Two weeks late. Apparently that’s not cause for worry when you’re under 25.
She was surprisingly calm. Maybe just a bladder infection, maybe it’s just not coming this month (comes the first of every month, on the dot; what are the odds). I wasn’t worried either, until I read my tarot cards and the fertility card decided to make an appearance. Fuck, I thought, I know it won’t be me. No immaculate conception in this corner.
The office was dull, to say the least. I sat across from a woman who stared. I had a book with me — The Rules Of Attraction by Ellis. ‘You know what’s rare,’ I pretended not to hear the starer’s accomplice say, ‘people who read. Everybody’s always on phones, I never see books. You know all those books at my place like on that shelf? I read all them. Gonna go get more from aunty’s place.’ I smiled at her, but didn’t say anything, like you’re supposed to when you want to be polite and friendly but don’t actually desire to partake in any sort of ongoing communication. The starer smiled, and kept staring. Her hair was braided tightly and there was something off about her — her face was crooked or something, but in an unnatural way.
The room empties. I keep reading. The starer goes into a separate office and some giant native man with an exaggerated limp and a lazy face falls into the seat next to the alleged bookworm.
Now, she goes in. They don’t make her take her shoes off like they did the Pakistani woman’s family. As if hers were less likely to dirty the floor… A few minutes pass. I keep rereading pages because I find myself distracted by the whiteness of it all and force myself to reread in order to fully absorb the story or whatever. Some men come in. Both older than me, both looking impatient. Sick babies — it’s that season. It’s always that season in Canada.
The room completely empties. It’s just me and the receptionist now. Pretty, in an unconventional way. I hope other people appreciate her beauty the way I do, but probably not. She’s friendly, in a genuine way — making small-talk, but not the regular kind, the more personal kind. She seems to actually remember people, unlike everybody else. She seems to care. She seems cheery and happy.
I remember her from the daycare I worked in during the summer. Good money (well, not really, but as my first full-time paychecks rolled in I believed myself to be Trump status), but I had no life. Her son had issues — behavioral or psychological, I’m not sure, I’m no expert. The thing was, the actual expert there, she had no idea either. All she ever did was shout at him and make him look like a shitty kid. He was cute though, with red hair, like the receptionist, and he loved nothing more than riding away on the back of his dad’s motorcycle after the end of a long, hard day being screamed at within the walls and chain-link fences of the childcare co-op. I wonder if she was actually enjoying life and was happy with her job, or if she just enjoyed her job because she was unhappy. I am unsure whether she remembers me or not.
‘I think your friend needs a hug…’ receptionary voices ring through my head. I don’t know where I’ve been for the past while. In my book or something. Maybe within the whiteness of the walls.
She is shaking, I can tell she is crying. The world zooms in on her. I can tell. A knowing look, those powerful things, a hand on the back. Fuck. What now?
‘It’s alright honey. There’s lots of options, nothing’s even for sure yet, you need to get blood work and everything first. Look, a faint positive, a faint positive — it says here. Bloodwork.’ Friendly receptionist is very supportive and comforting. I don’t know what to say. Keep the hand on the back.
‘We’ll figure it out,’ I assure her. ‘Don’t worry yet. We’ll figure it out. Let’s get outta here.’
We leave, she’s shaking, crying. A goddamn ‘Real Canadian Superstore’ walk-in clinic, are you kidding me? Classy joint. Fuck, fuck, fucking fuckitty fuck. What a setting. It’s funny, how many lives change in walk-in clinics.
We sit in the parking for a while. Crying, disbelief, hatred towards all of the slutty friends who never got knocked up. It’s not fair, it isn’t fair, it was always so safe and careful. What is ever fair, though?
A gloomy day and smeared, dirty windshields surround us, absorb the emotion, the news, the third being. People push their loaded carts by, another 14 days of meals, another family, another bachelor with his hot pockets. Sweet. We’re gonna get through this, I can help, you have time to decide. So much time. Nothing’s for sure. Don’t panic, you have time. Just stop and think about it, please, stop and think about it. Are you gonna tell him? HA, as if.
She’s adamant, she’s sad, she’s angry, she’s self- and world-loathing. Understandably so. It’s not ‘just a kid’, it’s a disaster. An exploded uterus and eighteen years of scrubbing dishes. Nine months of pain and no fun, judgement and ridicule, ruined friendships and lost lovers, hateful glares and disowning family members. But the shame, that’s the worst part.
Not keeping it.
We go to Walmart, buy a cardigan, because the love of her life is visiting tomorrow (probably for the last time, ever). Back to the biting wind and slushy surfaces, into the shelter of the grimy vehicle. Music, please? Life feels like a movie.
The ethical dilemma of decided whether to offer her a cigarette or not. Hell, it’s her choice. She takes it (of course). Sorry, kid.
We sit at my house, in my sister’s bedroom, for a few hours. We don’t say much. My parents are in Vegas. We decide that I’m going to be the only one to know. It’s kind of a burden, but I don’t say anything. There’s more important things to worry about. But all of a sudden I have this new responsibility; I know about somebody. I know about a soul, a child, that nobody else will ever know. It will probably be her biggest secret, like, ever, and I’m the one it’s trusted with. Well, fuck, this day got a lot more interesting. The day that the fate of an unborn infant was placed into my sphere of knowing. I know something that the rest of the world won’t, and will never, know. I know something important.
I’ll go to the appointments, and to the event itself, of course. I’ll pour you virgin drinks when no one’s looking and snipe all of your shots before you can down them — what a dick move, they’ll all think. I’ll tell all the girls that are curious that no, thank god, it was just a piss test, and everything’s fine. I’ll help you come up with an excuse to miss work, and remind you to roll up some pads in toilet paper and toss them in your bathroom garbage. Maybe do an extra load of underwear when your dad’s looking. I’ll keep it to myself.
You know what they say…
The second abortion’s the worst. Third’s the charm. We’re almost there.
Poor kid didn’t stand a chance.