It was 9-ish o’clock, and I was barefoot in the bathroom. The fan was whirring and condensation was trickling down the mirror. In the reflection, I looked at Boyfriend and made good on my promise that I would do it. He had said that I was “acting weird recently”, and apparently my period had been late (although who knew really, because I was on the pill), so he had brought a test from Auckland.
With a few breaths and a relaxed feeling in my stomach, I peed on a stick.
Instantly, there were two lines. Positive.
Like, not-even-a-blink, instantly.
I met eyes with Boyfriend and he was white cement crumbling violently.
I met eyes with normalcy just before it jumped ship.
I met eyes with anger, resentment, pain and disappointment just before they enveloped me; shame had hold of my hair, and yanked it hard.
I met eyes with the teacher in high school who had shoved down my throat the importance of abstinence and purity of virginity.
I closed my eyes, and the room flooded with silence. Boyfriend was only just finding the air to breathe.
My first instinct was to reassure him that everything would be fine. As an incessant empath, my coping mechanism was to help him breathe again. Five minutes later, we were having sex, which temporarily soothed me, but I latched onto the thought that maybe we should use a condom.
“…please don’t cum inside me… please don’t,” I choked and collapsed and heaved and released the emotions that had struck me in the bathroom. “…please please please don’t cum, please…”
I didn’t want to get pregnant.
But alas, the incomprehensible was unravelling around me, and I wasn’t coping anymore.
Boyfriend locked his arms around my body and held me together as my body convulsed and shuddered. I was falling like Alice and hitting the ground like rain.
What was once the act that provided me with ethereal peace had morphed into the monsters under the bed. Disapproving voices and disappointed head-shakes stampeded out from beneath, only to sit on the duvet cover until I agreed that, yes, I had failed myself. And then I slept.
I told Mama two days later, and cried hard down the phone in my towel after a hot shower.
“Oh, I’m so sorry this has happened… we’ll get you back home and take care of it… (Boyfriend) is here, everything will be fine.”
I knew I didn’t want a child, that was a non-decision. But the reality was that it was more than just the fact that I was so far from being ready to be a mother — it was the teachings of my previous Catholic high school, which I’d recently left for another, that breathed down my neck at decision time; we were the good ones, the merciful ones, the ones who spoke for those who had no voice.
“All life is sacred, all life is sacred,” beaten and repeated.
A mumbling mess was as much of an excuse as I could drum up for my school when I told them I had to go home at short notice. I watched my soccer coach make an attempt to work out what was going on, and I wanted to shut his judgment up and submerge myself in the lake.
There was shame shadowing me from the South to the North of Aotearoa, spanning and colouring landmark after landmark, every place I had travelled to.
The next day, I met with three doctors and a nurse, was shown to a room with my four supporters shuffling behind me, and asked Mum to sit in the ‘patient’s’ chair because I refused to have the attention directed at me. Across the road outside, a group of seven gathered with bibles in hand, looking to convince people to ‘save a life’, ‘follow God’.
All life Is sacred.
Honestly, I just wanted to get the fuck out of the clinic as soon as I stepped in, because there was nothing more uncomfortable for me than being victimised, felt sorry for, stared at as though I had really fucked up and I needed pity. I hated it. So while everyone was filling up the small sterile space with discomfort and intentional kindness, and Boyfriend had me locked in his embrace, I sought to feel absolutely nothing.
I tried to forget the disapproving facial expression of the woman who took the ultrasound; I couldn’t help but remember the sympathy hug that the nurse who prescribed me the pill a few months earlier had given me. The trash sex talks that were meant to scare us out of sex were on repeat, and the image of myself – someone who supposedly had it all together, was shattered. Forty-seven minutes later, I was given a pill to induce the miscarriage.
My pelvis was gored and I was rocking back and forth to the tune of the movie playing. There was blood on my hands and shame in the pain. I went to stand up and buckled when it sinched me inward. If you can imagine hooking a fish, I was being dragged through the water.
Is this enough? Is this pain sufficient for you?
Every tear that escaped my eye was another exhausted apology and wish to make it stop.
When it finally did, I was slow for days.
It was a secret to Boyfriend’s parents and when we saw them next, at a snow centre in outer Auckland, the clot of tissue and cells passed onto the toilet paper. It is cemented in my memory; the act of discarding an experience in the toilet, and flushing it away as if it never happened.
Don’t worry, I am still working through it.
Cover by Devon Wilson