Wednesday, April 29, 2009

phantom limbs

I went to WV Free's Gala tonight, went to see Joycelyn Elders (a personal favorite of mine) and listen to them celebrate a women's right to choose. I've always been conflicted on the subject. On the one hand, it's murder and I can not be convinced it is otherwise. On the other hand, a person ought to have the right to decide what grows or does not grow inside their body. You have to belong to you first. I don't like it, but abortion should be legal and hopefully, rare.

I didn't want to mingle. Everyone was having a good time, shaking hands, having drinks and making friends. I didn't want to talk. I didn't want to talk about the organization, the good they do or even hear about the weather. I was just there for the show. In the meantime, I had my hands full and there wasn't a soul in the place who could help.

I remembered five years back when someone I knew was pregnant and she came to stay with my wife and me while she got an abortion. I remember we offered to take the child. We offered to let her stay with us if she wanted, cover the medical costs and raise the kid. We could do this permanently or temporarily. We could adopt officially or unofficially, but there was no discussion. She turned us down cold. All she wanted was a place to crash until she could get it taken care of.

I still think about it with resentment. She takes in cats and dogs. She won't eat meat or wear leather. She's environmentally conscious, cares about social justice and while we've never discussed it, I'd bet she's a staunch opponent of the death penalty --but abortion as casual birth control is okay? I don't get it.

Go back a little further to Amanda and me in college. We fucked like rabbits. We never used protection and not to get gross, but I've got really good aim. History has born this out. Given the basic math, the odds of her not having been pregnant by the time she left school are thin. We talked about having kids several times. We talked about having kids young, discussed names and imagined what they might be like when they were our age. We were just stupid, but completely out of our heads in love at the time. I'll never know because I'll never find her --I don't even know where to look any more-- but I think she had an abortion, maybe within a month after she left school, when we were still talking on the phone just about every other night.

A little farther still... there's me waiting the hour between my intro to bonehead physics and my intro to bonehead biology, sitting out in the hallway, looking at a glass case full of babies in jars. Every one of them was labeled: six weeks, eight weeks, ten weeks, eighteen weeks. If you stood at the correct angle, you could look on the back of the labeling cards at the brief notes explaining how a particular specimen had come to be there. No abortions. They were all miscarriages. Many of them seemed to have been caused by auto accidents.

I remember the horror of it. The bodies were intact. You could count their fingers and toes. It was all so casual, so clinical. I still dream about the glass case sometimes, just dream about looking on the shelves at the jars.

So, this is what I thought about while I took down notes, while I tried to do a good job reporting the event without coloring it with my particular baggage. Dr. Elders was funny and honest. The people at WV Free believe they're doing a good thing and the food was pretty decent.

Everyone was pleasant, but it was the loneliest assignment I ever took.

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