Monday, July 02, 2012

Of All The Things I've Written I Don't Have a Title for This Yet

(Read This Story first. This takes place that same summer. You'll need the post in the link for the context and one day if I decide to work on this story for publication or whatever I'll merge the two.)

*
Tina and I were both sixteen that summer and although our moms were best friends we weren't. Tina's mom Lola (not her real name, she'd changed it from Judy to sound more glamorous) ran the auction house by the train tracks over in the bad part of town and my mom would go every Friday night to auction off a bunch of Chinese flower pots she'd bought a truckload of on closeout. That's how they became friends even though my mom always called Lola a whore and an alcoholic behind her back and said she let her kids run wild, which was true.

Tina and I weren't friends because she listened to bass and liked Spanish guys who lowered their cars and wore tank tops and chunky chains around their necks. She moussed her hair and sprayed her bangs, then squeezed herself into ripped, acid washed jeans. We had nothing in common. I liked The Cure and boys who skated. I wore black and tried to dye my hair purple.

Plus, I knew better than to get pregnant.

**
Nobody at my school was pregnant. I mean, not when I went there anyway. I'd just dropped out, but when I was going there nobody got pregnant. Just black girls. We didn't know them though.

One day, two years before I had to poop at school and I went to the nurse because I wanted to go home because I couldn't poop at school and instead of saying that I had to poop I told her I didn't feel well. I said I was nauseous and my stomach hurt. I was definitely sick I said.

"Are you pregnant?" the school nurse asked.

"I've never even kissed a boy!" I said and at that time it had been true. I'd never been so insulted. Did I look like the kind of girl who'd get pregnant in ninth grade? Or ever?

***

"Tina's pregnant," my mom told me. 

It was late afternoon. I'd been at a friend's house all afternoon listening to REM and eating popsicles. This was the last week I lived at home before my boyfriend and his friends came down for the summer and we took over my aunt's lease.

"Are you serious?" I asked, "How?"

"She was fucking without a rubber," my mom said. She was smoking and playing Super Mario on our white leather couch in the den.

I took a sip from the can of Koala Springs my mom had left on the black lacquer coffee table.

"So what's she going to do?" I asked.

My mom shrugged and lit a cigarette with her game paused. She had almost saved the princess. She was really good. I never made it past level three.

"Who's the father?" I wanted to know.

"Some Spanish guy. He just got locked up," my mom told me, never taking her eyes from the screen.

I rolled my eyes and snorted in disgust.

"For what?" I asked.

My mom didn't know.

"Gross," I said.

****
Of course I would have one. It wasn't even a question. There wasn't a choice to be made. If I were in that situation, I'd go get one and it would be over just like that.

The only people against it were Jesus Freaks - the Jesus kids who went to school early so they could sit in a circle in the courtyard and conspicuously pray. I was always embarrassed for them and how weird they were.

If you were cool you were pro-choice. My friends wore metal bracelets engraved with the names of girls who'd died in back alley clinics or from coat hangers before Roe vs. Wade. They were like POW bracelets, but for girls. And they were cool. I never had one but I wanted one. A bracelet I mean.


*****


"Wait so your mom is only 34?" my friend asked me.


I was used to people being shocked when they found out.


"Yeah," I told her.


I could see her doing the math. I wondered how many people had done the math, counted on their fingers since I'd been born.


"So your mom was seventeen when she got pregnant with you?" she asked.


"Yeah," I said.


"Wow, I'm seventeen," she said, almost whispering.


I was going to be seventeen in November.


******

Sometimes that summer my boyfriend and I did it without one. Just at first. He'd put it in a little and then I'd make him stop and put one on. He said it felt better without one and we used the kind with spermicide anyway so that would kill anything that might have gotten out.
 
Then we started going longer and longer without one.


"I'll pull out," he said and he did. He never finished inside.


"You can still get pregnant like that, you know," my friend told me.


She knew someone who did.


That's what they told us in school too. But you could only get pregnant two weeks after your period, I thought. So I'd make sure he used one then.


"You're being uptight again," he said when I made him stop and asked him to get one out of the shoebox we kept beside the mattress we slept on on the floor.


"You're not going to get pregnant. We're extra careful," he said.


*******


My mom told me that Tina was still pregnant. It was a couple months later, the hottest middle of the summer. I'd been looking for a job and hadn't found one so I'd had my boyfriend drive me over to my mom's house in his Jeep to ask her for money. When we got there she'd just gotten home from lunch and she had the leftovers of a spinach salad in a styrofoam clam shell. With bacon and hardboiled egg. I wanted it so badly that my mouth literally watered. I felt like a dog.


I didn't have the nerve to ask for money or the salad so we gossiped about Tina.


"Lola wants her to get rid of it," my mom said.


"Like an abortion?" I asked.


"Yeah."


"Good," I said.


"She's waited too long," my mom told me but I didn't know what she meant.


"You're supposed to do it early. She's five months pregnant already. She's showing and everything."


"So?" I said.


