Thursday, August 11, 2011

Six Weeks

Without further ado, Six Weeks is on Smashwords! Amazon to follow in a few days. Stay tuned!

I thought I'd share the first chapter of my latest. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you keep reading!

The nurse-practitioner’s voice seems to echo off the stark white walls of the exam room. I hear her, but as though through a tunnel.
“Yes, you’re about six weeks along now,” she says, removing her surgical gloves with a crisp snap and tossing them into the bright red hazardous-waste bin. She pushes away from the bottom of the table and stands, looking at me with sharp eyes and an impersonal expression.
I am naked from the waist down, an inadequate paper sheet draped over my lap. I shift and the paper crackles. I sit up because I know I should, even though my body is only responding woodenly. I cannot think. I cannot speak. I am numb.

Six weeks.

I would give anything to be able to remember how I felt before my diagnosis, before I
received the news that threatened to destroy the fragile equilibrium that has been my existence, but I cannot.
Her voice echoes around the room again as it bounces around in my head, unable to land anywhere to be absorbed. This feels surreal, straight out of a bad dream.
“Do you have any idea what your plans are?” she repeats, dispassion coloring her tone alackluster gray. She has done this more times than she cares to count, and I can hear it in her voice. To her, I am merely one more in a sea of faceless bodies, faceless carriers of more faceless bodies, a link in an unbroken chain of unwed, youthful, pregnant women, breeders of other failed children. I am legion, yet right now, I feel alone.
I simply stare at her, unsure of what she would have me say. How am I supposed to know what my plans are? How can I know?
I had suspected that something was wrong with me only last week. So, I called, made
myself an appointment, and here I was, partially nude, exposed in many ways, expected toanswer a question for which I had no answer.
I shake my head and she frowns a little. She has seen this reaction before from young
women too stupid or careless to protect themselves. She has seen this insipid stare and glassy-eyed shock. She tries another tactic, a sharp slap of reality that leaves my body stinging.
“Well, at this point, you have about six weeks to decide. A fetus can only be aborted within the first twelve weeks of a pregnancy. After that, it is neither advisable nor legal.”
I nod stiffly. She hands me some pamphlets about diet, my changing body, and the
development of the fetus. She presses some prenatal vitamins into my damp, clammy hand and advises me to get dressed and see the receptionist up front to schedule another appointment.
My feet move of their own accord; I have been dismissed. She disappears from the room
before I even pull on my jeans and reach the door.
Six weeks. It can be a long time. It can feel like an eternity, perhaps when one is pining for a distant loved one, stranded on a desert island or locked up in prison. It can be a long time to wait for a much-anticipated vacation or for the end of a school year. But how can anyone expect me to decide the fate of a little being so small that I can’t see it,can’t even feel it, in such a short time?
How can I even begin to wrap my head around that? How do I cope with being pregnant at nineteen, much less decide what I want to do about it? My eyes burn, my head begins to throb. My heart starts pounding in my chest, staccato bursts of movement that make me worry for a moment that I’ll have a heart attack.
I glance at the pamphlets in my hand as I trudge to the reception counter. The marigold yellow one has information on “alternatives” to abortion.
This clinic is a state-sanctioned facility that is authorized to perform abortions. The pink pamphlet says so. It spells out the procedure, the cost (free to low-income women like me), the potential risks and side-effects in cold, clinical language that does more to scare than to soothe.
I reach the receptionist and she glances up from her computer screen. The busy clacking of her fingers on the keyboard stops. She gives me a disapproving stare and says, “Do you need to be seen again?”
“Yes, I need to schedule another appointment.”
“What kind of appointment?”
“Excuse me?” I am perplexed. Does she not know I’m pregnant?
“A pre-natal appointment or an abortion?” Oh.
“I—I don’t know. Can’t I call you after I’ve had some time to think?”
“You don’t have much time, you know,” she says, unmoved by my plea. I’m but a link in
the chain, after all.
“I know. I’ll—I’ll call you later, ok? I need to catch the train.” She shrugs and goes back to
her typing. I am dismissed again.
As quickly as I can, I step out of the office into the bright sunshine of a fragrant May day. The flowers have just come into bloom. The delicious scent of lilac wafts in on the slight breeze. I inhale deeply, as a force of habit, just to sniff the sumptuous fragrance, and to steady myself. This moment is etched into my mind. I will always recall the smell in the air, the feel of the sunshine, warm on my bare arms, the sound of the passing traffic, a siren far off in the distance.
Like those who remember clearly where they were the day the Twin Towers fell, my traumatized subconscious is committing each miniscule detail to memory.
My world has changed. A few little words, carelessly spoken, have altered the course of my existence. They have irreparably changed the fabric of my life.
The walk to the subway does little to calm me. Although I am outwardly placid, my insides are jumping like hot embers in a fireplace. I place one foot in front of the next, trying to match my footsteps with my heartbeat, trying to slow both.
I wonder about the being inside me. There is some controversy about when a fetus becomes a child, when a glob of cells that have no distinct shape and form become human. What is inside me right now? Is it comfortable? Happy? Does it know what turmoil it has caused, simply by being discovered? By merely being?
I near the entrance to the subway, but apparently I am not walking fast enough for the dynamic go-getters on their commutes. One such businessman, a not-quite-thirty-something in a charcoal suit and shiny, tasseled loafers brushes past me rudely, jostling me a bit as he forces his way by. I shrink back, unwilling to subject myself, or the thing growing inside me, to such rude treatment. I allow the intrepid businesspeople to go first and head down into the dark tunnel only when they all have passed.
The turnstile lightly bumps my stomach as I push through it. I wonder if it can feel the pressure, if it is shaken by the force of the metal against my abdomen. Then I push the thought out of my head. I can’t think about it now, but it is all I can think about. I am at war with myself, and I don’t know what to do.
Six weeks.
The subway is crowded today with suits in various shapes and sizes, housewives and maids laden with shopping bags, women with infants strapped to their chests or their backs or with grubby hands clasped tightly to their own.
I watch the women, amazed at how commonplace it is for them to travel with their burdens.
One such woman intrigues me. She looks to be only a few years older than I, but already she is work-worn and weary. No matter how tired she appears, however, she has a gentle smile for her
little offspring, a boy of no more than five who looks up at her with such worship in his eyes it is almost sacrilegious. He smiles at his mother from his perch on the hard plastic bench and says in a little voice, “Are we almost home? I wanna play with my new ball.”
“Yes, honey, almost home. Another few minutes.”
“Ok. Can I have cookies when we get home?”
“No, you’ll spoil your dinner. We can have cookies later.”
He nods to himself, content with her answer, and passes the time until their stop by
thumping his little sneaker-clad feet against the bottom of the bench. An elderly woman looks up from her newspaper with a frown, but smiles when she sees what is causing the vibration on her seat. She must have children, or even grandchildren of her own, the way she’s looking at the little boy.
It’s hard for me to equate the little boy in front of me to the growth inside me. It’s strange to think that something that starts out so small will eventually want cookies and wear sneakers and walk and talk, that it will rely on me for its daily sustenance. Will I provide it? Can I?
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to handle it, how to handle myself. I cannot digest the news. I cannot react. I cannot change the past, but I can change the future, if I so choose. What should I choose?
The subway lurches to a stop and I blink against the searing sun as I exit and head toward home. Only one thing is for certain in the midst of all this uncertainty: I have six weeks to make a decision.

1 comment:

Peter Craig said...

Hey again, Jess. :)

Great to see the fish porn book riding so high in the amazon charts. Congratulations! :)

Pete x (PCreturned)