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on the verge
by stephanie bryan
7.24.04
writing

It wasn't as cold and metallic as I had imagined it being.

For some reason you watch all these HBO Lifestyles: Family in Crisis movies, and you would think that an abortion clinic should be this cold and dreary place where everything is made out of metal, just for added effect. I imagined these long hallways with perfectly shinned, speckled tile so that you could hear the up-click and down-click of the doctor's shoes; shoes that would have heels, not because it's realistic or efficient, but just because I think that the sound of clicking heels down a long hallway should be present in the atmosphere, again, for emphasis.

I imagined I would hear the music slowly rising in this half-assed attempt to make me feel like I was somewhere completely normal and social and non-intimidating. Probably the same kinds of elevator type muzack they play in the dentist office or while you're holding on the phone for the next available representative. Every once in a while they'd slip in an old easy listening song; just to bring me back to the foreground of your thoughts, or maybe to initiate whispered conversations of pretend normalcy between groups...

Like the couple over there...but then there's the glance. And he thinks that she's buying herself a rocket ride out of this gutter. Maybe he pretends to know. Maybe though, he's just really trying to figure out how he's going to handle her. Maybe he doesn't want to handle her anymore after this, maybe when he put his black leather couch in storage so that she could put that ugly fucking hard piece of shit purple thing right in the middle of the living room, maybe that was the last straw of understanding. Maybe that conventional compromise of posessional condensation didn't fucking mean that he was obligated to hold her hand through this shit. Maybe if the bitch hadn't been so inconsiderate back then, maybe if she'd been sweet and naive and all the things she was before, maybe then he wouldn't be having these horrible thoughts of what karma can really mean. But no man's really that insensitive, genuinely, or he wouldn't be there to begin with.

Sometimes thoughts are the bastard child of honesty and justification.

She knows that after this that it'll be more than the dead fetus in a jelly jar. And she wants to think that just being with him will make it better. But she's seen the same movies too and, for reasons that she can't know yet, it seems that these are the kind of things that always get thrown back in someone's face. Maybe if she'd just been kinder to him before she found out. Maybe if she'd let him keep that couch from the kinky-sticky-sex-on-leather-furniture days, she wouldn't feel so bad about putting him in this position. Fuck that. Maybe that bastard put her in this position! Or at least the position that caused this in the first place...well, positions. If it didn't have to be every fucking night the chances would've been slimmer. Maybe she only did it because she wanted to make him happy, make him feel good. What a selfish bastard. Maybe she comes to the conclusion that it's unfair to think because He's here with me now. She thinks. We're here together for now. And it'll be over soon. And then she'll find out why all those HBO movies ended the way they did. But for now, she can love him a little while longer.

Along with the music and the clicking of heels and the cold metal, these are the types of people you might expect to find in such a place.

But it's not like that at all. Of course, that might be because technically, it's not really an abortion clinic. It's just a Planned Parenthood place. I knew perfectly well what it was all going to be about. I just like to pretend that old routines, once left dormant for a while, can be brought back to life and, therefore, be new all over again. What's so wrong with that?

It wasn't the same place I'd gone last month, or even the month before that. I've got to switch it up a bit; I firmly believe that it is in no one's best interest to be able to paste names onto faces of framed children on the desk of a person who is legally required to use gloves just to finger you. But same type of deal. And yet I still get sucked into the whole piss in a cup and sexxx-ed routine?

So it's become my once a month routine. And really, what's so wrong with a routine here and there? It helps to remind you that when the shit hits the fan, when old friends leave and new lovers saddle up, that some things never change. It's comfort.

No. It's fear and paranoia. Maybe comfort in the fear and paranoia. Or maybe sometimes we just to want to feel an emotional high so badly that we don't care if it's love or hate or fear. They're all the same things really, just routed through different parts of your brain.

The truth of the routine is this: every time I have sex, I feel pregnant. The orgasm is two-fold. The rush of intense erotic pleasure, the sudden stabbing fear of all the things that could've gone wrong; of all the shadows cast on safety during the moments of adolescent horniness. What if there were holes? What if Mr. You're-Only-My-Third over here didn't put the condom on right? After Anthony, I learned that you always put the condom on for him; otherwise you end up dry on the inside while his lubricated dick makes him wonder if he's already reached his moment of glory. What if tiny drops of his not-worthy-of-busting-through-your-egg-of-magnificence pre-cum accidentally (because no part of his being has enough intelligence to fill even the smallest of pipettes) took the right turn through the folds of your vagina? These are the questions. These are the reasons I want him out of my bed--no time to tie up his shoes--and on his way, because I have to get up early in the morning. The clinic gets busy after eleven.

