Sunday, June 23, 2024


Art by Dan

We sat there for a long time. Together. Quiet. Watching the water and the setting sun and the breeze rustle through the grass and the leaves. We were at peace, together, despite the circumstances. I was loath to leave, but nothing lasts forever. Nothing lasts forever.

I was the first to move, the first to break the silence. I squeezed his hand for an eternity that was probably five or ten seconds and let him know it was time to go. I was the first to stand up. I was always the first.

As we walked back to the car, I mused on being first. Out of a score of cousins and the dozen of aunts, uncles, and parents who raised us, I had been the first to complete college. I was also the first girl in our family who hadn't gotten pregnant as a teenager. I was on my way toward breaking out of a small town and finding something bigger for myself. Until, of course, something small found me.

The man walking beside me - my boyfriend - wasn't my first. I'd had other boyfriends and he'd had girlfriends. Being from a farm town you find out early what those horses or dogs or whatever's running around "in heat" is up to and eventually you want to try it out for yourself. So, we weren't each other's firsts in that respect either. But he was the first to get me pregnant.

Unfortunately for the new life growing inside me, I was not ready for such a burden. I didn't want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere raising a kid - I had plans! I have dreams! There's so much more I want to do - that I can do - and bringing a child into this world with my student debt, living with my parents, working part time in a diner that barely pays for the gas it takes to drive there, would be insanity. And while I love my boyfriend, this would be a big burden on him too - one I'd never ask him to derail his life for.

As unfortunate as these circumstances are for the cells assembling inside me, my circumstances - those constrained by the laws of this state - make things worse for me. If I want to opt out of a life of poverty, missed means, and sleepless nights brought on by a hungry child crying, I have to be a criminal. I have to cross state lines. I have to find an abortion clinic on my own, hundreds of miles away, or else I open my boyfriend, my doctor, my family, or even strangers who take pity on me to lawsuits and maybe prison. All this because I don't want a future child to starve. All this because I want my child to have two stable and loving parents.

It's not like I don't want children - I do - but that's a "someday" consideration. A "someday" with a steady job and a steady life - not the crisis management of not knowing if the power grid is going to fail because it's too hot or too cold. Not the crisis management of a world in flux and no liferafts coming to save us.

I told my folks and my family I had a job interview and needed gas money. I raised enough to get there and back and some snacks along the way, but I'd have to sleep in my car. The clinic's website said they had resources available for low income people but I didn't want to call or email or create a paper trail that  might land my friends and family in jail. I was going to get up tomorrow, drive most of the day, and show up on their doorstep unannounced.

I asked my boyfriend if he was ready to be a dad the day after I found out. I was relieved when his reaction was the same as mine - it would have killed me to keep this a secret from him, too. We concocted the plan over a week and I cried every night. I know it's killing him that he can't come with me, that he can't drive me, that he won't be able to hold me after what's done has been done - I feel that in every squeeze he gave my hand as we walked to the car.

The ride to his house was mostly silent. The weight had pushed any small talk out of our lungs. We hugged for a long, long time in his driveway, despite the heat. He squeezed me so hard and I just wanted to melt into him. I wished he could squeeze me forever. We parted ways around ten.

It was going to be a sleepless night and a long drive. A sunrise and a departure first thing in the morning. A few lies along the way. Then, hopefully, my first and only abortion.

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