“So the test came back positive,” the nurse said as we walked down the hall to an open room. She was referring to the pregnancy test that I had just taken and I thought she would at least wait until we got to the room before she told me the results. I felt my head get light and a cold feeling washed over my body. “It says here that you want to get a vacuum aspiration?”
I sat down in a chair in the room and took a minute before I answered. “Um yeah, that’s an abortion, right?” I was starting to sweat and I wished I hadn’t come alone. The nurse has brassy blond hair and a solid build. The room was small with posters depicting female reproductive systems; one poster had an illustration of a pregnant woman whose stomach had been peeled open to show the fetus.
“Yes, the procedure is called a vacuum aspiration.” She didn’t not say the word abortion at any point in our conversation. Even in a private room at the Planned Parenthood that word is taboo. The nurse explained the procedure and I made an appointment.
I didn’t cry in my car like I thought I would. In truth I didn’t really find out that I was pregnant that day, I had known for about a month. I always told people that there was no way that I could be pregnant and not know, that I was too in tune with my body to not know that something that major was going on. I had taken several home pregnancy tests and they had all come up negative or inconclusive but I knew. I starting having nightmares where I was slowing killed and eaten by piles of babies and that’s when my therapist suggested that I go an get the official test, to be sure once and for all.
I stopped at the liquor store on the way home a picked up a twelve pack of beer. I knew it was going to be a twelve pack kind of night. I cracked one open when I got home and chugged the whole thing standing in my kitchen. I set down the empty on the black and white checkered tile counter top and tried to ignore the pile of dishes that I should have done days before. I opened another and went into my bedroom to call the male contributor to this situation, Matt.
I never called him the father because I was never a mother. We were not parents, we were two drunk people in a very unfortunate situation.
I told him that we needed to talk, urgently. He came over an hour later and we went into my bedroom. He was only a couple inches taller than me and ten years older. One of those guys that stopped maturing at twenty three.
“So, I’m pregnant,” I said when we sat down on my bed. He pursed his lip and nodded tensely.
“Really?” He sounded like he didn’t believe me.
“And I’m the…” He didn’t finish his sentence. He never called himself a father or me a mother either.
“You haven’t been with anyone else?” He was getting angry.
“No, no one.”
“Are you sure?” Hope flickered in his eyes.
“I’m very sure.” In truth I wasn’t sure. Around the time that we had last been together I had a black out where I could have been raped. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t, but not as sure as I would like to have been.
The weekend before I conceived started out innocently enough. There was a trapeze performance at a bar near my house, none of my friends wanted to go so I went alone. I stood in the crowd, watching lithe girls twist around long strips of silk, sipping a beer. I ran into a couple people I knew, friends of friends, and I went to another bar with them. I drank tall cans of Papst Blue Ribbon and we danced to cheesy pop music. I felt good knowing that I could hang out with people I didn’t know very well and still have a good time. Not be nervous or shy.
We all went back to one of their houses and started doing shots of vodka and cocaine. The last thing I remember is staring at myself in the mirror, a line of coke cutting across my face, and thinking How did I get here?
I came to walking around in West Oakland somewhere. It was daytime and I didn’t have my jacket that had my cell phone and wallet. I found a street that would lead to my house, my new house, I had moved the week before. I was hot and still wasted and it took me a couple tries to get home. I keep my house key in my pocket in case I ever get mugged but that morning was the only time that habit proved useful. I finally found my house and drank some water, found cigarettes in my room, and went back outside to smoke. My nose and throat hurt from the coke, but I wasn’t hung over, yet. One of my new roommates came home while I was smoking and I asked him what time it was.
“It’s ten,” he responded as he walked past me with his girlfriend.
“Mother fucker.” I put my head in my hands and tried to figure out when I had blacked out. How many hours I had lost. There really was no way for me to know. I tensed my vaginal walls but it didn’t hurt so I figured I probably wasn’t raped. Looking back I am amazed that I didn’t realize that having to figure out whether or not you were raped wasn’t normal.
“So what are you going to…” Matt glanced at me.
“I’m getting an abortion.”
“Ok, good.” He looked relieved for a moment. “Are you sure you haven’t been with anyone else?”
“Yes, I’m sure.” He nodded again. We sat silently, staring straight ahead for a minute. “You know, I thought that you were just going to call me a slut and leave.”
“I want to, this is bullshit.” He looked at me a couple times and started shaking his head. “I kind of feel like you did this on purpose.”
“Why would I do that?” I was trying not to cry.
“I don’t know, to get attention or something.” He wouldn’t look at me.
“That doesn’t make any sense, do you have any idea what this is like for me?” The sensitivity to smells had already started and I woke up every day feeling like my breasts were on fire.
“Yeah, whatever, I should go.” He stood up and turned towards me. “Tell me when I should take you to the place, but I don’t want to hear about this everyday.”
“I thought you would be there for me.” I couldn’t hold the tears back anymore. He turned away from me and looked at the ceiling.
“Yeah, whatever, I should go.” I wiped the tears off my face and walked him to the door.
“I’ll talk to you later.” He didn’t say anything and closed the door in my face. I finished the beer in my room, got another, and sat down on the couch next to my roommate Rob.