"Do you know what they do?"

I had no idea.

"I don't know. Suck it out or something," I said, picking at my dried cuticles and wondering what was on TV. My parents had HBO. At our place that summer we didn't even have a TV and I missed it.

"Something like that. When it's early, not when it's this far along."

I didn't ask her what they did when it was later. I wanted to play Mario Brothers.

Tina was such an idiot. I was glad I wasn't friends with her.

*******

I was supposed to get my period the week after Fourth of July but it never came.


********


Maybe it was new or maybe I never noticed it before. We were driving to the beach the first time I noticed it. Our roommate Jim wanted to play bongos on the sand. The rest of us wanted to swim before the sun went down and we were coming over the drawbridge that separates the barrier island from the mainland. Someone had spray painted over a big white sign by the bridge that posted hurricane evacuation routes.


Abortion Kills.


They'd used black paint and the letters had run. 


On the way back I saw another one. I wondered if it was the same person, some fanatical nut bag, one of the freaks who prayed before school probably. The second one was a stop sign. Underneath the "STOP" they'd sprayed the word "abortion." This time the paint was white. It still dripped.


No one noticed these signs but me. I didn't say anything.


*******


I knew my mom had had one. I'd been born already. She'd told me all about it, how she had this boyfriend who was a loser and didn't work. All he did was smoke pot all day and they lived at his parents' beach house. I remembered that house and going to visit my mom there when I was very little. I lived with my grandparents by then because my mom had lost custody of me.


"Your father stole you from me," she always said.


But I still got to visit her in the pink beach house. There was sand on the floors and back then my mother smelled of patchouli oil, which I'd recently taken to wearing too. I was so small, all I remembered were images, like my mind hadn't yet been able to remember in movies, only snapshots. Macrame, fried flounder, the flat grey bay, amber glass beads, the smell of pot and wet German Shepherd.


I never knew my mother was pregnant back then.


She was on the pill when it happened. It was winter. She'd been waitressing at a pizza place and saving all her tips in a coffee can to pay a lawyer so she could take my father to court to get me back but then she missed her period and took the test and the same day she found out her boyfriend had stolen all the money out of the coffee can to buy a pound of weed to sell and he'd lost it all.


That was why she'd started dealing. Just small time stuff. To survive, to have it done because she couldn't have another baby. She would have loved more children, but she couldn't. She knew.


I never thought her decision didn't make sense. I never wished for that sibling. I always understood. I would have done the same thing.


After it though, she got her tubes tied. She was only twenty-one.


"You were so young. Why would you do that to yourself?" I asked.


"Because I couldn't bear to lose another child," she told me.


It took me years to understand what she meant.


*******


I tried jumping up and down.


I hit myself in the stomach. Repeatedly.


When we had sex I made him do it harder, so it hurt. I wanted him to damage my insides, but I didn't tell him that.


"Do it harder," I'd whisper.


"Like that?" he'd ask.


"Harder."


*******


My mom's friend Linda who lived down the street was six months pregnant. She was my mom's age and had been with her boyfriend a long time. They'd sort of planned the baby and were happy about it but Linda was having problems. Spotting, cramping.


Every time I peed I pushed hard and looked for a pink tinge on the toilet paper. I wished for spotting and cramping.


I didn't really know Linda and I didn't really care about her but every time I talked to my mom she gave me some new detail about Linda's pregnancy.


"She's on bedrest."


"They think she might have high blood pressure."


And I was always like "who cares" in my head.


Then one day Linda had the baby.


"Premature," my mother said.


The baby could fit in the palm of her mother's hand.


"Is it dead?" I asked.


"No, they've got it in an incubator hooked up to life support," my mom told me.


"A baby that small can live?" I asked.


"Maybe."


They didn't know if the baby was going to live or not. Usually they didn't survive born that soon, but sometimes they could. Miraculously they could.


Now whenever I saw my mom, she gave me updates on the baby along with how much it was costing to keep it alive on all the machines.


"Hundreds of thousands of dollars," she said very slowly.


"Wow," I replied.


I thought I didn't care about that baby, but I dreaded that one day I might call my mom and she'd tell me the baby was dead. Maybe this was because Linda was a nice person. A nice person I barely knew, but still nice and according to my mom she never left the hospital. Never left the tiny baby.


*******


Our cat had kittens the night we all did acid. It was my first time.


My boyfriend and roommates had wanted me to try it all summer. The mescaline I'd taken with them a month earlier wasn't enough to satisfy them and I'd been terrified of LSD but I'd wanted to run poison through my system. I wanted my guts to clench with the strychnine and push out whatever might be living inside of me.


Jim had picked the cat up somewhere. Maybe at a Rainbow Gathering or behind the dumpster of the Waffle House where he washed dishes for a week. I don't remember, but the cat was pregnant. I called her Sarah. I'd pet her when the house was quiet during the afternoons when everyone slept and feel the kittens writhing through her soft coat, inside of her taught belly. Towards the end she could barely walk so I made her a bed in a box in my closet. I remembered my mom doing that for our cat when I was little.


