This wasn’t our first trip to the rodeo. And I know that probably makes us cruel and unusual, but life is a cruel and unusual place and sometimes the times call for it. It might have been as simple as walking down to the gas station and picking up some condoms and spermicides; I don’t know, they always say that those aren’t 100%. I don’t have health insurance so it’s not like I could ever get the heavier birth control, the surefire way to make sure this madness never spiraled into our lives.
If somebody sensible would have asked me, “Why?” I probably would have answered, “Well, gee, I wasn’t really thinking about protection when my boyfriend was high as fucking shit and beating the hell out of me to get me to have sex with him, which is the usual for us” but instead, it was this lady with a skewed look on her face, the falseness of nicety, and I just blurted out, “I wasn’t careful and now I want to get rid of it.” She tapped her pen against the paper and said, “Yeah, but, you can’t pay for it, sweetie” or some variation of such that sounded much nicer.
I called my boyfriend who probably should have been with me that day as I rounded the corner into an alleyway, tears streaming down my face, the sign, “Meadview Healthcare Group” a joke to me and the last sign I saw with blurred eyes as the phone call went through to his taunting tone. As the place went out of sight and out of mind he asked me calmly, “Well, did you do it?” to which I responded, “I don’t know, TIMOTHY, does it look like we have 400 dollars?” All hell broke loose over the phone and some lady walking down the street tipped her hat and sped up as she heard me screaming over the phone about how the fetus inside my womb was now going to have to stay there, and various other onlookers turned their heads in disgust.
I didn’t want to return home, but I had to. Things would have been much easier if Timothy was a working kind of guy but he was more of an abusive, sit-on-his-ass kind of guy who wanted to see me suffer so he never went much of anywhere. The apartment was trashed as usual and he had a cold beer in his hand, staring at me with much too dark eyes and that look on his face like I had done him wrong purposely. I wondered what princesses felt like with their lovers, if they really gave them that fairytale ‘you are my everything and I would never want to lose you’ look that all girls strive for and talk about in hushed whispers. Does that happen anymore? Are there guys like that?
I began to make my way to the stairs to my bedroom so that I could retreat and hide there the rest of the night, when Timothy stopped me with a, “Do us all a favor, Mindy.” I stopped and turned slowly, took a few steps back into the room so that he was in full view of my vision. I noticed that the beer was now down on the side table beside him and a knife was in his hands, the edge shiny and sharp as it gleamed in my vision. My heart sunk far into my chest and hands instantly became sweaty as I stared in horror, unsure of what he would do in his drunken state.
“Wh-what do you want, Timothy?”
“Do us all a favor and take care of the mess you made. You made the mess, you clean it up.” He tossed the knife and it skid across the floor, landing right in front of my feet. I didn’t take my eyes from him and slowly bent over to reach for the knife, my face a solemn look of curiosity. When it met my hands, he laughed.
“Cut the baby out.” And he did a motion with his fingers, a slicing motion right over his abdomen. “Cut the baby out, Mindy.” And he burst out with laughter as he enjoyed the stricken look of horror on my face, the squirmy feeling I now had in the pit of my stomach. “Oh man, you’re so scared! Mindy, I’m just fucking with you. Go up to bed. I’m sick of seeing your face.”
I kept a straight face until I made it to the stairs, out of sight, where I nearly collapsed in a frightened heap. Knife still in my hands and cutting into my skin as I gripped the railing, tears streamed silently down my face. All I wanted to do was scream. What would a baby do to my life? Our lives? Was my life at stake now?
I did what any reasonable person in this day and age would do dealing with more issues than they could possibly handle – I pushed the problem aside and ignored it. Okay, so maybe I went about things the wrong way, because not all problems just ‘go away on their own’ even when illogical thinking tells you it just might. I mean, part of me really thought that if I ignored the situation as a whole, one day I would wake up and the baby would be gone. Like some spontaneous miscarriage, it just leaves my body and I don’t feel a thing and I don’t have a worry in the world again. You know, aside from the actual worries of life that I should be worried about – putting down the needle, getting a better job besides the few shitty hours at the pizza shop per week, meeting somebody who would treat me right and make me realize I don’t need to rely on them for my happiness…. Ahh yes.
But the problem was, ignoring the problem didn’t make it go away like other problems might. And after a few short months, yes months, I was buying bigger shirts for work because I didn’t want my boss to find out and fire me for not being able to lift boxes anymore, and feeling feet kick against my belly as I cried myself to sleep every night with a needle laying next to my bed and a picture of me as a child, the life that I lost so very long ago.
