Donyae Coles | 2497 words
“It’s not birth control,” the nurse said to Imani, setting the clipboard down, pausing in her questioning.
“I know,” she responded, avoiding the woman’s eyes, pulling at her coat sleeves.
The woman sighed, there was still an edge to her voice but under that there was some care, some hope. “I see girls like you all the time. You say you know but you still end up here. Listen, you’re not going to keep this from happening until you learn to take care of yourself.””
She looked up at the woman, her squat body in pink scrubs, a stethoscope around her neck. Imani knew exactly what kind of girls the older woman meant. Girls like her, young, poor, and most of all black. Quick to lay down, quick to spread their legs. Too stupid to think of the consequences. She wanted to ask her how she should protect herself. She was on the pill the last time and it didn’t work. She was afraid of the kind you implant. That when the thing grew in her, because she knew it wouldn’t work, it would push the implant out of place and stab her before she could have the abortion. Swallowing her questioned she mumbled, “I know.””
The nurse frowned, turning back to her clipboard, sure that the girl before her wouldn’t take her advice, “When was your last period?”
She thought for a moment, counting backwards, remembering the weeks of prayer that ended in disappoint. Not this time, not again, please, please, please, she had prayed but her belly was bloated and full all the same with a period that wouldn’t come, not this month or the next if she waited. And she couldn’t wait. “Two months ago.”
The nurse looked at her again, eying the noticeable bulge of her body, “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m just fat,” she covered but she wasn’t. The thing just grew fast.
The woman made a sound in her throat before sighing, “Alright, the doctor will be in to exam you in a few moments. Put on this gown.”
Of course, he has to go through the motions, she thought but she wasn’t worried. This doctor would take care of it. This was the doctor you saw when you had a problem. This was the place that was better than a hanger but it was really no different. Everyone knew if you had the money, Dr. Hatford would help you. Sure, everyone knew about the girls who got hurt but it was a blessing.
He helped when there was no one else.
She pulled off her clothing and slipped into the gown. The smooth paper jabbed at her soft body where it folded and made loud crinkling sounds as she rested her elbows on her knees and waited.
Her eyes traveled the room, she had never been her before but it was all familiar. The off white/light blue walls, the pictures of smiling women mingled with health charts. The counter that held the sink ordained with speculums, still in their sterile packaging. It was always the same. She had been to every clinic within driving distance but she saved this one for last. This one was for an emergency.
She turned at the sound of the door to meet the top of the Doctor’s balding head. A clear peach area framed by wispy white hair. He looked up and smiled at her, his eyes watery behind large glasses, the wrinkles around them deep and friendly. “Let’’s get a look at you,” he said as he walked to the sink.
She nodded and laid back, staring up at the light, the sound of water hitting the sink followed by the rustle of paper towels and finally the snap of latex gloves. “Knees up,” he directed, his voice friendly but firm.
She moved as told, still covered by the paper gown. She could hear him moving the ultrasound equipment closer. The doctor cleared his throat and moved her gown, revealing her to him.
“We’re going to take a look at things, I’ll be using the intravaginal ultrasound since you’re not that far along. Are you ready?” he asked.
She felt the device slide into her, the doctor’s movements and then a long, “Hmmm.”
A white electric shock of nerves ran through her at the sound. I waited too long this time, she thought as he pulled his wand from her, panic flooded her.
“I think you’re a bit off in your count. I need to get another look here,” he said pushing the gown up further, revealing her belly, that bloated and full space. He raised an eyebrow and then said, “This will be a bit cold,” before squeezing the gel onto her skin.
He ran the wand over her stomach, frowning at the monitor for a moment, pausing to click at the keys. He rubbed his chin and then pulled back from her. “According to these measurements, you’re closer to 20 weeks along. Now, I think you’’re still able to get the procedure but we’re going to need a better estimate. More than my equipment can handle.”
“What does that mean?” her heart pounded in her chest.
He stood and gathered some paper towels for her, handing her the bundle to clean herself up before speaking again. “I’ll have to send you for a better look at the pregnancy and I can’t do the procedure here, you’re too far along.”
“I can’t go anywhere else, I don’t have time. I need this thing out of me,” she said hurriedly, covering herself without wiping off the gel. The paper stuck to her skin as she sat up to face him.
He finished washing his hands, dried them and then spread them out in front of himself, signaling his defeat on the matter. “I’m sorry but we cannot do that procedure here.”
“That’s bullshit,” she hissed. “I know you help girls like me. My friend’s cousin came here and had it done. She said you did it right here in this office. You have to help me!”
Dr. Hatford frowned and sat back on his stool, his hands dangled between his legs as he considered her urgent words.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t curse. It’s just,”” she started.
He held his hand up. “It’s dangerous. I’ll help but it’ll hurt.”
She nodded, relieved. Dr. Hatford was where girls like her went for emergencies. Girls who didn’t have any other choice. Girls who were trapped. “Thank you,” she said softly.
“Now,” he said standing, “You can’t wait more than two weeks so you’ll want to make your appointment soon.”
“I have the money now,” she replied.
He paused, raising an eyebrow.
“Can you do it today?” she asked, the question coming in one quick breath. Two weeks was too long, she felt it. She had never let it go this long before and it was already too late. “You can get this thing out of me.”
He paused, frowning at her for a moment but then he nodded slowly. Imani wasn’t sure if he felt sorry for her or if he could feel her desperation but nodding he spoke, “Make sure you have someone to pick up tonight. The nurse will give you the instructions.””
