Deciding Factors is an original short story written by Brianca J. Hadnot.
A young woman is presented with a difficult decision! Confused and alone she wants to make the right choice ,but struggles to find her own voice amongst the varying opinions of her family and friends.
I open the door, and the drowning scent of bleach slaps me immediately. It makes me sick, not solely because of the stench of disinfectants, but the guilt the product hoped to clear away. The room is cold, and the silence rings in my ears like a symphony. I walk forward to check- in with the receptionist, and I feel the eyes of every person in the room studying me. They are scattered around the waiting area, several seats apart in the name of personal space, but their energy is intrusive and hostile. Their eyes follow me from the desk where the receptionist sat, to my plastic chair near the door. They read my mind, sense my unease, and I cannot stop them. Their stares judge me, and without so much as an introduction they decide who I am; from my chair I evaluate them— there is a mother with her small child and a newborn still bundled safely in her car seat. A few seats down there is a young couple, the girl has thick blonde hair and alternates between glances at the clock and at the door that leads to the examination rooms. Her boyfriend doesn’t look up at all, he has his headphones in and is furiously tapping at his cellphone. There is an older woman here too, she is in the corner with the latest copy of US weekly, she looks up at me and I quickly look away. I wish my mother were here.
Last night at dinner she would not look at me. She handed me my dinner with her back turned and her eyes trained on the meat loaf. I linger, hoping she will turn around and notice my pain. That she would see it and pull me into her arms and rock me slowly and tenderly as if I were a child again. I want her to hum, and I to fall asleep and when I wake this would be nothing more than a nightmare.
My mother does not do that, and during dinner everything she vowed never to say hangs in the air between us. Pot roast, potatoes and sweet peas, my mother never makes peas she knows that I hate them. But tonight they roll aimlessly around my plate. Pleading with me, hoping that I reconsider. That evening, I put myself to sleep. Not by the soft hum of my mother, but from the violent tears of mourning.
“Guillory. Garza. Haymaker” called a voice, bored from the endless hours of repetitive action.
I hear my name and jump out of the cheap plastic chairs that line the walls of the waiting room.
“That’s me, Guillory” I extend my hand expecting the woman in deep blue scrubs to grab it in embrace. She does not, she places an empty cup in it and directs me to a bathroom. I am to fill it.
Past the waiting room, I note that the atmosphere manages to be even less comforting. My urine sample is left on a steel platter in the bathroom, along with a dozen others. I am now in waiting room #2, this one has a series of worn couches holding the bodies of women aged 16- 41, in the far corner a muted television is secured to the wall. The trailer for the DVD urges us to press play, but no-one has bothered to give us a remote. The women seem not to notice it, anyway. Over the same door we entered hangs an exit sign, the bulb is busted and it blinks at a spastic rhythm.
I begin to wonder if the wait is an opportunity to reevaluate my decision. Perhaps some congressman thought, the government mandated video, or the murmur of a growing heartbeat wasn’t enough.
‘There should be a wait, to process it all‘ I envision the attitudes of righteous men in stiffly dry-cleaned suits. Them, in a boardroom, laughing carelessly as they made decisions in the interest of women. The arrogance, the hypocrisy. My mouth began to turn sour as I thought of these men, men I have never met, that have wagered so much claim to my reproductive system. Anger rises within me, and I gawk aloud “Pro-Life!” For who? Am I not a life too?
Those men in their fancy suits, nor my mother understand that I too mourn a life that will not come to be. They believe me to be a monster, placing laws and rules intricately hoping to disarm me. But I am disarmed, I bury myself deeper into the cushions of the couch and pretend that it is my mother’s arms wrapping around me, and I feel safe.
After the nurses have corralled enough patients into the second waiting room, she hands out a questionnaire attached to a clipboard. Have you ever done drugs? How many children do you have? Any prior conditions? Medications? Number of abortions prior to? Sexual Partners?
My stomach begins to hurt, and I imagine that I would throw up. Grateful now that they directed me not to eat sixteen hours before the procedure. I grab my belly and It feels the same way it did six weeks ago, except six weeks ago I was still in charge of my life.
