When the results came back positive, I didn’t believe them at first. It was too melodramatic, too made-for-TV movie. Or worse, reality show: 19 & Pregnant. Like 16 & Pregnant except longer and lacking the mass appeal. It was news that belonged to someone else, some other teenage f-ck-up. This…wasn’t happening. Wasn’t.
But the realization that this was my life, and this was happening, and there was nothing anyone could do about it, felt like the contained panic of being strapped to a rollercoaster you hate on the verge of crying and puking at the same time. A sick weight dropped from the back of my throat to the pit of my stomach, slow and slick like expired peanut butter.
I sat in the examination room for a few more minutes and tried to process. I tried to imagine a living thing implanting itself inside of me and growing there, feeding off my energy. It was unreal. It was nine weeks old. I pictured the little alien form attaching itself to my uterine wall, cleaving to my insides. I touched my stomach and almost convinced myself I felt it gnawing at my belly, chewing through my organs; climbing up my esophagus to get a breath of fresh air. Pushing my uvula aside with its tiny red hand and sliding down my tongue like a Slip ‘N Slide.
I couldn’t tell him. What could I possibly say? “Surprise, you’re a dad now?” I couldn’t, because he wasn’t. The expanding cluster of cells lodged inside of me was a skin he had shed; it was no longer a part of him, just like I wasn’t. It was a hangnail he had ripped off and flicked to the floor. You forgot some of your things when you left. You left something inside of me. I remembered how earnestly, stupidly, I had insisted we use a condom each time. Like it made any goddamn difference.
“You’re really not going to change your mind?”
“Mom, I can’t. I’m 19. I’m in school.”
“I was in school too.”
“But I’m not ready.”
“You were ready to do it, weren’t you? Don’t you realize that baby has a beating heart?”
“…Maybe. But so do I.”
I went to a women’s clinic where insurance would take care of it. They offered everything from pap smears to liposuction to hymenoplasty to abortions. You could get everything. Like a body supermarket. The waiting room was like one of those flimsy “What do I feel today?” magnets and the girls’ faces were all strange fusions of at least two of the emotions. Their mothers and boyfriends stared at their phones intently. I stared at the standard-issue Monet on the wall.
I was going to be put under. I couldn’t imagine how else anyone would do it. Being awake for this seemed like the saddest most sadistic thing.
The nurse smiled softly at me as she pushed the needle into my arm. I felt the strong, sudden impulse to sob.
“It’s going to be okay honey. You’ll be asleep in 3…2…”
She pressed a slip of paper into my hand as I slowly pushed open my heavy eyelids.
“This one is your antibiotic, make sure to finish all the pills in the bottle or else it may not be effective. And this is your birth control prescription.” Another slip of paper.
“Now it’s very important you get these filled immediately, okay?” She shook my shoulder lightly. “Okay?”
The room lurched uncomfortably as I nodded my head.
“The drugs should wear off in just a second. Your clothes are right here. You’re probably going to be spotting a little over the next few days, but it’s nothing to worry about. Just make sure not to lift anything heavy and don’t use tampons, as those can increase your chances of infection.” She put a hand on my shoulder again. “I’ll be right outside if you need anything.”
I pulled my clothes on with as much strength as I could muster and shuffled blankly out of the room. I felt shriveled and aged, like a scrap of leather that had been lying in the sun for days. I moved my hand under my heavy black sweatshirt to touch my swollen stomach. I was hollowed out. They had sucked it out of me.
Nothing. The nothingness was palpable.
The woman at the nurse’s station nodded her head towards me, indicating that I was free to leave. I smiled at her faintly and headed for the exit.