By a'misa chiu, 2011
This morning I wore slippers. I wanted to be comfortable.
The receptionist at the clinic directs me to wait until the nurses call on me. The room is grey, sterile and smells of alcohol swabs. It is deathly quiet with its only sound peeping out from the movie on the TV screen. I stand frozen for a bit, surveying the enclosed space, forgetting to breathe for a minute or so.
Breathe, I tell myself. Breathe.
There is another woman in the room who avoids my eye contact. I smile nervously, in spite of myself. I can’t imagine wanting to converse with anyone now, but I suddenly miss the light banter of the main waiting room; full with couples in intimate whisper, mothers reading storybooks to children and men commenting on weather and sports news. At least one could block out the sound there.
I cannot ignore the silence, emotions humming around the internalized grief I feel radiating off the other woman in the room. I sit in a corner seat. The seats are royal blue vinyl and squeak loudly every time I shift my body. The squeaking is amplified from the room’s silence and echoes as if the room is a cave. It is as cold as one.
There is no clock in the room. I cannot watch the seconds tick by, though I am certain to hear them ticking by. My feet are freezing. I regret wearing slippers. I wish I’d brought a pair of woolen socks with me. My toes feel frostbitten. They are beginning to go numb with pain. My toes may become black and lifeless-- with gangrene. I imagine snapping them off like matchsticks, like peas off the stock.
How much longer must I wait?
The air conditioning is on high. Cool air spills out of the vent near my head. I attempt to make eye contact with the other woman again just to communicate to her that everything will be fine, that I knew why she’s here, that I understand her pain because I understand my own pain. Well at least trying to understand. But I’ve lost my voice and the ability to speak. I am full of fear. I can feel my pupils dilating. My breath becomes shallow.
I wish I had a paper bag. Can I stand up and walk into the hallway and flag down a nurse? Do I have the strength? It’s so cold in here. I hug my legs to my chest under my sweatshirt. I look pregnant. I am pregnant. I wish I could smoke a cigarette in here. But I’ve stop smoking since I tested positive on the pee test. I’ve stopped drinking too. Cold turkey.
Five weeks ago, I was sleeping with this on-again-off-again boyfriend from college. Then suddnely, my taste buds changed and the smell of roasted coffee beans repulsed me. They say that your taste for certain foods changes every seven years. I had just turned twenty-one.
The room is waiting room purgatory. The other woman continues to avoid my gaze though I desperately attempt eye contact. We share the same nightmare. I, of anyone, can understand you, I think. But we sit ten feet apart from each other, separated by an infinite amount of self-isolation. We do not exist in the same universe anymore. We are completely removed from each other. I will never know her.
I barely know myself anymore.
“I turned twenty-one, two weeks ago.”
“I know,” he said, “I helped celebrate with you a couple days after, remember?”
“Yes, that was nice.” We had spent the day at the Egyptian Tearoom, drinking Turkish coffees and smoking cigarettes until we were almost too jittery and light-headed to drive home.
“They say your taste buds change every seven years. Mine have been changing. I hate curried chicken sandwiches now. And now the smell of coffee makes me nauseous.”
“Nauseous… Really?” He looked at me funny, like he was looking through me, not at me. He suddenly became distant. “You’re not fucking pregnant, are you?” Silence.
A nurse leads a middle-aged woman wearing a navy pantsuit into the room. She is wearing a nametag from a business conference and talking on her cell phone. My ears perk up and I begin to eavesdrop on her conversation, thankful for the distraction from waiting. The woman speaks to her teenage son in a mixture of broken English and Cantonese.
I know why she’s here, though I perceive that her son does not. She explains that there is dinner in the fridge and she will be home in a couple of days. She has left some money on the kitchen counter and her Blockbuster card, just incase he wants to rent movies while she’s away. She steps out into the hallway as her son begins arguing with her. I hear her yell, “I’ll explain later. Just, please, please be good.” When she enters the room again, I look down. I can’t look her in the eye.
We drove in silence to Rite-Aid and walked past the shampoo, summer wear, and toothpaste and into the feminine care section. He picked a medium-priced pregnancy test, the kind with two tests to be double positive. We went through the self-checkout line. I think we were both embarrassed and a little scared. As we drove back to my apartment, I began to feel queasy. I wanted to throw up.
The quiet voices of the TV movie remind me of better days. I keep reminding myself to stay strong, to keep calm. I am dizzy and things around me are hazy. The other women in the room are breathing deeply. Are they just as paralyzed and anxious as myself? As a young child, I would hyperventilate before SAT 9 testing, math pop quizzes and stage performances. And now, I feel claustrophobic. The walls begin to bend inwards. I fear that the room will collapse on us, and we will be forced to breath stale, uncirculated air.
I stand up and limp towards the hallway. “Um, excuse me, I’m freaking out. I’m about to faint,” I manage to gasp to the nearest passing attendant. “Paper bag...please…” I squeak out before my knees cave in. My eyelids flutter with fatigue. My blood sugar level drops. I fall down.
“Well, anything yet?” he said through the closed bathroom door.
“Hold on, I can’t pee. I think I’m nervous,” I said.
“Drink a couple of gulps of water from the tap,” he said.
“Okay. Be patient though. You’re making me nervous,” I said.
“Making you nervous?” he retorted, and then apologized quickly, “Sorry.”
I am finally able to urinate. I pee a steady stream onto the exposed tip of the plastic test. Fumbling the cardboard box for the directions, I set the test of the bathroom counter. Wait 3 minutes. If +, then the test is negative, if +/+, then the test is positive. If anytime is a time to pray, it would be these three minutes. Minute one, please, God, I haven’t even graduated college yet. Minute two, please, God, I want to be an architect. Minute three, please, God, my parents will kill me. God, do you hear me? Do you? GOD?
My neck no longer has the strength to hold up my head. My eyes are blank and dull. My breathing increases into a quick and shallow gasping, tears pour down and a heavy sense of defeat washes over me. I grab onto the towels in front of me, letting my body’s weight collapse down onto the towel rack, and let gravity take its course. Crying would be too shallow a definition for the pain I was experiencing.
There is a knock at the door. “Carrie, you okay?” The voice is gentle. He picks me up and leads me into the bedroom.
“We’re pregnant,” I whisper. Collapsing again in his lap, my tears stain the thigh of his jeans.
“Carrie. Would you please follow me?” The nurse with hazel eyes smiles. “Are you okay? You had a quite a spill earlier.”
“I felt a bit weak, but I’m okay now. I’m ready.”
“Are you Japanese?” the nurse asks me after I changed into a backless hospital gown the color of sea foam, “I’m hapa, and can tell you are Japanese because of your eyes. Your smile looks like my father’s.” I somehow manage a small smile.
“Now, during the procedure, just squeeze my hand. I’ll be here the whole time. My name is Julie,” the nurse said, “The procedure is abortion by vacuum suction. The fetus will be removed from the uterus by a small tube is called a vacurette. There will be slight pressure and you experience what feels like cramping. This is normal. Now hold my hand.”
I stare into nurse Julie’s hazel eyes throughout it all, the hum of the vacuum motor; the probe of the tube, the pop of the suction and through the immediate cramping. I squeeze Julie’s hand, and she seems to understand as she squeezes back. My eyes well up as the doctor removes the tubes and contraptions from my body. The tears keep coming. They flow down my cheeks, down my neck, and upon the floor. The tears form a pool around my bare feet. My knees shake and the blood dribbling down my legs mingles with the tears. I want to disappear. Sink into wetness to wash away the blood, the pain, the heartache. Just dive in and disappear.