What Abortions Should Be Like


As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where there was a den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a Woman, standing in a certain place, with her face from her own house, a Letter in her hand, and a great Burden upon her back. I looked, and saw her open the Letter, and read therein; and as she read, she wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, she brake out with a lamentable cry, saying What shall I do?

It’s nothing flashy, that’s important. Clean–not just clean in the way that the absence of dirt makes something clean, but fresh and swept down to the root–and open, but nothing you’d look twice at. Maybe something in international waters so nobody can bother you on the walk up. The boat up.

Someone nice at the door, maybe Maya Angelou. Someone who puts you at ease.

Maybe you’d prefer Theresa of Avila, or Noel Coward, or Rosie Perez, or Robert Townsend. But for now let’s stick with Maya Angelou.

“Hi, how are you, I’m Maya Angelou,” she’ll say. “Melon slice?” And she’ll offer you a plate with some melon slices on it. And you’ll say yes or no, depending on how you’re feeling that day.

Good melon too, not the flavorless crunchy stuff you get at the supermarket. It’s soft, and, fragrant, and you let it insinuate itself into your mouth more than you chew it. She opens the door for you, and you step inside. Soft lighting. Unscented candles. Everyone in loungewear, even you, the really soft-looking kind that rich women wear. The carpet is so thick you can feel your toes sink between the heavy, nubby threads.

You think you should probably say something to Maya Angelou, because she’s Maya Angelou, and it’s really nice of her to take time out of her day to talk to you before you get your abortion. “Do you really wear a hat every time you write?”

“I really do,” she says. “Would you like to sign in?”

Of course it’s B.D. Wong sitting at the reception desk, feet up and reading an old edition of Time Out. “Hello,” he says to you. “Hello, hello, hello. We’ve been expecting you all morning.” You sign in and tell him how much you loved him in M. Butterfly.

“You saw that?” he says.

“I loved that,” you say.

“We’re keeping her,” he tells Maya Angelou. “We’re keeping you,” he tells you. His smile looks like it might leap off his face.

You walk a little further into the room, and there’s someone sitting at a piano, playing quiet music. It’s nondescript, but oddly familiar. You keep almost-catching the thread of a familiar tune in it. He turns around, and Billy Joel smiles reassuringly at you. “You’re making the right choice,” he says.

“Bill,” Maya says.

“Not that you need me to tell you that,” he says, grinning sheepishly. (It doesn’t have to be Billy Joel for you, of course. You can change that, if you want to). He steeples his fingers together, then pushes them out over his head. “‘Careless Talk’ or ‘This Night’?” he asks.

And you say “Careless Talk.” It’s that kind of day.

Eventually, Maya touches you carefully on the arm, and looks up at the door, and you excuse yourself to go get your abortion. Bill looks after you with a raised eyebrow. “Would you like me to come with you?”

Maya matches him eyebrow for eyebrow.

“I’m just asking,” he says gently, then starts playing “Don’t Ask Me Why” before you shut the door behind you.

It might be very brief and very simple, your abortion; it might be very late and very complex and at the tail end of a thick clot of emotions. That part I can’t dream differently for you, I’m afraid. It will take as long as it will take.

One of the orderlies looks incredibly familiar to you, although you can’t figure out who he reminds you of under his surgical mask. That can’t be Jeff Goldblum, you think to yourself. He winks at you.

So you get your abortion. After it’s over, whenever over is, Maybe-Jeff-Goldblum takes you into the recovery room, where you catch up on your reading. “Afterwards,” Possibly Jeff says, pointing to the windows, “You can take a walk around the gardens, if you’d like to, or you can go through the non-denominational prayer labyrinth. If you’d like to.”

You nod.

There’s a smaller room further down the hallway that he points out to you, with all the little things you like, the things you use when you want to feel beautiful, if you’d care to go in. Or maybe beautiful isn’t the adjective you’d prefer just now. Dashing, maybe. Or healthy. Or handsome. Or safe, or strong, or something. But all the little things you need are in there. So you go in there, and you use the things you need.

Robyn is there, of course, only she’s impossibly tiny, the size of Tinkerbell’s little sister. She’s perched up on the top of the mirror, and her entire body lights up when she sees you. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she cries, clapping her hands together in front of her face. “I’m so glad that you’re here with me.”

You smile at her, and her entire face takes on a focused solemnity. “If you feel like you would like to cry,” she says to you, “you’re just awfully welcome to.”

You thank her.

“Of course you don’t have to,” she says, “because you might not want to at all. But if you would like to, because sometimes it’s difficult, whether something begins or doesn’t begin or is going to begin a little bit later, and if you would like to cry in this room you are welcome to do it.”

You thank her again.

There’s a place here where you can go and play racquetball, if you’d like to play racquetball. There’s tennis at three and a hike at sunset, but you have to bring your own bug spray.

You get a light massage; nothing self-indulgent, just something to refresh yourself. You sit in the sauna a while. You take some melon to go, when you get up to leave.

“Take some more melon,” Billy Joel urges you before you leave. “Take some home with you.”

Maya Angelou shushes him. “She doesn’t have to take the melon.”

“You don’t have to leave yet,” Billy says. “It’s only sunset. You can stay the night, if you wanted to.”

You know.

“Take some more melon, then. It’s just going to go bad here. No one’s going to eat it here. Waste of a good melon.”

“Bill,” Maya says. “The woman can only eat so much melon.”

“I know,” he says. “I just want to be sure she knows she can have more melon, if she wants some.”

She smiles. “I know,” she says.

She knows.

So Maya Angelou waves goodbye to you, and so does the man who exists in a continuous state of Jeff Goldblum possibility. And B.D. Wong waves Time Out at you, and tiny Robyn waves too. Billy Joel leaps up and hugs you in an embrace that lifts you off your feet. Later, you find that he’s snuck an extra sandwich and another three slices of melon in your purse.

And then the sun starts to go down, and you walk down to the dock, and you realize that no one has spoken louder than a whisper to you the entire day. And there’s a boat waiting for you.

Maybe you think swan boats are entirely too precious (I do too). Let’s say just an ordinary boat, then. But it could be a swan boat, if you wanted it to be. If you change your mind about needing one. How often in your life do you get the chance to ride a giant swan boat? Anyhow, you step onto it.

And if it’s empty, it’s perfectly empty, and wonderfully still, and you lean your head against the mast a little, and you close your eyes, and you breathe in the sunset as the boat takes you home.

And if it isn’t empty, you recognize the form already standing in the boat long before you reach the edge of the water. And it’s a face you’ve been longing to see for a very long time, and that face breaks into that old and long-loved grin in the way it always used to, and you don’t say anything at first, when the two of you come face to face. And you go home too.

Anyhow, that’s what I think abortions should be like.

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This post originally appeared on The Toast.