Midafternoon in the Walgreens on Waterloo Road.
The shame associated with years of puritanical indoctrination echoes in the hum of the florescent lights. I approach the counter with a bag of white cheddar popcorn, a bar of Lindt milk chocolate, a package of Plan B discreetly sandwiched between them, careful to avoid the cashier’s gaze.
“When are you due?”
I look up to see the stern, middle-aged woman at the register addressing the patron behind me, belly swollen, her daughter attached to her hip.
“Next week,” she sighs in exasperation. Anticipation? It’s hard to tell.
Did she make the conscious choice to create children or did she find herself in a situation similar to mine and simply could not afford the emergency contraceptives? Standing inches apart, both of us carrying tangible evidence of past sexual encounters – my box indecently private, her baby bump involuntarily public – we are not so different. Personal decisions regarding our bodies are constantly scrutinized, remarked upon, legislated against. We have roles to play.
The Mother and The Whore, living archetypes sharing a line at the local drug store before parting ways forever. She is most likely headed home to prepare dinner for her family, ever fulfilling her maternal (and, according to most religions, feminine) duties. I will soon be on my way to work, late, after washing down my $50 “better safe than sorry” pill with the rest of a bottle of Sutter Home Moscato left over from the night before, smoking a bowl, and eating movie theatre snacks for my only meal of the day.
As the audacious employee scans and bags my items, she continues to interrogate the young customer, asking whether she plans to have a C-section, and other incredibly invasive questions reserved for the apparently otherwise useless shells harboring fetuses. She hands me my purchases with a quick smile that doesn’t reach her eyes.
“Have a nice day.”
…if you can, knowing the potential life you are extinguishing, casually tossing aside your only chance at happiness. I took the liberty of finishing her thought as I strolled to my car, sunshine at my back, perfectly content in my continued debauchery.