by Amber DiPietra
At the clinic–the Mom, her fourteen-year-old daughter Moesha, Moesha’ Ti-Ti, and Ti-Ti daughter come in. Mom calls through the office window, loudly, Excuse me, I ain’t got no appointment and I ain’t tryin to wait here all day, but I wanna get this over with.
The four of them settle into the crowded waiting room. Mom says to Ti-Ti, I wanted her to keep it, but Pimp say no way.
The nurse comes out and calls a woman named Megan back.
Ti-Ti laughs and says to Moesha, If that girl come back lookin bad, we fi’in to run up outta here and you can tell Pimp call your auntie Ti-Ti cuz you keepin the baby.
Mom laughs, I’m fi’in call Pimp right now and tell him bring me some beer and cigarettes, so I can sit out in the parking lot, ‘stead of sittin in this stank lobby.
Ti-Ti laughs, Need some Fabreze up in here.
Moesha goes to the bathroom, and her family gets only a little quieter. Mom say to Ti-Ti, Girl, you gotta go back there with her when it’s time cuz I’m fi’in to cry already.
Then, Mom starts shouting into her cell, Where Pimp at? Tell him Moesha scared and I want me some beer and cigarettes!
The family laughs again and Mo comes back from the bathroom. Ti-Ti daughter, who’s about Mo’s age, says, Shayshay be tellin everyone Mo pregnant by her brutha.
Mmm-Mmm, naw. When we leave here, we’re goin up to where that bitch stay. Her brutha don’t even sleep in the same room wi’her. I’m’a swing on her, the Mom says/
Ti-Ti and Ti-Ti daughter laugh with Mom and Moesha speaks up for the first time, loud and clear, laughing. but dead on, like her kin. She says, After we leave here and I get me something to eat, I’m’a fight Shayshay.
Girl, Mom says, You don’t need to keep eatin. That why that baby head already so big.
Mom tells Ti-Ti, I seen the sonogram picture and the baby head so big. I wanted to keep the picture, but they say it against Florida law. I mean, at least I could have that….
Ti-Ti laughs, Yeah. Big head and arms and legs too–I think I’m’a fi’in be one of them protesters outside.
The family cracks up. Meanwhile, the lobby TV is playing The View. That shrieky woman is interviewing Snookie about being a new, mature mom and having just gotten her bod back in gear thanks to her personal trainer, Lorenzo.
In the back corner of the lobby, a couple, their skin a foreign black, and dressed like young-urban-professionals circa 1985, sit; their heads bowed over a smartphone, apparently reading through job listings across the state for pharmacists. They speak in Creole and do not seem particularly intimate, except somehow, as part the earnestness of their job search conversation. The woman gets called back to the abortion room and the man keeps scrolling on his phone, but he proceeds to sigh loudly at frequent intervals, recede a bit into his chair, his legs crossed. At one point, he asks the nurse, in formal and studied English, if there is anything he can do.
Mom and Ti-Ti get bored and start asking other women in the lobby, How many months you is?
Most of the white women get pissed and answer, I am 7 weeks or I am 10 weeks, with a stress on the eeks. Except one chick, she doesn’t mind. She says, I just sent my boyfriend to Wal-Mart to buy me a blanket cuz I’m freezin my ass off in here and he has cigarettes. I’ll give you one when he gets back.
When Brandon gets back, she yells at him for buying the wrong sour patch Hubba Bubba/ he shares his cigarettes with the Mom.
Eventually, Mom and Ti-Ti notice me and smile, friendly. Call across the lobby, Is you a midget? I explain why I look the way I do, hold myself back from also trying to explain that is not why I am having an abortion.
After a couple hours, they call me back. The doctor reminds me of dudes I met in Jamaica Queens on a layover once. Just in skin tone and accent, really. He asks me repeatedly if I want to see the sonogram. It’s pretty much a miracle that it is not Florida law to make me look at the sonogram. They just have to be careful to offer to show it, lest they lose their funding. Like any doctor, politics and personal emotions get swept under the routine, medical steps. He forgets he asked me once and asks me several times, Do you want to see your ultrasound? and I want to hate him, but then he does an excellent job of finding the tiny vein in my crooked wrist for the sedative injection. I lay there and recall, in soft focus, the long and twisty conversation with my own mom at her dining room table, where the overhead lighting is like a headlamp. She said some things, some she had said already, in the six months between my two abortions.
–So, you think moving home to be with your family and have a baby was just you having a nervous breakdown? Well, that makes me feel really good.
— You can’t take Prozac and stay pregnant…you are just going to have to tough it out. I didn’t want to clean three toilets yesterday and it made me a bitch, but I felt better after I did it.
–Maybe that baby inside you will be enough to help you think calm thoughts.
–When you were thinking about having the first one, yes, you’re right, I told you you need to move home, because there’s no way I could have done it alone.
–All I ever wanted to do was be a mom.
–But I told you to let it rest for awhile–I mean, abortion is not birth control.
–I told you it is not all it is cracked up to be; it is a lifetime of pain and suffering.
–I had two abortions and I don’t regret it.
–I’m just afraid this abortion is going to make you more depressed. Are you sure?
That was the same week she said she was about to “stroke out” because my brother has already lost his scholarship in his first week of college and made two weed runs back home on the interstate, late at night. She never finished high school, but she wants him to have a happy life. I think the appropriate emotion might be tense anger and worry for my brother and tense, deep sympathy for my mom. My little brother, who was almost my kid, because I was almost old enough to be grown by the time he was born. But the appropriate response…just a numb blinking back. My brother is sad and often drunk. This feels completely recognizable…if that equals knowing…which might equal empathy or equanimity. Failing first semester community college won’t help him know what to care about. A numb blinking back at the light on the machine across the abortion room and then the injection works and I am gone.
Nurses have put me into my clothes and stood me up in the recovery room. Nurses that call me “baby”. This is only a comfort from round, black women like them. It just is. In all the Latino women’s mouths I am related to, “baby” is a thousand years worth of atheist martyrdom and the holy mother anxiety. It means pobrecita and it means sick.. Now it just means the nurses hand me juice and push me out the door, back into the lobby. I notice that I can stand up, though the sedation has me very nauseous. And that, unlike the first abortion in California, I was out cold here the whole time. Like the way women birthed kids in the old days, Betty Draper in Mad Men. And, when I get home, I can choose to have a whiskey or not. But more satisfying than the drink is the feeling of being scraped clean. As close as I could ever come to being a cutter, the abortion feels thorough, a release, at least for now, from an old impulse to push a nervous mess into what looks like a loving plan.
As I exit the lobby, they call Moesha’s name. Ti-Ti, left alone with her own daughter, says laughing, Girl, it just so stank in here.
Amber DiPietra is a recovering social worker who recently relocated from San Francisco to St. Petersburg FL She is a poet, performance artist and somatic writing teacher who is reinventing herself as slo-mo burlesquer and sexological bodywork. To read more of her work, find links to her performances and publications, visit her at adipietra.blogpsot.com