"Don't watch the cat have kittens or you'll have a bad trip," my boyfriend warned.


But I didn't leave her side. I lie flat on my stomach, half in the closet with my legs splayed out onto the bedroom floor and I watched her pant and heave out seven kittens in slick bags that looked like eggplants and I could hear the impermanence of everything. I could feel the vibration of the universe, like a deaf person with her hand on an amplifier.


The cat let her littlest, a black one, die.


As she licked the healthy ones dry, the runt gasped and shuddered, tried to stagger towards its mother. I helped it, pushed it closer, urged it to nurse, but the mother cat ignored it, then nudged it away from her with her nose.


The kitten trembled, as if freezing, and died under the cupped roof of my palm.


******


It had been more than a month and I told a friend.


"Do your boobs hurt?" she asked.


"No."


"Are you throwing up?"


"No."


"Well, did you even take a test?"


"No. I can't afford one. I don't have any money."

"Did you tell your mom?"

"Are you kidding me? No."

All my life my mother warned me. If you get pregnant your life will be over. A baby will ruin your life. She said the same things about drugs. No daughter of hers would do drugs or get pregnant.

My friend thought for a minute.

"You're really skinny. That can make you not get your period. You're probably too skinny. Maybe you should eat more or something."

"Yeah," I sighed, "It's always been kind of irregular, as they say."

"But get a test anyway, you know, just to know for sure."

I told her I probably would.

******

Lola told my mom that she thought Tina was on drugs.

"What kind?" I asked.

"I don't know. Coke or heroin or something. Pills. I don't know," my mom said.

We were on the phone. I was sprawled out on my mattress with kittens crawling all over me. Their eyes had just opened.

"She had the abortion, by the way," my mom said.

"Good," I said.

"She was six months pregnant."

I was quiet for a minute.

"I thought they couldn't do them that late," I said. Why was I even talking about this with her? Why did I even care? I barely knew this stupid girl. I couldn't stand her. She was trash.

"They can still do them but not the same way. It's not as easy."

She started to explain the process but halfway through I didn't want to hear about it anymore.

"Stop stop, it's gross," I said.

It was like dissecting frogs in biology, like seeing open heart surgeries on TV, or dead bodies. I didn't like things like that. Things with guts. I'd squint my eyes closed and plug my fingers in my ears.

My mom started talking about something my aunt was doing but I barely paid attention to her.


"Wait, you said Tina was six months pregnant?" I interrupted.


"Yes."

"And wasn't Linda six months pregnant too when her baby was born?" I asked.

"Yes."

"Is it still hooked up to machines?" I asked, but what I really meant was was it still alive.

"Oh yes. Do you know how much it's costing? Maybe up to a million dollars. Can you imagine that?"

"Damn, " I said.

"But if it was your baby you wouldn't care how much it costed to keep it alive."


*******


I started to have cramps, just light. I never had them bad like some girls. These were just enough to know something was happening.


We'd bought a test just that morning but I hadn't peed on the stick yet. I wanted to put it off another day and if I got my period finally I thought I could take the test back and get a refund, enough to buy some more ramen noodles or a can of chili. If I got my period I'd treat myself to a Slurpee at the 7-11. Half cherry, half coke, with a spoon straw.


It was the middle of August, unbearably hot. We only had a window unit AC that dripped musty water and kicked and revved like an old lawn mower. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't.


I took a shower that night to cool off. My aunt had left her salmon pink shower curtain and it was blemished with orange and black mildew. I washed my hair with coconut Suave.


When I got out a small trickle of blood meandered down my thigh, down my calf and spread in a watery pink drop on the linoleum.


I sat down on the toilet, tried to pee, pushed hard out of habit now and wiped. Blood. I wiped again just to watch it soak through the little white carnation of toilet paper in my hand.


When I stood up, the blood had dyed the toilet water rose. I stuffed my towel between my legs as I pawed through the cabinet under the sink looking for a tampon and when I found one and tossed the towel on the wet floor, stains had blossomed as big and deep as hibiscus flowers on the terry cloth.


The smell of pennies. Blood smeared on my hands. Splattered across the rim of the toilet seat. Red washing down my legs and red drops on the floor, clotting in the creases and indentations of the vinyl floor's pattern.


The blood was everywhere.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Aw geez girl, what is there to say to this. Most girls that have grown to womanhood has lived this story in one way or another. No judgement, just a sigh and an, "I know."

Suzanne said...

I read both entries. They are amazing. I love your writing, Victoria. Your voice. You do need to get this memoir published.

Michael Harrawood said...

Sue sent me this. Really lovely writing. I admire it's elegant and edgy at the same time. Thanks.

Anne said...

That was riveting. Oddly beautiful. I loved it. More, please!!

Katherine Andrews said...

I Recently found your blog...and I really enjoy it! I read couple posts and the part of the niceness method. I do it too!! its insane.
KAT.

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