article, every statement, every debate, on the subject of
polarizes advocates for or against abortion. Not
even the war
in Iraq will elicit stronger feelings. I believe in the
of all life - the life of one who is seeking an abortion
and the life
of the unborn fetus.
We should love
those with a different point of view and even our
difficult as this seems,
it can be done by doing good
we dislike and then praying for them. Man will not change
and the world will not change unless we learn this lesson,
learn to understand and forgive. We must return good for
and replace hate with love or face the destruction
The following story is a beginning. I believe it will save
the life of
women with unwanted pregnances and also the life of the unborn.
It will unite people rather than divide, and will create forgivness
(c)Copyright 1982 by Marvin Payne and Larry Barkdull
I'm seventeen and pregnant, and I think today I’ll walk home. Other
times I’ve taken the bus.
Every time its been a drag.
The first time it
You see, there was no way I could have asked anybody to drive me
-not here. Anyway,
it had to be a secret. You’ll see why. Myself, I
don’t drive. Don’t
think that’s weird. I know I’m seventeen
American and consume a normal share of Levis
and French fries, but
driving just never seemed all that important. What seemed important was
laying back after four good hours of hard practice
on the gorgeous
Bosendorfer piano my parents hocked their lives
to buy for me and
sliding into my usual dream.
Somehow I was even taller in that dream, a little darker and more
mysterious, probably slimmer.
Sitting there at the piano bench in my
dream (the bench that goes with the Bosendorfer
- I had my own piano
shipped to all the concert halls, which were
sometimes in New York
but usually in Vienna) my back was always a little
straighter. (In real life,
I kind of stoop. Tall
is okay in dreams, in Vienna, in the Lakers’
front lineup, but being exactly the same height
as Beanpole Phil is a
little hard to handle.)
Phil’s my boyfriend - although I guess now the
world would call
him my “lover.” Phil’s
pregnant, too. Of course nobody knew
and maybe nobody ever would, and of course there
are lots of people
who even if they heard it wouldn’t know - I mean,
wouldn’t look at it
that way. But Phil
knew he was pregnant, at least at first, and that’s
one of the reasons I kept loving him. And, of course, Phil is the only
one who knew, back then, about me.
Phil couldn’t drive me here either. He
didn’t have a car (he had
a saxophone). And
you don’t just dance in and say, “Gee, Dad, can
I take the Buick and run Vivian over to the abortion
wouldn’t lie just for my convenience - he’s a
good guy , and locking
up the truth so tight inside him was enough of
a lie to make him hurt a
Lots of things hurt these days. Like
trying to figure out how all
that sweetness we once had turned to bitter ashes
in our mouths.
It also hurts to remember Buicks and back seats, but there they
So, I’ve always taken the bus. The
first time it was hot, and even
though I was pretty much over all the throwing
up and weird food ideas
(try keeping that from your folks), I wished
I was morning sick again
so I’d have something to blame all the horribleness
on, besides just the
heat and the dumb jerking bus.
Still, the bus ordeal isn’t what stands
out in my memory of the first time I ever came
And it isn’t the fear that stands out, either. The fear was really
frantic that day. It
had become part of me and had to go wherever I
went, whether it was to the clinic for the first
time all alone or just to
church with lots of friends who dressed the same
as always, only
dangerously simpler now that it was summer. Lots of friends with
nothing to hide.
don’t remember it so much because of the clinic being brand
new, hiding clean, white, and confident among
the trees. No big sign,
of course. Nothing
not the smell, either. Of the clinic,
I mean, once I made
it through the door. I just thought it was the smell of “doctor” or “health”
or that it was just piped in with the muzak. It smelled like
It smelled Safe. It didn’t
smell like Death at all. And that, more
other thing, surprised me. But
not enough to really stand out.
It isn’t the smell. Not the professional
frayed green smacks the
doctors wear. It
isn’t the cool, quick moves and the low-calorie smile
of the nurse. Not
the Scandinavian couches and the anonymous
magazines, with the only true and living way
to lose all that ugly fat
without a lick of self-control, and brand new
lip gloss you can see
yourself in, and all this is going on and on
and Clearasil being sold
by the carload as though I wasn’t even here! On the edge of the
universe. About to
It isn’t the tanned forty-year-old lady with the tennis racket
poking out of her canvas purse. Not the Mrs. Santa
who purred reassurances at the frightened teenager
at the counter. Not
the slick, full-color pamphlets and ads and mini-posters
she dealt me
like so many fives under the table that stand
out in my memory of the
first time here.
