rangers are still up by two. I take a pregnancy test into the bathroom. I wash my hands and return to the living room like nothing's happened. I watch the clock. At 1:01am I ask my boyfriend to go look at the test and tell me the results.
I get the ice cream and two spoons.
We sit on the couch and watch David Freese hit a two-run homer, tying the game. I eat half the ice cream but I leave my boyfriend the biggest Heath bar chunks. I call a friend in California. I call a friend a few streets away. I smoke a cigarette. I laugh when my boyfriend says he was just about to tell me how proud he was that I quit smoking. I walk into the kitchen to get a glass of water and I am so sad I fall to my knees. He comes in, sits on the floor with me. I cry again. I want to call my Mama but I know I can't, for a million reasons I can't, so instead I put on my granddad's red sweater and find my lovey from my little-kid years and curl up in bed. I cry. My boyfriend holds me.
The next morning I get out of bed at 7 and sit on the couch with my laptop. I write an email. I watch Law & Order. I eat some cereal and write down some things I need to do. Wash dishes. Sweep bedroom. Buy a chicken. Terminate pregnancy.
My boyfriend comes into the living room yawning and stretching and sits down next to me. I dial the phone the moment the clock says 8:30. The man who answers is reassuringly nonchalant. It's okay that I don't have insurance. They will take my limited income into account. The soonest I can come in is Monday at noon. My boyfriend whispers that he has class and can't miss it. I'll ask a friend, I say. I take the appointment. 75 hours and counting.
We climb back into bed and undress each other and he tells me he's sorry and he tells me he loves me and he tells me someday we'll have a child together and I tell him I'm sorry and I tell him I love him and I tell him yes, yes. Please. Someday. Not now. When we're ready. Not now. After the sex I feel better, calmer.
That night the Cardinals win the World Series. We high-five. I feel sort of numb, but I think that's okay.
My boss at the diner asks me what's up when I come in early Saturday morning. Nothing, I say. There's something, she says, I know it, I can see it on your face! I glance at my boyfriend and say no, nothing's up, but look who's here for breakfast! I tie on an apron and introduce my boyfriend to one of the regulars, pouring them both some coffee. They talk about the UFC.
All day I want to tell someone. Anyone. I forget to bring coffee to a table-- twice-- and I want to explain that my brain's being hijacked. Someone orders a latte and I want to explain that the smell of steaming milk literally makes me hurl. The dishwasher forgets to carry a case of oranges down cellar and I want to explain that I can't do it, it's too heavy, I'm terrified of falling.
In the afternoon a friend comes in and I quietly tell her, then I quietly tell her dining companion. My friend rubs my arm, tells me she's sorry I have to go through this. She tells me to call her if I need anything at all. Her friend asks me if it's "a money thing," or if I "just don't want it." I am gracious in my reply. I am calm. I explain. I am proud of myself when I make it home after my shift without crying once.
During the next day's lunch rush I feel a sharp pain in my abdomen and I gasp and bend my knees, squatting on the floor behind the counter. My boss leans over, asks if I'm okay. I insist I am. She sends me home early anyway.
15 hours left. I ask my boyfriend if we can talk. What are we going to do if this happens in the future? He doesn't know. He assumes we'll consider this option again. I cry. I get angry. I tell him it's not fair. I tell him I'm tired. I tell him I don't want to talk anymore. I get in bed. He gets in, too.
I tell him all the things I've been thinking since the moment I saw the plus sign start to appear on the pregnancy test. I tell him I'm afraid. I'm afraid we'll never have sex again. I'm afraid of what might happen when we do have sex again. I'm afraid this is my only chance to have a child. I'm afraid something will go wrong. I'm afraid it won't work. I'm afraid it will hurt. I'm afraid I am a terrible person because I haven't considered adoption, haven't considered parenthood. I'm afraid there's something wrong with me because I don't consider either an option. I'm afraid of disappointing our families. I'm afraid of what I'll say if I do have a kid someday and she asks me about it. I'm afraid I'll carry the guilt and shame, the weight of it, around with me for the rest of my life. I'm afraid I'm being selfish. I'm afraid I'm a murderer. I'm afraid I'm going to hell. I'm afraid I'll never fall asleep. I do.
The next morning he lets me sleep in and I wake up panicked. There's so much to do. The house is a mess. I meant to make a chicken in the slow-cooker. I don't know what to wear. I need to sweep. I should be better prepared. I sit at the end of the bed and stare at the dust in the corner of the bedroom. You're trying to feed your guilt, he says. Stop. But the dust, I say. Stop, he says. Everything is going to be okay.
My phone beeps. My friend is outside. I throw everything within reach into my bag: headphones, laptop, two books, four or five pens. My cross-stitch project. Lipstick, mascara, my coat, gloves. I stand in my bedroom for a moment. I take down my Nana's rosary from its hook by my bed and stuff it in the pocket of my jeans. I kiss my boyfriend and run down the stairs.
I fill out paperwork. Do I want to see the ultrasound? No. Do I want to know if I'm carrying multiples? No. Is anyone coercing me? No. I sign my name a dozen times. I hand over my credit card, sign my name again. I watch a video. I give my height and weight, sit for the blood pressure test, lie down for the ultrasound. The nurse talks about birth control. There's a packet of paperwork. We review each step. It is a two-day process. I am given my schedule for Tuesday. At 12:30 I'll eat. At 1:00 I'll take anti-nausea medication. At 1:30 I'll take the pills that open my cervix and cause my uterus to contract. At 2:00 I'll take pain medication. There's a list of reasons to call the clinic. We review each one. The nurse gives me a cup of water. She asks if I'm completely sure of my decision. I tell her I'm completely sure of my decision. She gives me the pill that will end the pregnancy.
I swallow the pill.