It was a Friday morning—the first day in November. I was driving on the I-5 freeway, heading northbound into Santa Ana. It was one of those rare gray days that take the residents of southern California by surprise. I couldn’t control the restless feeling that the hue of the day had been painted across the sky with a brush bearing my name. I know it sounds paranoid now, but at the time, it was as though the whole universe was pitted against me that day—in the heavens, the earth, and every place in between.
I steered my car into the gravel-filled parking lot ten minutes early for an 8:30 appointment with Dr. McManus. The sound of my tires moving against the gravel didn’t do a thing for my “don’t stand near a cliff” nerves. Luckily, I found a parking space right away and stayed in the car, just sitting there, watching the minutes on the clock radio go by, and listening to my long-time favorite Hitchcock cassette—Sorry, Wrong Number to calm myself. But for every second that passed, it seemed my heart had thundered a thousand beats, leaving my stomach trembling much like the earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault.
For the longest twenty minutes of my life, I sat there in the waiting room amongst a room full of people, most seeming only intrigued by the hound’s-tooth check pattern in the carpet and the eggshell paint on the walls. The only sound in the room, beside the perky receptionist’s parrot-like, “Good morning—Eagle View Women’s Center” in answer to the constant ringing of the telephone, were the rustling of the pages of back issues of Newsday Weekly and People magazines. “Perky Polly” finally called my name and I was directed to wait in one of several exam rooms by the physician’s assistant, Jillian. She had a face like Carly Simon’s. Clearly unforgettable.
I lied on the burgundy leather table intended for gynecological exams, wearing yet another hospital gown. But this time, it was opened at the front and I had one of those annoying paper drapes across my thighs. Despite my best efforts, I felt the slow trickle of quiet tears spill from the outer corners of my eyes; the thud of them falling onto the paper-covered pillow only seemed magnified in that small yellow room. No more than a few moments had passed before Jillian returned with Dr. McManus at her heels.
Going too far to turn back, my body went limp as she adjusted my feet in the stirrups, and gently pushed outwardly on my inner thighs, widening the space between my already gaped legs. A light mist of perspiration seemed to coat my thighs… my feet … my hands, to the point where I felt embarrassed that droplets surely must be soaking the runner beneath me. The fear churning in my stomach bubbled up and into my throat until it ached with fullness, just as I closed my eyes to bite back fresh tears before hearing her powdered, sterile gloves snap into place.
While the machine hummed irrepressibly in the background, my mind flashed back and mercilessly assaulted me with images of the “Pro-lifers” who shamelessly shouted their beliefs with the aid of homemade signs and down home cuss words on the street outside the clinic. Those beliefs had been my own, until I was the frightened woman dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.
An internal debate waged war on me for two months before I conceded defeat to the difficult decision to terminate—and now I was going to have to find a way to live with it for the rest of my life. Had I thought Donovan would have been receptive to fatherhood, I would have rewritten every page in my “book of life”. But, that’s not how it was.
Then, suddenly, I snapped back to the whirring noise of the machine coming to an abrupt end, no longer providing the soundtrack to my reflections. It was at that moment that I realized the abortion was over—but the day wasn’t. The universe had one more meteor with me in its sights. And when it made contact, it sent me spiraling downward into a black hole, the likes of which I had never known—until now.
© Daphne Marie Doucette/Wild Heart Scribe