None of It Was Easy
1 Two blocks into a run, my nipples chafed against my sports bra like they’d just been tweaked. Standing on a street corner, covered in a light mist of sweat, I worried about what it meant. Ultimately, I decided it was a stupid thought. My boyfriend and I always used condoms.
2 My boyfriend, Steve, and his friends rented the Parish Hall of a hundred-year-old Romanian Orthodox church in Cleveland for twelve hundred bucks a month. They threw acid-rock shows and avant-garde art events to make the money back. I couldn’t afford my own place and had to move in with him that summer. I earned my keep by tending bar at the concerts, selling two dollar cans of Pabst and plastic cups of cheap merlot. We didn’t have a liquor license. None of it was legal.
3 At Parish Hall, asbestos sprinkled from the bedroom ceiling onto our futon. Dead mice floated in cereal bowls we kept under the leaky sink pipes. To use the shower, we had to take pliers to an exposed metal screw in the wall. Late at night, we’d chainsmoke on the steps of the neighboring church and crush beer cans. Homeless people slept in the bushes in the overgrown lot. Stray cats came through the open windows in the hallway and made it their home too.
4 An ear infection forced me into a walk-in urgent care clinic. As the doctor prescribed me antibiotic drops, she asked a series of questions. Allergies, illnesses, whether or not I might be pregnant. I paused long enough to make her pause. She put the clipboard down and said, “when was your last period?” I didn’t make eye contact with her. “A month ago,” I said, “about a month ago.”
5 Steve and I walked to Rite-Aid and bought pregnancy tests and Natural Light. I chugged beer until I was able to pee in a plastic cup. The urgent care doctor said that it would be less messy if I urinated in the cup instead of right on the stick. Two blue lines showed up right away. I came out of the bathroom crying, my hands saturated with beer-scented piss. Steve hugged me and said, “it’s okay. Just freak out.”
6 I’d been a vegetarian since I was 15. Killing things was wrong. Abortion, I always said, was wrong.
7 We took a week to figure out what to do. That Friday night, we went out to Geneva-on-the-Lake, a cheesy tourist town forty minutes outside the city. Just a strip of carnival rides, dive bars, and funnel cake stands. Steve got sick from crab cakes at a restaurant overlooking the water. The next morning, we drove through Amish country and I called abortion clinics.
8 The preliminary ultrasound was just to make sure I was actually pregnant and not just overreacting to tender nipples and double blue lines. A hip young woman in lavender smocks with spiky black hair and cat-eye glasses stuck a cold metal rod inside my vagina. The screen next to me blinked but I didn’t look at it. “You look familiar,” she said, “do you bartend at Parish Hall?”
9 The State of Ohio required a 24-hour waiting period between the initial appointment and the actual procedure. I had to sign a form that said, yes, I knew what my options were, and yes, I still wanted to abort my baby. The night before, I couldn’t drink. Steve’s friend showed a film at Parish Hall about an Austrian artist who performed mock crucifixions using dead animals. The videos were too gruesome to watch sober. I stayed in mine and Steve’s room most of the night. I only came out to get bottled water from the fridge behind the bar. One of Steve’s friends stopped me and said, “you look really nice tonight. It’s like you’ve got a glow or something.”
10 It seemed like I breezed through everything but none of it was easy. I spent two weeks of my life in shock. For eight weeks, I lived with a foreign presence inside my own body. I didn’t want to be pregnant and I didn’t want to end a life. This was me pre-sobriety, when I was blackout drunk three to four nights a week. Every sensible part of me screamed that I shouldn’t have a baby. Still. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Ever had to decide. I didn’t need mandated counseling and twenty-four hours to reflect on that. I had twenty-six years of thinking I’d do something one way only to be faced with the blunt truth that I was going to do the exact opposite. I felt like a hypocrite. I felt like I was killing my baby. I felt all that and did it anyway because the alternative was worse.
11 The procedure was over four hundred dollars. I think Steve put it on his credit card and I think I paid him my half back in cash. It’s possible I still owe him that.
12 I didn’t know it would hurt so much. A nurse stayed by my side the whole time and squeezed my hand. She knew. My insides twisted and pulled apart from each other. It felt like the worst period I ever had. An intense burst of agony was followed by steady cramping. Steve helped me walk down the hallway with one arm. In the other hand, he clutched a brown paper bag filled with my follow-up medications like it was his school lunch.
13 That afternoon, I lay on the futon beneath the asbestos ceiling. Steve brought me a pint of vegan chocolate ice cream. Bright summer sunlight shone through the windows. A raw soreness radiated from the core of my body. That other thing was gone. I felt sick and empty but, most of all, I felt relieved.
Meghan Louise Wagner is a writer from Cleveland, OH. She is currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing from the NEOMFA. Her fiction has appeared in such places as Flash Fiction Magazine, Umbrella Factory Magazine, and Anti-Heroin Chic.
Art Max Kurzweil Public Domain (see link for more details)
This story is part of our Pro-Choice theme. If you are interested in helping support women’s right to autonomy, consider checking out these websites and if you’re able maybe even supporting organizations like these:
Alabama’s Yellowhammer Fund https://yellowhammerfund.org/
Planned Parenthood in the US https://www.plannedparenthood.org/
Alliance for Choice in North and South Ireland http://www.alliance4choice.com/
Marie Stopes International https://mariestopes.org/what-we-do/our-services/safe-abortion-and-post-abortion-care/
and many other pro-choice organizations and charities. We are looking forward to expanding this list as we learn more.