FACT : I couldn’t go through with it.
P.S. Please forgive the past five chapters filled with mispellings. I just read over them and realized how much I relied on the friend who used to proof-read everything for me. haha.
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FACT : I couldn’t go through with it.
Sitting on the examination table in that clinic, in nothing more than a paper gown had me feeling the most vulnerable I had in my entire life. More vulnerable than I had when I first spoke the words “I love you” to Ethan one summer we spent the afternoon on my father’s yacht. The sun was setting in the background, the wind was blowing through my hair, and Ethan was in the middle of retelling one of the many memories he had acquired during his two-month stay building an orphanage in South Africa. This is before he turned to drugs. We were only 19. After my unprompted proclamation of my love, Ethan froze to avoid tripping over the next sentence in his story’s sequence. He pierced me with his icy blue gaze and I just waited. I was sure at that moment he’d rather throw himself into the Pacific then return the sentiment. Ten seconds disguised as a lifetime later he replied. Since then, he had married my sister. Yet, not even broken-hearted could explain how I felt now.
I had left the apartment early enough that morning even my heavy footsteps couldn’t have woken Regina. Yet, that trek across the floorboards had been almost as intimidating as the walk I completed just an hour later. From the bus stop to the clinic’s front door measured just around 500 ft but crossing traffic was hardly the only obstacle. The building was small and somewhat nondescript, hidden beneath a tall hedge probably meant as camouflage. Unfortunately, a small cluster of protesters stood gathered on the sidewalk. The music from my ipod dulled their chants but the blood red images on their posters bobbed at the corner of my peripheral vision jeering; mocking; condemning my next actions. I kept my head down to avoid revealing my identity.
Time passed slowly as I was moved from one waiting room to the next. The procedure would be neither simple nor quick. While I tried not to stare, in between pages of paperwork, I surveyed the faces that shared the room with me. Women and girls of all kinds seemed nervously aloof. The few men scattered about either glared as protectors or bounced their knees with the same jittery tension that collided butterflies in my stomach. I wrote down my name, address, phone number, and answered questions about my health. More than anything I bowed my head and prayed for this day to be over. The awkward way my hands folded and my vision blurred told any audience I hadn’t been the type of kid who was into going to church.
A nurse ran tests in what seemed like a holding room. She had been seated when I entered ready to check my blood pressure. She scribbled notes on a sheet of paper and stamped it with the date. When she performed the ultrasound she turned the screen away from my line of vision but hummed as she observed it herself. The secret that danced across the screen wasn’t one I had shared with anyone, it seemed like I was betraying the bonds of family and friendship by exposing it to this stranger. Once she was done, the last notation in my folder made, I was ushered out of the room’s second door and settled into a more intimate waiting room. I could only imagine the string on woman who would pass through that same room in the carefully arranged assembly line routine. We were all awaiting the same fate.
A children’s show played on the television, but the cheerful voices were hardly as inviting when more eminent thoughts swirled around my mind. Patience had never been one of my virtues.
A counseling session took me further down the hall. This building hadn’t seemed like such a labyrinth from the outside. By the time I reached my final destination I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find my way out if I tried. Especially not once I had swallowed the pill that had been left for me in a little plastic cup. I folded my clothes and placed them neatly on the chair... first the sweatpants, then the t-shirt, then the cotton panties. I left my socks on.
And there I lay, covered in only a thin paper gown, on an examination table in a lonely room of that clinic. I had never felt more vulnerable, not even the first time I had told Ethan that I loved him. Afraid the very thought of him would be my demise I raised my feet to sit in the plush stirrups that awaited me. John Mayer’s “Daughters” was playing in just a quite hum over the sound system and I attempted to memorize the wallpaper’s pattern to block out the irony of it all. It was a dark shade of beige, offset by the cream outlines of daisies. That’s when the doctor entered with a nurse. It was time.
He pulled a latex glove onto his right hand. It snapped and he reached for another to cover his left. I looked toward the nurse. Her large doe eyes looked into mine sadly. She wore a locket around her neck and a diamond on her ring finger. My own voice echoed in my head, brought back from a memory where my eyes had also felt this heavy. “Have you ever been in love?” I had asked a man I had just met.
The doctor cleared his throat, as if to announce his plans to begin. He hadn’t spoken a word to me since he entered the room. I propped myself up on my elbows and looked into his dark little beady eyes as he meticulously lined up the instruments he would be using. The nurse placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. It was meant to coax me back down onto the table but I caught sight of her large doe eyes again; the locket around her neck; the diamond ring on her finger. I wasn’t going home tonight alone.
“I...I...I can’t do this.” I stuttered slipping my feet from the platforms they rested on and sitting upright on the table, “I can’t.” I repeated, “I won’t.”
The nurse sighed, the hints of a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. The doctor just shook his head before leaving me alone to redress. I cradled the phone to my ear as I discarded the paper gown in a trashcan and washed my hands clean of any uncertainties. When Regina’s voice rang on the other line of my cell phone I tried to sound urgent but not in danger as I told her the address. She said she would come right away.
I left the building. It was both small and nondescript but I still passed through the tall hedges with my head down. One elderly woman, resting her sign at her side, placed a comforting hand on my shoulder.
“The Lord thanks you.” She smiled. I looked at her with teary eyes knowing the women who had gone in before me hadn’t left out the front door. I still hadn’t accepted the gravity of my decision enough to be proud. I was still afraid.
When Regina’s car approached I stood from my concrete seat on the curb wiping the remaining salt from my cheeks. The passenger’s side door opened to reveal a man I seemed to only recognize from a dream. Only now, his chin told stories of avoiding a razor and his large brown eyes were hidden behind red-framed glasses. The foolish smile that had painted his friendly demeanor faded when he read the protestors signs behind me.
I got into the car with a gulp. Brendon closed the door behind me, before sliding into the backseat. Regina adjusted the knob on the radio. Without the music playing the chanting was loud and haunting.
“Cassia, are you okay?” She asked drumming her fingers on the steering wheel before she drove away.
I clicked my seat belt into place and rested my head on the window. The sedative I had been given made me dizzy and drained all the color from my face. I hadn’t felt so helpless since all three home pregnancy tests had displayed that little plus sign.
“I couldn’t do it.” I cried no longer hesitant to share my tears, “And now I don’t know what to do.”