Rob would soon become a close friend. I shared my previous house with five girls and now I was sharing with two boys. It was different, but I was getting along with my new roommates well. Rob asked me if I wanted to smoke some weed and I wordlessly agreed, taking a big drink of my beer. He gave me a look while he packed the bowl and asked me if I was alright. My lip began to quiver and I took another drink.
“I’m pregnant.” His eyes widened and he handed me the pipe.
“Holy shit,” he said in his usual soft voice.
“I can’t believe this is happening to me.”
“I thought you might be.”
“Really? Why?” I squinted at him and tried to think if he could have overheard me talking to my best friend about it in the past month.
“Oh, you know, the boobs hurting, you’re a little plumper,” he shrugged. “I have two sisters with kids.”
“I guess it’s more obvious than I thought.” I finished my beer but I knew that I had to ease up a little. It was still early and I had a friend’s birthday party to go to later.
“I guess that’s why Matt was so mad when he left.”
“Yeah, he didn’t react well.”
“Aw, that’s too bad.” His voice was so low that I could barely hear him, but it was soothing. “Well, I’m here for you if you need anything.” I looked at him and saw that he was being genuine and I felt a little better.
Two days before I got the abortion I went over to my best friend Megan’s house to hang out. Matt lived with her, and a few of our other friends. He had fluctuated between being a jerk and being supportive in the two weeks since I told him I was pregnant. He was always a lot nicer about it when he was on drugs.
Their house was a renovated Victorian that the landlord had owned since the 60’s. The walls, ceiling, and trim were all painted different colors and there were tapestries and abstract paintings hung on the walls. The living room was sprinkled with different pipes and bongs letting any guest know that stoners lived there. The kitchen had two shelves close to the high ceilings that were filled with empty liquor bottles and the fridge was covered with pictures of the different people who had lived there over the years. the backyard had a small deck, a hot tub, and a fire pit surrounded by makeshift benches.
We all sat around the fire pit in the back yard, drinking and talking. It was nice to pretend that everything was normal, even though I had had to borrow some of Megan’s old clothes because I had gained too much weight to wear my own. About six beers into the night Matt sat down next to me and leaned in.
“Want to do some K?” he asked quietly. “You know, and talk?” I nodded and we went to his room in the basement of the house.
The basement had cement floors with scraps of carpet covering it. The walls were covered with graffiti, quotes and drawings of monsters and people doing drugs. Matt’s room had an old futon on the floor and a couple sleeping bags that he used for blankets. He had a dresser next to his bed that was covered with stickers that he got at music festivals and one of the drawers were filled with drugs. He sold drugs, mostly weed and LSD.
We sat down on his bed and he pulled a bag of white powder out of his sweatshirt pocket.
“This is really good stuff,” he said as he put some on the end of his house key. He held it towards me and I closed one nostril with my finger and snorted the K up my other nostril. “So, um, when should I pick you up? It’s the day after tomorrow right?”
“Yeah.” I washed away the bitter taste in the back of my throat with my beer. My sixth? Couldn’t be sure, I usually lost count around the sixth or seventh. “I have to be there at eight in the morning.”
“Christ sake.” He snorted a bump off his key. “Why is it so early?”
“I think they do a group of us at once.” Us. Girls that make mistakes. I snorted another bump off his key and I started to feel it entering my bloodstream. I felt Matt’s hand stroke my back.
“I’m really sorry about this.” He look high and sad. He kept rubbing my back and then he moved in closer to hold me.
“I’m sorry too Matt.” I buried my face into his chest and we stayed that way for awhile. I think I would have cried if I hadn’t been so high.
The first time I slept with Matt was only the second time I had ever been with a biological male. I went over to his house to buy weed and to hang out. When I got over there I saw that there was no one else home and I knew then that we would have sex that night. We drank and smoked weed for awhile and then he asked if I wanted to go into the hot tub.
The moon was full and it was a warm night. It was August and I had started hanging out with Megan, Matt and their roommates that summer because the friends that I made when I first moved to California no longer wanted to hang out with me because I got too drunk all the time. So I made friends that drank more. Their house was one block away from mine, stumbling distance.
After drinking in the hot tub for awhile I ran my foot up his leg. He looked at me and I moved across the water and straddled him. We kissed in the hot tub until we felt sick from the heat and we down to his bedroom. I tried to act like I had done this before, that it wasn’t different from being with girls, but it was. His face was rough and he had trouble getting it up and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do about that.
We slept together a few times a weeks for five months and then once every couple weeks for three months after that. We were never officially together, he made sure that I understood that. We did talk a lot, about our childhoods, families, hopes for the future. I told him that I loved him a few times, when we were about to fall asleep and I was drunk. But I was always drunk then, we were always drunk.
I got pregnant the last time we had sex. That morning he told me that he thought we should stop hooking up and I agreed. By that point we were sleeping together out of habit more than anything else. I told him that I was glad that he was my friend and he said so too.
“I guess we should go back to the party,” he said, pulling away.
“Want to smoke a bowl first?”
“Yeah, for sure.” We smoked silently and finished our beers.
Two days later Matt picked me up and we drove to the clinic in East Oakland. It was in a shopping mall that had been converted into an office complex. The waiting room had several couples that were affectionate but me and Matt sat with our jackets and bags on a chair between us. The softness that he showed me two nights before was gone.