He nodded and stood up, “Get cleaned up.”
He paused before opening the door, turning back to her. “I am only doing this to help. There’s not many options for girls like you out there, I know. I just want to help you.”
She nodded as he left. Alone she pulled the sticky paper gown from her skin using the dry parts to wipe the residue form her belly before gathering a fresh handful of paper towels for the space between her legs. It was almost over. After this maybe her body would be able to reject his issue on its own. Maybe this time would be the last.
Dressed she made her way through the short hall and back to the waiting room. A different nurse sat behind the desk in the same pink scrubs. The woman smiled, “Imani?”
Imani nodded and approached the desk. The woman smiled and handed her a small card with a time written on it. “Don’t eat anything else today, alright? Make sure you have someone to drive you. We’ll give you after care instructions after the appointment.”
Imani nodded and turned to the waiting room, her mission nearly accomplished, she walked towards the door. It was full of women and girls, their eyes looking up furtively at her as she passed. They were her in a way even if they only had to do this once. A mistake or not they didn’t want what was growing in them and that was reason enough to sit in the waiting room and pay the doctor.
Outside she walked down the block and waited for the bus. The cold winter air bit at her skin and she felt the first flutters of the thing that grew in her.
“Why did you wait so long?” her mother hissed in a low voice at her, picking up the full plate of food that Imani couldn’t eat.
“I didn’t mean to mama,” she said slowly, “I just,”” she shrugged, her face turning red.
Her mother turned to the stove to scrape the food back into the pots until it was time to put dinner away. Her brother and father needed to eat yet. Placing the plate in the sink she turned back, shaking her head. “It was stupid. Do your duty. You know what it costs to be in this family,” she said again low.
She nodded again, staring at the table, “I know, mama.”
“It doesn’t matter to him if it never comes. They just want the pleasure of making, you know that. That’s all they care about. You’’re lucky, you don’t have to drop any. Not like your grandmother. We are blessed. He protects us and this is all he asked. You should be thankful!”
“I know, mama,” she repeated.
She snorted, “If you’re tired of it get yourself a husband. Get out of this house. Let it move on to your cousin then. Your auntie will see she gets to the doctor better than you. I swear, I gave you too much freedom.”
Imani thought of her cousin, she was barely three years younger, just turning 16. She thought of her smile and laughter. All the things that would end if she didn’t keep the duty that was passed from woman to woman in her family. The duty to lie down and accept and how hard was that really? No, the hard part was everything after.
The thing kicked at her now, expanding to take up more space but she ignored it. It was almost over. “No, mama, it’s fine. I’m sorry. I know better. I won’’t let this happen again.”
“Good,” she said, “It’s easier to take care of it early. You don’t want to be stuck with it like your grandma.”
“I need you to drive me,” she said finally.
Her mother nodded, pulling clean plates for the rest of the family. “What time?”
“6:00. It will be a few hours, I think,” she said.
Her mother nodded again. “Don’t tell him,” she said, lowering her voice. She didn’t have to identify him. Imani knew her mother didn’t want her father to know. “He wouldn’t understand. Men don’t understand these things, not really.”
Imani nodded, silently promising to keep the secret. The burden of the women of their family.
“It’s a blessing,” she finally said.
“A blessing,” her mother repeated, “Go get some rest.”
She nodded again slipping from the table to hide in her own room. She couldn’t let him see her, he couldn’t shame him with the obviousness of her pregnancy. She should know better.
He gave, not her father but that other HIM that visited them all until they belonged to another. Until they left the family behind. Their labor paid for their safety. No sons lost in the street. No homes burned in the dead of night. A blessing, and the only price was the bodies of the daughters and the blessing stretched out over their family protecting each and every one of them.
If this time it’s too much for my body then I’ll never have to go again. He won’t know I can’’t carry anything and I’ll never have a daughter to pass this on to, she thought.
The darkness was still and quiet save for the clanking of the heater as it banged to life. She took deep breaths and waited. No one would be up. No one but Him.
The door creaked open and heavy footsteps made their way into the small space. The scent of Him, something that smelled like air and earth mingled together filled her nostrils but her eyes stayed open and focused on the dark ceiling.
He walked across the room, the sound familiar. The heavy steps and light rustling of feathers before he was close enough to touch. She could see his form from the corner of her eye as he reached out his hand to hover over her body, the cold pouring from him.
He touched her almost like a lover. The same motions but it lacked passion, it lacked the desire she would have felt. His cold sunk into her, freezing her. But this was her duty, to receive Him. He stopped and let his fingers drop to her skin, like ice, over her belly where the thing had grown enough to be felt. He held his touch there for a moment and then was gone, just as quickly.
She stared at the ceiling, trying to will herself to be thankful that she wasn’t her grandmother who had to birth and bury these things in the backyard. That she wasn’t her mother who had to drive for miles and miles to have it removed from her before it could remove itself, force its life into a world where it couldn’t survive.
She tried to be thankful that she had a choice but all she could feel was the cold touch of his hand on her belly and the thing that kicked at her. The thing that she had waited almost too late to remove.
Alone she stared at the ceiling and waited, letting the minutes tick by as she wondered what the doctor would find when he pulled it from her. Would it be beautiful like it’s father with golden wings and perfect features or would it be just like the others? She imagined the double rows of teeth tearing at the too small mouth as it struggled for breath. She felt the misshapen limbs pound against her.
It was almost too late but not quite. The thing in her was the Angel’s blessing but the doctor would be hers. This time, she thought staring at the dark ceiling, maybe I’ll be blessed too.