Timothy never spoke much about it but a few times, while high, it came up in slight conversation. Shoveling out tons of money on black tar that could have gone toward an abortion in its earlier days when it was still a possibility. I lost track of the weeks and didn’t even know if it was possible anymore. What was I at? 18? 20? Who the fuck knows and who the fuck cares, right?
Then one day, I shit you not out of complete thin air, my boss walked up to me with a smile on his face and said, “Mindy, I know your life has been a struggle so far, I see pain in your eyes and I tell you all the time that I’ll be there for you. But you have never once faltered on the job. What do you think about taking on full time hours?” And by God, I accepted the job.
And not only did I accept the job, but it hit me that there was nothing of importance back at that shitty apartment, including my deadbeat and completely useless boyfriend who didn’t have a cent to his name and wasn’t going to rely on me anymore, and I drove straight home to my parent’s house an hour away. I told them I had left Timothy and I never answered his phone calls. I don’t even know how he was still getting ahold of me because he didn’t have a phone of his own, but the voice mails were nothing short of horrifying and disturbing. He wished my child and I dead and told me that he was getting back with his whore from high school, who he then proceeded to tell me he had been cheating on me with in our apartment anyway. “Have fun with your family, and go make your own life, bitch.”
And I did.
After a few weeks into my new job with my awesome hours and my great pay, I moved back to the city and into an apartment multiple steps up from the last. And the best part is that I was clean and seeing things with a new outlook, as well as not living with a slob to trash the place. Every day I would come home and waft in the wonderful smell of a well-taken-care-of home and smile to myself as I realized that I did this myself. Aside from that, I had met a few friends at work and all was going well. One of these friends was named Martine and, though she was a bit on the rough side, she was the sweetest girl working on getting her life together as well after years of an abusive relationship and drug use.
One night Martine and I left work together and, instead of driving her home, I asked if she wanted to spend the night. She had a particularly bad day and I told her I would cook for her and we could have a girl’s night; perhaps it would feel good to crash on the couch of a friend and feel safety when your life was still in a state of uproar. She agreed after some talking and pushing. When we came into the apartment, she nearly cried as her lips began to tremble and she told me how beautiful the place was. She said something that lived with me for years to come: “So this is what it looks like when you finally get it together? This is peace? This is the clean house you come home to when you ditch the loser and realize you only need yourself?” I embraced her in a hug and told her she had the strength to do just that, and that I would help her at any cost.
In my oversized shirt, I sat across from her as we watched a show on television and chatted the night away. Eventually, after listening to her talk about her life’s issues for a while, I blurted out, “Martine, I really need to tell you something.”
She raised her eyebrow in a questioning way and asked, “Tell me something? What is it? You know I’m always here.”
I could tell I caught her off guard but as my best friend in the entire workplace, I knew I owed it to her. We were like kids again sharing secrets and laughing the night away; I felt like I could confide in her and tell her everything. Without a word, I lifted my shirt and the bump fell out, baby kicking as we spoke.
“Mindy!” she shrieked. “Oh my gosh, congratulations!”
I hung my head in sorrow and shook my head. Instantly, she knew that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. “Well…” she started, then trailed off a bit. “If you don’t want it, what are you going to do with it?”
“I’m not entirely sure,” I said. “It started out as something miniscule, you know. A baby, miniscule, right? Hah. Well, Timothy…the jackass, he wasn’t there for me through any of it. I tried an abortion center but at the time, the cost was way too high. He made jokes about how he would beat it out of me, which wasn’t funny at all.” I took my hand and placed it on my stomach, feeling the kicks through my stomach. “I’ve kind of come to love pregnancy in some ways. Like, the baby is always with me and he or she kicks me all night. Puts me to sleep when I’m feeling drained.”
“So why don’t you just consider keeping the pregnancy?” she asked like it was the first time the idea had ever been suggested.
“I know somewhere that you can go,” she said immediately, catching me off guard. “Mindy, I know we don’t know everything about each other but it’s about time I be there for someone and forget about the time that I was at my worst. I know it sounds crazy but when I was broke and without health insurance and had nowhere to turn with my pregnancy, there was this doctor on the outskirts of town who does work in her house basement. I know it sounds how it does, but she gave me a proper ultrasound with her equipment. She had real doctor certifications. I think she lost her job and really had nowhere else to turn. I lost my baby, you know about that, but the ultrasound was amazing. I got to see her happy little face and it changed my life. You should really go and talk to her and see how things are looking.”
It was on my mind the rest of the night and into the next day, as we got ready for work together. I promised that, after work that afternoon, I would drive there with very little cash in hand and speak to her about anything I needed to.
