Thursday, October 2, 2014

Empathy: Addendum

I'm in the tiny, grimy bathroom of a tiny, grimy rental apartment in a tiny, frat-infested college town in the middle of nowhere. I'm in my third job post graduate degree, working 80 hours a week for an obtusely sexist, abusive boss, and I still don't make enough to get ahead of the massive debt. Every bill is a panic attack in an envelope sitting like a bomb in my mailbox.

I'm in a "relationship," of sorts, with a(nother) tortured writer. He considers himself a "dominant" in bed, which it seems the majority of men do these days, bless their shitty little boyhearts. I let him abuse me. In those moments, I feel erased, and that erasure is the only relief I feel all week. He is my temporary suicide. I won't do the real thing, not as long as I have a dog who looks at me with all the love I never got as a child bubbling out of his eyes.

I can't afford the dog, who came into my life when I was married, before divorce bankrupted me. But I cannot give him up. I cry into his fur. I cry all the time. I have no idea how to get out of the hole I'm in. Hard work doesn't do it. Nothing helps. I have no hope.

I'm in the tiny, grimy bathroom of a tiny, grimy rental apartment in an empty landscape and a life of brick walls. I'm tired. My head hurts.

The stick I peed on two minutes ago reads positive.

I shut down half my brain. I shut down the panic. I go to a movie with a friend. I don't tell her I'm pregnant. Later, I text the writer. He wants to talk. I say, not now. I'm not going to cry. I can control that much.

I might love to have a baby, but like I said, I can't even afford my dog. Best not to think of what might be. Best not to think what is happening INSIDE ME.

I log on. I spend hours searching, but there is no abortion clinic anywhere near me. (The clinic up the street, the one I walk by every day on my way to work, is run by pro-lifers). I call the Planned Parenthood abortion line. The voice on the other end is calm and kind. This makes it harder to not-cry.

We figure out what I have to do in order to comply with all the new Republican laws: take a half day off work to drive four hours (round trip) to the nearest clinic that can show the required video and provide the required form to begin my waiting period. Take another full day off to drive three hours (one way) to the nearest clinic to perform the actual procedure.

I can't afford both the gas to make those trips and groceries, but that's alright, as I don't have much of an appetite anyway.

My boss wants to know why I'm taking the time off. I tell him "doctor's appointments." He pushes, I snap. He assigns me even more work in retribution.

All day alone in waiting rooms. Interviews, forms. Perfunctory ultrasound performed by uninterested clinician. "Yep, there it is," she says, with an instrument not much smaller than my arm crammed up my vagina. The abortion itself is breathtakingly painful but blessedly brief. A nurse lets me squeeze her hand while it feels like my innards are being sucked out through my cervix. I walk on shaky legs to the recovery room. I joke with the other women. Most of them already have kids. We all wear unclenched faces of relief. We call out our thanks to the grim-faced doctor as he leaves. He spends all day every Friday doing this. He is the only doctor performing abortions in this third of the state.

I've rented a hotel room nearby, as a friend cautioned me against driving home directly after. The writer is paying for it. He's waiting for me. He brought me a heating pad. He wants a blow job. I give him one. I am a good girlfriend. (Except I'm not his girlfriend.)

On the drive home alone I cry. I cry a lot. At home, I continue to cry. Great heaving helpless sobs that morph into dry heaves. I'm not sorry I had an abortion. I'm immensely relieved it's done. I'm crying because my life is a closed box.

A month later, I email the writer to announce my period has arrived. I am overjoyed. The relief comes in huge waves. His response: "I don't really need to hear about that."

"I don't really need to hear about that."

I begin to comprehend how he sees me. Or how he doesn't see me. I'm not a person. I don't continue to exist when I'm not in the same room as his dick. I'm a doll, I'm a cheerleader, I'm an editorial assistant. The parts of me that are useful to him are, while useful, real, but the rest of me is but the echo of a rhetorical tree fallen in a lonely forest.

I think back to my marriage. I was a nanny, a secretary, a maid. A useful accessory with no claim to an inner life.

I begin to love myself out of pure contrariness. I begin to inhabit my body again. I begin to stop loving men.

My reality is a female reality. I will not have it erased.

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