I don’t remember where we had been or what we had been doing. Back in those days, it was probably something illegal and/or immoral. What I remember is that the sun was blinding and we were walking directly into it. We were also having a rare argument, the start of which also escapes me now.
My friend Leslie was telling me that abortion was wrong. No ifs, ands or buts, it was wrong. What about rape? I asked. Still wrong. She argued that you could always put the baby up for adoption, but killing it was wrong. I said it wasn’t even a baby, not at two months. If it were a baby at conception, then abortion wouldn’t be legal at all. I informed my friend that the cut-off was twelve weeks. That’s when it began to take a human form, but before that it was just a mass of cells. I told her that we brushed off dead skin cells every day and never even knew it. What’s the difference? I demanded. Leslie never answered and the argument was forgotten.
In the meantime, I eloped with my quasi-drug-dealer boyfriend. Within two months, I realized what a monumental mistake I had made, so I left. One day he followed me to Leslie’s house. He asked very nicely to speak to me, so I went to the door. He grabbed me, dragged me to the car and shoved me into the front seat. I landed on my back across the bench seat and so all I could do was kick at him. He shoved my feet out of the way but my knee landed on the steering wheel and the great big horn in the middle. That was back before car horns were reduced to a little button on the steering column. I laid on that horn and fought like hell to keep him from getting the keys in the ignition.
Leslie came out and said the magic words to a drug dealer. “Do you want me to call the cops?” Once he was gone, she said, “I never liked that dick.”
Leslie and I worked together with a guy that we went to high school with. We car-pooled and they took turns driving because I didn’t have a car. They picked me up last because my house was closest to the highway, so I never got to ride shotgun. One morning, we stopped at McDonald’s. I didn’t feel well, so I didn’t get anything. Jon and Leslie chowed down and tossed the bag in the back seat, next to me. The smell was overwhelming – and overwhelmingly bad. All of a sudden I realized I was sick, so I grabbed the bag. Leslie watched me in the rearview, but Jon was completely oblivious.
Once we got to work, I ran to the bathroom and lost it again. Leslie was waiting for me, even though she should have gone upstairs to time in. I didn’t have to say anything. She already knew. And it was becoming horrifyingly clear to me.
Everything came back to me: the drinking binges, the pot, the hash, the poppers, the cocaine, the crystal meth, and the acid. All within the previous two months. I had skipped a period before here and there, so this time I consciously ignored it and hoped it would go away. It didn’t.
The point came that I had to tell my mother. I was over 18, so technically I didn’t have to tell her and I probably wouldn’t have, except for one thing. I knew there was a pill or a shot that you could get that could bring on your period – and my father was a pharmacist. There was just no way I could face him directly, so I went through my mother. He gave me the package of pills (it was actually a series of pills, taken over several days) without a word. I took them and waited and threw up in the empty sack every time Jon got breakfast from McDonald’s. I don’t think he ever noticed, partly because Leslie always turned up the radio or said something to distract him.
The pills didn’t work.
I went to the doctor, who confirmed the pregnancy.
My mother is a Catholic and so I was absolutely shocked when she said, “I think you should have an abortion.” I never asked her why. I don’t think I wanted to know what her reasons were. I had my own reasons.
She drove me to Planned Parenthood. Back in those days, they didn’t protest full time. I’m not sure anyone was there, actually, because it was a weekday. It was Monday, November 18, 1985. I had a jacket, but not a coat. It was cool, but not cold. I was numb.
The nurse explained the procedure, but I wasn’t listening. They gave me a Valium, which I accepted. It wasn’t strong enough. The waiting room was full that morning, and I had to wait. I went outside to smoke and met Jenny. She was there for her third abortion, and she assured me it was not a big deal. I guess after the first two, you get used to it.
The doctor told me I was at 11 weeks, “just under the wire, young lady. You’re lucky.”
Yes, lucky is the word I was thinking.
My mother, God bless her, drove me home, tucked me into bed and never said another word to me about it. Ever. To this day, we’ve never spoken of it.
Leslie took me back for my follow up appointment, on a Saturday. The protesters were there that day. They swarmed the car as Leslie drove in and shoved pamphlets in her open window. My window was up, and I just stared at the people on my side of the car. I had no words. Leslie put the pamphlets on the floor in the back and said, “Don’t read that shit.”
I picked it up anyway. The picture on the front was a baby and Leslie snatched it out of my hand. “I told you not to look at it.”
She ran interference as we made our way to the door of the clinic. No one touched us, but they shouted at us, and begged us to consider what we were doing. I didn’t say anything back. I just kept my head down and followed Leslie inside.
Leslie never mentioned it again, either. Not once. She never brought up the argument we had just that summer. She never expressed an opinion. She was simply there for me.
It was a long time ago. I look at the person I used to be and I don’t recognize her anymore.
Last January, I wrote about my friend – about how she was boring and we had nothing in common anymore. She read it. And she hasn’t spoken to me since. What I wrote then was true – and it saddened me that we had grown so far apart. But what really makes me sad is that I never told her how much it meant to me that she was there for me that day – and that she not only didn’t judge me, but she tried to protect me from those who would.