The house was your typical farmhouse on the outskirts of town, secluded from the rest of the world, as it seemed but quaint enough to be trusting. It looked like something that a 30-year-old couple would have inherited after a grandparent passed away and spent time decorating to suit their needs. As I shut off the ignition to my crappy little Honda and opened the door, I realized that the world was a little more silent in these parts of the woods, a little more secluded and cast away from the city life that I sometimes wanted so badly to escape.
I approached the steps leading up to the house and, before I could even knock on the door, a young face wearing a smile appeared behind the glass of the front door and it opened ever so slightly.
“Hello,” said a pair of ruby red lips, accompanied with the bounciest blonde hair and green eyes. “Are you coming for services?” The door was open barely far enough to even take a good look at this women but, modestly, I nodded my head and she sheepishly tore back the door and grasped my wrist as gently as possible to guide me inside.
“It’s really nice to meet you, and I’m sorry I didn’t call beforehand,” I stated, unsure of the entire thing and beads of nervous sweat wearing down my face. “I’m really at the end of the line here and talked to a friend who saw you about a year ago.”
“Ahh, a past client. Who was that?”
“Martine?” I asked, not sure how many ‘customers’ she had in her basement and if she would even remember her.
“Oh, Martine,” she said softly. “Yes, Martine called me and thanked me a few months after I gave her the ultrasound she said changed her life. Unfortunately she lost her little girl, really a misfortune indeed. She would have made a great mother.”
“That’s right,” she said, “I suppose the timing wasn’t right. So Miss, how can I help you today?”
And before I knew it, we were making our way down her tight basement steps one-after-the-other until we hit the bottom, fully furnished with a table like you would see in any standard doctor’s office and seating spaces available for, I guess, if you brought a friend. She sat down in a chair nearby and told me to lie on the table. “You only do what you’re comfortable with and tell me only what you are comfortable sharing. I like to get to know every situation so that I can give you exactly what you’re looking for.”
My eyes darted to her degrees hanging on the wall addressed to a Ms. Elaine Brootian. Before I could say anything else she was counseling me with a pen to her lips, asking me what I wanted to get out of my experience today. I figured, what the hell, this lady wants to help, and after I handed over $50 I explained the situation with the past abusive boyfriend, the excessive drug usage that made her raise an eyebrow, the worry that everything was wrong with the pregnancy before it could even stand a chance. She smiled at the end, the most reassuring type, and nodded respectfully.
“Oh, honey, I’ve seen it all. How about we take a look at the baby and see what’s going on in there?”
After I wholeheartedly agreed, I was suddenly overcome with a feeling I’m not sure I’ll ever experience again in my life. It was happiness. But a new type of happiness; the kind that overtakes your body, mind, and soul in the most positive way and you realize that you’re entering a new part of your life that you could really come to enjoy. The realization that I would be a mother soon was starting to feel like a positive experience, as long as everything was okay. And then I saw her little face on the screen, and her limbs moving all over the place as she kicked and squirmed and tried to find a comfortable position. I never felt anything like it. That, combined with Elaine’s “it’s a girl!” was enough to send my heart flying back up into my chest with the happiness I so desired in my life for such a long time.
Elaine threw in a week’s worth of prenatal vitamins and told me to pick up the rest at a pharmacy the next week. I took them every day for that first week and on the last day was when the cramping started.
I missed a day of work, crying and screaming on the floor of my apartment and wondering if I should call Elaine, head to her house, or if Martine could save me from the situation and the obvious realization that something was extremely wrong with the pregnancy. In an act of desperation, I picked up the phone and nearly called Timothy, of all people. I thought I was going to die.
The blood loss was enough to get me to call an ambulance.
Melancholy, deep sadness struck my very soul when the doctor whispered, “I’m sorry, sweetie, but you lost the baby.”
It was a horrible miscarriage. Both of justice, after I became so happy with the one thing I realized I wanted, and the birth itself.
It was one week later as I sat in the apartment, downing a quart of ice cream as per usual, redundant nature every single night of my life. I heard the envelope drop through the slot on the door and remember thinking, This is pretty late to be getting mail. When I opened the door and peered out, nobody was there, but there sat the envelope, unaddressed.
I sliced it open and carefully removed the single white sheet of paper inside, hands trembling as I read what was written inside:
The prenatal vitamins were Misoprostol. Thank fuck I took pregnancy away from an addict like you.
At first, nothing made sense, but it all came together with a little bit of research. Who could I call? Where could I turn? Should I go knocking on her door, should I warn Martine about why she lost her pregnancy? But in the end, the stupidity of my own self mixed with the frustration of the past few months took toll. The realization that Brootian was just a scrambled form of Abortion.
The realization that this world is pretty dark and sick, and that it’s not just drugs and abusive relationships we have to fear. It’s just people.