It’s the bus ride home. It's Emily.
Now Emily was tall, probably
as tall as me even. It’s a good thing
she was sitting down, or I might have avoided
her. Being a walking
skyscraper is a whole different kind of handicap
altogether. For us,
being seen in groups just tends to magnify the
But she was sitting down next to the only empty seat and smiled
me as though she’d been waiting to all night. I sat down quick on the
abortion hype, before she could see it.
It was strange to see her - really strange, like deja-vu. But good.
Her dark hair had that whisper of
auburn in it that I always wanted
in mine. I’d imagined
it in the mirror millions of times, but here it was,
for real. She had
a beautifully symmetrical face, the kind I always
thought I had until I was eleven, and my grandparents
put a second
mirror on the side wall of their bathroom, and
I saw a reflection of my
reflection and began to wonder how the world
could go on tolerating
such a lopsided mess.
Maybe “dazzlingly beautiful” wasn’t the right thing to say, exactly,
but she had a look - smart, not like in knowing
all the right answers, but
knowing the right questions. She
looked like kindness - not the sort that
spreads itself all over you like honey, but that
absorbs your sorrow and
fear and dark and leaves you blue sky.
I didn’t think all this the moment I sat down.
I don’t know if I
thought anything. I
mostly I just felt things, and it’s hard to say what
they were. Did you
ever meet somebody and just know immediately
what they meant when they said those masterfully
articulate things like,
“Yeah...,” while slowly nodding and looking at
the sidewalk, or when
they wrinkled their forehead and said, “Hey,
I know”? I’m talking about
the three or four times in your whole life when
you’ve been with
somebody, and they broke out laughing, and along
with the release you
felt perfectly safe. You
knew them, but you never learned them, never
got to know them. You didn’t
have to. That was Emily. I
tell my life to someone like this. Maybe I would.
Because she looked
Not meaning “a babe” (though I guess some people would say that
anyway). She looked
good - meaning, she looked like she was good.
looked good in a way that if you saw her in public
(lets say, on a bus, for
instance), you’d wish she were your sister. Or mother, if you were little.
Or daughter, if you were grown. I guess if you were a guy and saw here,
you’d wish she could be your wife - but I’d be
careful with that wish and
hold it high and live good for it, or it might
fade - even disappear. She
was an ideal, more like a dream - not always
there, not cheap, not easy
to have, not just anybody’s.
Everything about her seemed to say (and
somehow it didn’t sound trite and not a bit memorized),
“I’m not that
kind of girl.”
And I’m not that kind of girl either, no matter how it looks. But there
I was, on the bus and saying, “Hi” but meaning,
“Help me! Hear me! Love
me! You can do it! Because
I know you , and you’re like me ! Because
you’re all I ever wanted to be, and can you play
the piano? Please, please
play the piano - I mean live it and know it and
pour your sweet self into the
night through that piano and push those keys
like you were pushing open
doors down in some hall in your soul where secret
things are kept. Do you
have a boyfriend? Do
you know Phil? Hey, neither do I, but I’m learning
him. I think - I
mean it’s not the same. I mean, my relationship
is thirty seconds old, and already it’s worth
more than what I have with
Phil. Is this too heavy?
Hey, but I need to talk about him.
“Y’ know, I thought I was safe with him.
But I wasn’t.
“You have to really listen.
You have to understand. This
is really important.
“It’s not what you think. I mean how
many times do you hear
someone in trouble say it was ‘accidental,’ or
‘We just didn’t know what
we were doing’? Well,
forget that. You know.
Everybody who does it
knows. You can’t
do it without knowing it’s enormously wrong.
voice says, ‘This is wrong’ very clearly, and
you have to decide to ignore
it. You feel a note that’s
not in chord; you feel a stroke against the current.
All you have to ask is, ‘What is
this for? Are we going to make a home?
Are we gonna be a family? But you decide not to ask.
