On the phone she said, I have a friend who's got a problem, but
she couldn't get to a phone so I'm calling for her. Do you know what
I mean? Is this the right place?
When she lay down, she said, Are you a doctor?
Then she said, Aren't you afraid you'll get caught?
When we were putting in the speculum, she said, Oh, I had breakfast
before I came. I know I wasn't supposed to but I was so hungry I just
ate everything in sight, is that ok?
Later she said, I think I have to throw up.
Or, I have to go to the bathroom right now. Stop. I just have
to go to the bathroom, and then I'll come right back.
Or, on a different day, I don't feel so good, should I do it
The next week she said, Infection? I don't have any infection.
Oh, that. That's not really an infection. That infection's nothing,
I've had it before, it's nothing, go on, go ahead and take that baby
Sometimes she said, Can I see it before you throw it away?
But another time she said, I don't want to look at it, ok?
When it comes out, I'll just close my eyes, and you take it away,
Once she said, What do you do with it all at the end of the day?
Boy, you people are gonna get in trouble sometime, this's against
And when we were done she said, What if it happens again? You
know this. Would you do me again?
She stood on the back steps outside the counselor's apartment and
said, This is mi prima, my cousin, from Mexico. Can you talk Spanish
to her? Habla un poco? Un poquito? Si, gringa! We will do this.
No, I'll keep it on, I'm not hot, it's ok, I'm fine. She was wearing
her boyfriend's baseball jacket in the kitchen. She said, Just
tell me what I have to know.
This is my husband, Ed. He's going to sit here with me. She leaned
over, touched his arm, and said, Ed, honey, this is Julie, she's
my counselor, the one that got assigned to me when we called the number.
When we told her she should pay whatever she could afford, she
was quiet a minute and then said, I think I can get nine dollars.
My father brought me here today. He's paying for this but he's really
mad at me for it. She took a hundred dollar bill out of her pocket
and said, He thinks if everybody got liberated, like with civil
rights, that there'd be a lot of trouble, and he says I prove his
point, because look what happens when you just do what you want. He
says that's why we have to have so many laws on everybody, because
if you let people be free and do what they want they'll just do evil
When the sister-in-law was asked why she called the police, she
said, It's a sin, she can't do this. She has to have it, we all
have to. Jesus doesn't want her to get rid of this baby, that's why
I did it.
He doesn't like me to talk to my mother. Him and his mother, they
don't let me go home to visit. She put the tiny baby in her mother's
arms and said, We sneaked to come for this appointment. He doesn't
know I'm pregnant again. My baby is so new, I can't have another one
right away. He wouldn't even want it really, he thinks this one makes
too much noise. He doesn't like me to do anything without his permission.
Holding her purse, wearing her gloves, the girl clinging to her
coat sleeve, she said, You take good care of her, she don't know
no better, she's just a baby her own self, she don't even know how
this happened. She don't know what it's all about, this whole thing.
My mother told me I couldn't keep it, she told me she'd get the baby
taken away from me right away if I had it. She cried, loud crying
with snot and choking. She wiped her nose and said, She knows
I want to have it. I could be a good mother, I've taken care of babies
and I know what to do. But I'm only fifteen so she'll get them to
take it away from me, I know she will. That's why I'm doing this!
I'd rather not even see it!
After the cervical injection, she said, How did you learn all
this? Did you read a book? Is there a book?
Every now and then, she said, How come you let us bring our boyfriends
over to your house to wait? Aren't you afraid they'll tell? And, Jeez,
who are all these little kids? What're you guys doing, running a kindergarten
on the side? Are those doughnuts for us?
When we finished talking and gave her our phone numbers, she said,
What if it comes out alive? What should I do then? I can't have it
be alive. Should I, you know, should I...? Can I do it by myself?
It could be alive, right?
Now and then she said, Oh I'm so sick, what a mess, oh I'm
so sorry, I really feel fine but this just happened oh oh here it
comes again. Oh god I'm so sorry, I can't help it, I'm such a mess,
oh thank you.
She rang the bell, and when we buzzed her in she said, My girlfriends
are downstairs. They brought me over when I called you about the cramps.
Should they come back for me or can you give me a ride home? How long
will it take for it to, you know, all come out?
Another time, waiting to miscarry, she said, I'm sorry it's
taking so long. I'm sure you've got other things to do, I know a lot
of women are waiting. But thank you so much, thank you for letting
me come to your house. I couldn't have done this at my house, for
sure. My parents think I'm at my girlfriend's house, I just hope they
don't call to check on me, cause my girlfriend's mother could say
something wrong and then I'd really be in trouble.
Ok, it'll take me about an hour and a half to drive home - I live
over the line in Indiana - and here's what I'm going to do, she
said one winter weekend. My father's a heavy sleeper, so if the
cramps come in the night while he's sleeping he'll never hear me;
I'll just go in the bathroom and lock the door. I'll do it all in
there. He won't even hear the toilet flush, he never does, even when
it's just ordinary, you know, flushing for regular reasons.
She looked at the clear plastic sheet on the mattress, the speculum
and the syringe. Then she laughed and said, You ladies somethin,
doin this up in here; you somethin, all right.
Why do you do this? She looked around the small bedroom and said,
You're not rich. With what you charge, you can't be doing this for
the money. What's it all about? Are you a bunch of women's libbers?
Is that it?
I'm not nervous. I think you are good women. I'm never nervous, maybe
cuz I'm always tired. She was so tired that when the woman beside
the bed rocked her shoulder softly to wake her up, she said, It's
over? I'm sorry, I just closed my eyes after the shot you gave me
down there. I'm sorry, but I was real tired, I had to work a double
shift and din have no time between work and here.
Ohmygod, does this happen all the time? This bleeding? She gasped
and said, The blood is so dark. OOh! Ice?! Ay! Make it stop! This
ice tray is too cold! Ohmygod! You better not be scared, I'm the one
scared, not you. Orange juice, are you kidding? Ay, what if I faint?
I know people faint when they lose blood. Can you still do me? Did
She leaned over to the woman driving and quietly said, My daughter's
in Children's Memorial, she's only two, she's having an operation
on her stomach valve today it doesn't work right, since she
was born. My husband's over there, with her, for that, while I'm here,
for this. Could I leave right after I'm done? Could you take me back
right away, so I don't wait til everybody is done? Would that be ok?
Would the other women mind, do you think?
She gulped some water in the kitchen and said, Oh thank you,
you'll never know what this means to me, thank you so much. I can't
thank you enough, I'm sure. I know some people say it's wrong, abortion,
that you shouldn't take a life. And maybe you did take a life. But
its all give and take, isnt it? My mother always said
that everything always comes down to give and take. So the baby, today,
that was the taking and me, me, my own life, I think that was
Judith Arcana. Do
not use/reproduce without permission. First published in CALYX, Winter,