Six weeks ago! My dorm mate invited me to a party, nothing special just a couple of friends getting together at the SC. I’d been studying for finals, and I needed to unwind a bit. A few drinks, and I was going back to prepare for my bio exam. It was just a party, no different to any before that. Guys, drinks, weed.
I hooked up with a guy I saw around campus alot, but knew very little. Henry, he was in comp with me, beautiful smile, and eyes like butter. That night I found out he was planning to go to med school after graduation. I also found out he was a good kisser, and doesn’t know how to pull out worth a shit. Asshole!
“So call him,” my friend Lexi advised after I confessed the terrible mess to her over video chat.
“I don’t want to talk to him, what would I say anyway ‘hey you remember you hooked up with that lame chick at that lamer party six weeks ago? Well, congrats you’re a Daddy!’”
“Well, he deserves to know!” Lexi is an idealist. I believe, it is because she stayed home when I went off to college. When she got pregnant, she did not crumble the way I am, she dropped out of high school without a second thought, and just like that dreams- of traveling the world together, adventures, a career in the navy- were no more. She had given birth that summer and was back at work before the leaves changed in the fall. Of course, Lexi had no regrets, she seemed made for motherhood. But it never stopped me from wondering who she could have been, or who I may become.
“Yes, Lexi! We will get married, and get a dog and a house, and he wont resent me at all for trapping him.” Lexi is quiet now, she herself is a single mother and she resents my sarcasm.
“Look,” I say hoping that Ican back pedal without hurting her feelings any more than I already have. “your situation was different” and I believe that, she at least was in a relationship. But the premise remains, someone is bound to lose their freedom.
More so, for me, the night is a drunken haze, followed by a single obligatory phone call, five pitiful text messages, then nothing. The thought of confiding in him, or worse expecting him to accept any real responsibility seemed as plausible as snowfall during a Texas summer.
“You can try,” Lexi says, recovered from the unintentional blow and now speaking as if she had been reading my mind.
She is right, I could try, but I do not want to. What I want is to finish college, get a job that I love, benefits, flex time, with a suit and a salary. Be a super boss, and climb the corporate ladder within the first three years. After that, I want to meet a man—educated, ambitious, impressive, nice, tall, good hair, white teeth, no more than twice my age minus 7 years — and fall in love. I want to marry—intimate affair, thirty people, family and friends, white dress, red roses— and buy a house. And after five years, because most marriages fail within the first five years, we will have a child.
Lexi sighs in despair, and I understand. Lexi is selfless, for her life is not a choice. There is no decision to be made. But she loves me, so she tries to understand.
In the background my goddaughter begins to scream. Once again, I wonder who my friend may have been had she felt that she had a choice. I had seen beautiful, smart, and talented girls become mothers far too soon, and lose themselves. By the time the child could walk they had become completely unrecognizable. They had committed their lives to their children. Somebody had to, the fathers never seemed to stay- fatherless children born to fatherless children. The thought of becoming them petrified me.
Besides, he was completely forgettable, we had shared nothing more but a drunken night together, and I was fine with that, at least until three weeks ago when the two lines on the stick glowed positive.
I peed in a panic as my dorm mates argued outside of the bathroom, my period was three weeks late and I had begun eating twice as many plates in the student cafe. They took me to the pharmacy and both promised to support whatever decision I made, while simultaneously urging me to be ‘smart’
“My body,My choice” recited Ashley, in a tone that seemed to imply a lack of value for the sanctity of life. “why should they have any say over what I do with my body.”
“Not your body bitch, the baby!” retorted Jamie.
“It’s not a baby!!”
I open the door to the bathroom before Ashley can respond, the results had come back and as they looked on at me with sympathy and affection, I matched them with terror and panic
“I feel like a monster” I said finally. “I am not ready to be a mother, I am not ready to take a life either. I just want to be a girl.”
The tears begin to burn the corners of my eyes, and then fall freely down to my cheeks. I am not sure if I am crying for myself or for the baby or for both of us.
“Guillory… Guillory” I was next. I clutch at my stomach, and wish I that there was no abortion, no pregnancy, no parties to ruin my life.
Guillory, the nurse calls again, this time impatient. I stand, the exit sign blinks and so does the nurse. I feel alone. The nurse waits.