Five years later, my silence is less yawning and more circumstantial; I do not speak about abortion because nationally, we like to pretend it has happened to someone else, someone more far removed, someone else-else we don’t know, but support politically.
At first I began to talk about My Abortion because it insisted; the silence was jagged and hungry for acknowledgement. I felt a need to disclose a part of myself, to insist upon a place in the narrative that did not seem to acknowledge me, to disclose an event that was closer than someone else-else.
You don’t know what I look like, but let me tell you, at the time I looked like a boy. Not for a brief gender-and-sexuality-minor dapper experimental semester phase, but for years.For most of my life. I wanted to look like a boy. I thought I wanted to be one, that it would make my life easier. From a young age, I recognized, and was taught explicitly and implicitly, the power and access of masculinity. Back then, I was always read as a high school boy, or a lesbian. Short hair and short imaginations will do that. Now I know there are other words, in other cultures, the progenitors of my own hybrid culture, to describe how I felt, what I wanted, what I have and am living. These days, I’m not sure how I’m read. I have a harder time understanding myself in the imagination of others.
There was a distrust that sprang up between my body and my gender in the wake of my pregnancy, abortion, and ensuing reproductive health forays. Previously, I had not seriously considered my body’s ability to carry life. It was out of the question, until the end of undergrad, until a serious relationship, until I had a stable job and home and so on and so forth. Abortion was something I tucked away in the back of my mind when i had started having sex, an option I never wanted to use.
I was lucky, to be living in a city where access to abortion was a week, a train ride, a two hour wait, and $450 out of pocket away. Like many things in NYC, this is an example of the coalescing of resources, what can be done in the seat of empire.
-- a haiku, about one part of how it began, with a question
post-coital bombshell “should i be worried you’re late on your period?” yes
i think i got pregnant on this bedspread taken from the curb outside an anthropologie in soho, already one of the last times i would hang out with C before her death three years later. it covered a queen mattress (acquired through her trawlings on craigslist, driven from chelsea on the roof of her kind of boyfriend’s car, with M and i holding down the tarp). it laid on the floor of our newly flipped apartment, wood so old and sloped, it would drift like a raft in the night, away from the wall, into the middle of the room.
an artifact, like all the little receipts and chits and slips of paper i saved in envelopes stuffed between overlapping stories growing dusty between summons to housing court and bank statements, notes to myself and notes gleaned from the trash, transferred between repurposed shipping boxes and homes, these transactional slips like resin, age turning their edges amber, papering over what i knew i wouldn't want to forget.
artifacts instructions for early pregnancy tests (two boxes from the boy i had been dating, the second given the night before i left to fly across the country, thrust at me during my goodbye party, because he wanted to make sure, asshole)
a ticket stub to a movie seen as distraction, between testing positive and the abortion, with a scene that pulled a new and subtle trigger, made me realize i wouldn’t move on from this unmarked, without thinking or feeling differently, without unsure and unresolved feelings.
receipt for shake shack, my first meal after the procedure
‘script for paragard, the copper iud, effective as an emergency contraceptive up to 5 days. inserted after a slip up of latex and trust , and thrust
(it was just over two weeks since the abortion. he had finished, pulled out, and didn’t have the condom on.i said, are you serious, are you fucking serious. balancing my anger and his stupid fucking feelings. i was madnotmadsomad there was already nothing to be done, and so much to be done. i thought, or said, we just did this, we just fucking did this probably barked a mirthless laugh. he sheepishly ,shamefacedly, asked me if i wanted him to get Plan B. i said no. the chances of failure were too high. i didn’t want to wait 6 weeks for mysterious bleeding to make itself apparent, to
jerk around my hormones any more. and so, he had to shell out another $450, out of pocket. i didn’t feel guilty this time. )
removed the day after graduation, five days before going to Cebu for the first time in 17 years, at the PP on staten island, located on a sidewalk so sloped and angled, next to the courthouse. ate at the Not Guilty deli, both times.
some are missing now. the copy of an ultra sound, printed with 10 weeks, 2 days, and my legal name, middle initialed.there goes My plausible deniability. sometimes i wonder if my mom found it, and what does she think, and what did she do with it.
I have only missed my period once, been truly late a handful of times. i did not miss my period the first month I was pregnant i did not know this, until i was facing down my narrowed pro choices in the office of planned parenthood, too far along for the medical abortion i had planned so i chose i wasn’t going to leave the clinic pregnant.
all this information got gathered, stored to become lines of darkly ironic observation. after, to show i was even keeled, still wit as ever, i said that it was less invasive than going to the dentist, because at least i could talk
later, i would calculate that i must have conceived during my first ovulation after coming back to the states. later, i would calculate my undue date for an exact 40 weeks would have landed on thanksgiving of that year to myself, i would wryly, drily, shamefully joke that i was thankful to not have a kid every year, i think about how old a child would have been, how old i am now, where i live and how it would have been, to sustain that life outside of my body.
I’m not sure what i would do now, if i became pregnant unintentionally.
i see now that pregnancy goes beyond being an affliction, a blight, a byproduct of cishetero patriarchal programming.procreation is also a way culture is transmitted, the way a people survives. in some ways, i see having an abortion as another way i have “failed” to thrive, or “properly” take root here. I used to worry that I was the last in my lineage, that perhaps I had terminated our only chance at continuing on in this country. Now that I am a bit older, and my brain chemistry and existential anxiety has calmed down a little, I see life as more elastic, that a choice atone point is not a condemnation to be haunted by forever.
Art and voice by Alexis Lim