it was nice not to be so alone

July 2010

“Let’s hug,” Laura said, approaching me with arms open. “You know, you need at least five hugs a day to maintain your emotional health.”

I willingly accepted, and we held each other for a minute. I sat on her windowsill, and she stood on her bedroom’s plastic-covered floor. Her freshly painted teal walls surrounded us.

The hug felt good. And even if she was making it up, I still thought her hypothesis was valid. If only we did get five hugs every day. Hugs aren’t complicated, and they can make you feel better in a second. The all-purpose cure. Hugging was one of the million things I loved about Laura. Since high school, she’s been unconditionally supportive, lending a wise word of advice here and a hug there. Her advice was well thought out, biology-based, intelligent and always eloquent, whether she was telling you how to eat the ideal breakfast meal or tips on shaving your legs (or tips on how to grow your leg hair out) or profound life guidance. But the best thing about Laura is that sometimes her hugs didn’t need motivation. She hugged just to hug, which is what we were doing now.

We peeled back the plastic, revealing a marbley brown carpet that was probably older than both of us. I sat down on the floor, cross-legged, and Laura grabbed her guitar, which she named George. I watched her strum, first playing an F chord, then a C, then advancing into a Spanish melody, then into the intro of “The Potato Song,” a song about she had written about, yes, potatoes, in 11th grade. She plucked, pulled, slid, twanged in front of me. It was a while before I interrupted her.

“Laura!” I almost shouted, using my over-confident voice. My volume masked my fear. I had rehearsed what I was going to say, but I didn’t rehearse my timing. I knew this opportunity might never re-emerge.

She didn’t answer, just simply ceased playing.

“I have something to tell you…” I stuttered. “I mean, I need your help… Uh, is there anyone home?”

“Sure,” she said. I knew that face. I hadn’t seen it much, but I recognized the look of concern as she got up and glanced out the window to check for cars in the driveway.

“So I’m telling you because I know that I can trust you,” I started building up the suspense. God, I’m so dramatic. Get to the point! “And you can’t tell anyone… because if this got out, people would think of me differently.”

Laura shook her head, letting me continue. I looked down at the matted carpet, then to the side. I couldn’t match her eyes.

“So…” The words couldn’t come out, just like a month ago when I told Pete over the phone.

“I took a pregnancy test,” I had told him.

“Yeah?” His voice shook.

“Yeah.” Silence followed. I couldn’t bear to say the words, so I just waited to muster the courage. It didn’t come. I heard him breathing hard. I knew he knew. I didn’t have to say anything more.

But unlike living two hours apart connected by a phone line, Laura and I were face to face. We were connected by two feet of space. I had to confess.

“I’m pregnant,” I said, smiling nervously. Cold flooded my arms and legs while warmth filled my face like I was drunk on wine. My head started to tingle. I hadn’t been this nervous since freshman orientation.

Laura scooted closer, pulling me in. I had a few good friends left from high school, Laura included. The casual friends filtered out when we all went to separate schools after graduation. I planned on keeping on keeping the remaining golden friendships forever. But still, I decided to only tell one friend. I didn’t want anyone else to know. Like I had told her, I needed somebody to trust.

Whenever we all got together, we’d gossip about classmates who just got engaged or had a baby. We’d talk about them in disbelief, saying, “I feel so old.” Everyone around us seemed to be taking very adult-like steps, and we needed to be above it — to prove that we were all just kids still. None of us wanted to be that girl who got knocked up in high school or the girl who had two kids and was dating her boss at the gas station convenience store. Or the girl who needed an abortion because she missed a day of birth control, like me.

Laura gave value to the most beautiful things – friendship, nature, sexuality, desire, love, health and even trees. She valued the moss on the trees and the tiny organisms that live in the moss on the trees.

“Are you keeping it? Or are you getting rid of it?” she asked, bluntly.

I let out a big sigh. “I’m getting an abortion Friday.” The word abortion flowed past my lips. It sounded like any other appointment – leisurely almost. As if I were saying, “I’m getting my nails done Friday.” “I’m meeting Allison for lunch Friday.” “I’m getting a new phone Friday.” But I supposed that was the most straightforward way of saying it. Laura probably would’ve thought of something more articulate.

She offered to go with me before I could even ask. I was hoping she would. I couldn’t go to the clinic alone because I was going to be on pain meds and wouldn’t be able to drive home by myself. If I hadn’t been drugged, I’m positive I would’ve tried to go without help or support. I pride myself on independence.

Pete was going on vacation with his family the day of my scheduled abortion. I begged him to stay. He said he couldn’t because his parents would suspect. They would need an answer to why he had to stay home from Disney World, and he couldn’t think of anything. I told him I’d rather him go away than for his parents to find out I was pregnant. I was ashamed. I had to be hidden.

This was our thing. (Like they say, it takes two to tango.) But somehow it turned into my thing very quickly. Without Pete there, the whole experience was exclusively mine. From the discovery, the brown mess instead of my regular period, my journey to the grocery store to buy a pregnancy test, hiding it behind a bag of candy at the register, finding a cup to pee in, hanging out in the bathroom while I waited, lying lifelessly in my bed while I struggled with my situation silently, the phone call, the second trip to the grocery store, the third and fourth pregnancy tests, saying goodbye to the money I was saving for textbooks, Googling (a lot of it), awkwardly calling the clinic, frighteningly making an appointment – this was all me. Pete had played a tiny part in the decision, but getting an abortion didn’t really seem like a decision. It was a natural solution, and he just kind of agreed with me. I hadn’t really thought of any other options at the time. Abortion would solve my problems. I had no money or maturity: two of the most crucial things to have if you’re going to give birth. Abortion was not a simple solution, but it was necessary.

Laura and I detailed a plan for that Friday. I’d sleep over and leave in the morning for the 8 o’clock appointment. We’d tell her mom that we were going hiking and wanted to get an early start on the day. We talked a little more and then moved on. The whole thing was hard to talk about because I’m never able to piece together words to express how I feel. But I was relieved that Laura understood, and I was relieved that I had told someone. It was nice not to be alone.

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