You'd think I'd just learn to close my legs if I was going to be so anal about it. Or anal. I suppose that's always option. Not enjoyable though. It's kind of like giving birth, only instead of pushing the baby out; some asshole is trying to shove back in.

Soon I bleed through my panties, and sudden moments of happiness give way to nothing yet again. Relaxation is not my preferred medium of feeling. "Give me life!" I scream. Give me anger, and pain, and heartache, and love! Give me something that is anything more than nothing. At least.

But we can't just sit around waiting for something that is not nothing; we do have lives to carry on, much unlike your aristocratic character in any Hemingway or Nabokov novel. The characters in this life don't get to sit back and enjoy the long thoughts on how they are oh-so-rich yet so unfulfilled because of some loneliness that comes with money. Trade me lives, sir Hermann, I'll buy myself a fucking emotion.

I've spent enough time this morning screaming pretentious requests for emotional highs, and the time is ticking, so then to work it is. Over and over, the same day again, and I try to forget myself by finding familiarity in the ever-changing day. It's possible to get bored with difference everyday, because even predictable change is still predictable.

I sit. For hours. Doing nothing. Welcome to my life.

I can't stand the boredom of the slow work day. The dismal lack of fortitude causes intense pains of nausea to rise from my stomach, creeping its way slowly up my chest and into my throat. The great thing about being a manager at a small independent coffee shop owned by a woman who lives two hours away is that I have the freedom of discretion when hours of operation are concerned. It's-slow-fuck-you-we're-closed. I lock the doors, turn out the lights, and stand there just for a moment, letting the utter silence envelope me. The CD player still turned on and set at a barely audible volume, for mere background noise purposes, wafts a breeze of Joni Mitchell my way. Before I give Blue the opportunity to hold me captive I turn it off, step outside and close the door to the shop.

The truth of the matter is, dear reader. I am a 21 year old female and I don't know what abortion clinics are like, and I don't know what it feels like to be scared that I'm pregnant everytime I have sex, and I don't know what feels like to really know any of the things that I pretended to know all along.

The truth of the matter is, I am a 21 year old female and I can not bring myself to read female authors because I happen to think that most female authors I've ever read are pure shit. I was so proud of myself, a few days ago, where upon walking through a bookstore I picked up a supposedly brilliant book by a supposedly amazing author, and I bought that bitch. Only when I got home, I read the first 5 pages and decided that it was, indeed, shit. I returned that bitch.

The truth of the matter is, I am a 21 year old female and I can't bring myself to tell my mother, despite the fact that I financially support myself, despite the fact that I have nearly completed 2 degrees in 4 years, despite the fact that I have not been arrested, kicked out of school, knocked up, or admitted to a drug rehab center, despite the fact that I am a perfectly normal and healthy 21 year old female...I can not tell my mother that I have had sex with a man. That I have let a man take his penis and put it in my respectful sexual organ, my vagina.

The truth of the matter is, I am just as normal and boring and simple as you. But give me time.



ABOUT STEPHANIE BRYAN

Half the time I don't know what I'm doing here. I tend to be wordy...Faulkner would be proud.

more about stephanie bryan




COMMENTS

todd bush
7.24.04 @ 3:37a

Stephanie this an AMAZING piece of work. Just amazing. I loved it.

robert melos
7.24.04 @ 4:53p

Wow! Intense. The title really captures the essence of the piece. Very cool.

stephanie bryan
7.24.04 @ 10:23p

aww, aren't you a sweetheart, robert! thanks for the kind words.

todd bush
7.25.04 @ 12:13a

I'd like to point out that I picked out that title. Just an FYI.

robert melos
7.25.04 @ 12:42a

Is there anything else you'd like to confess, Todd? Like about your inner understanding of being a 21 year-old female?

Stephanie, you do an excellent job of expanding on the title, and bringing it all full circle. It's as if you can picture a girl standing on a sidewalk somewhere and having all of these thoughts simultaneously flooding her head, and you made sense of them and put them here for the world to understand what it is to go through that instance of a moment blooming.

todd bush
7.25.04 @ 12:54a

Robert, I can't even understand being a 27-year old male, much less being a female.

tracey kelley
7.26.04 @ 9:45a

I sit. For hours. Doing nothing. Welcome to my life.

Gawd, I hate it when this happens.

adam kraemer
7.26.04 @ 11:53a

I'll tell your mother for you, Steph. If that'll help.

stephanie bryan
7.26.04 @ 5:00p

adam, for some reason that sounds very very naughty. she's 50. just ew.

[edited]

adam kraemer
7.27.04 @ 11:07a

Is she hot?

stephanie bryan
7.27.04 @ 11:40a

are you rich?

adam kraemer
7.27.04 @ 6:03p

No, but I'm charming.



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