“Maybe some people do stumble into it, just start
all that petting and
get into those heavy squeezes and into the idea
that they have to prove
their love, and after awhile the love gets about
a third as important as the
proving - so sometimes they even forget what
they were trying to prove,
forget that a grin and some kindness might have
been all the proof they
needed. But sill
they think they’re safe, holding red coals in paper
gloves and blowing on them, unafraid because
there’s no actual flame yet.
So they lean up against the wall
they thought that somebody’d built
between holding hands and going all the way and
whump! They’re on
the other side. ‘Cause
you know what? There’s no wall!
“But listen, that’s the difference between us
and them. We knew
there was no wall. And
standing one day in front of the psych building in
broad daylight at lunch time, we pooled our oceans
of wisdom and
decided that if the wall was just something society
made up in its head to
control its children with, we’d had it with being
controlled, and we were
moving on through. I
mean, if you’re gonna have each other In ever way
you can think of on one side of it, what can
be all that wrong with having
each other in just one more way, the big way,
on the other side? We both
wanted to - not in a hungry little drive-in movie
way, but in a poetic way,
sealing a trust (we’d read in Western Civilization
about ancient Greeks
looking at it that way, so it had a nice heroic
ring to it). It seemed some
how dishonest, hypocritical, not to do what we
both wanted to do. It
seemed like living a lie.
Hey, we were eloquent!
We inflated it into
something Noble, Brave, Beautiful, and Liberating!
“It’s just such a cheap, rotten trick that all we had was the stupid
Buick! ‘Cause it makes me feel like ‘that kind
of girl.’ But I’m not! Believe
me! Believe that I’m not! Then tell me I’m not!
Please, please tell me I’m
That’s what I meant, when all I said was, “Hi.”
But she knew there
was something, because she’d been waiting. And she said her name was
Emily and that she was on her way home from her
piano lesson. And I said
my namewas Vivian. And
though my parents were still on the outside of all
this, and I was throwing fences up against the
world, I told Emily where I’d
Emily wasn’t freaked
out or even appalled. I might have
“Wow! To find a friend
with all this amazing goodness and grace who
understands and even supports me in my decision!” But I didn’t. Because
I could see a shadow in that face, the one time
I looked up after I started
my story. But she
didn‘t come down on me - just listened, and even the
lots of times she called me and the one time
(just after I told my folks)
that we met at the library, she mostly just listened.
OH, she’d tell me about
her dreams a lot, her visions of music and romance
and glory, but they
were almost identical to mine, so it was even
like she was listening to me
as we talked. There
were dozens of things we talked about that would
sound like nothings if I told you what they were
- things that were
important because we shared them, not because
they were important
all by themselves. And
I never hesitated for a moment when I told her
when the pain got sharper, or the guilt harder,
or the fear more shrill.
And she never turned me off. I think she knew that trust, that freedom
to tell, was what made our friendship so secret
and sacred, too. And it
felt good, like a window thrown open and darkness
and heat rushing out
I got to feeling a kind of thrill every time the
phone rang, thinking it
might be her. But
sometimes it was Phil.
The conversations were always short. Because there was the double
risk of his folks and mine overhearing. And there wasn’t much else to talk
about, anymore, really almost nothing to hold
us together now (and this hurt
a lot) except the Pregnancy Problem, which seemed
now like a whole other
thing than The Buick Problem.
Buick Problem was a couple of light years from being resolved,
but Phil had come to taste the ashes even before
me - not long but a little.
That was one of the freakiest times of my life, when ”the big sealing” was
over, and I was looking triumphantly out into
the depths of the universe
of All Meanings like some kind of goddess and
suddenly noticed that Phil
was crying. He cried
not so much like you do at a sunrise or Brahms but
like when you were six and your puppy got poisoned.
He clinched his fist and shook his head. He was going to marry me,
he was going to kill himself (I wasn’t to flattered
at how he put those two
things right together), he was running away that
night forever, he was going
to stay and confess in front of the whole church. It almost seemed funny, if
it weren’t for two things: One, it was brutally
opposite to what I was feeling,
and two, the guy was so obviously, honestly,
painfully, no-kidding torn apart.
And I loved him, so it brought me down.
But I didn’t like it down
there - it started feeling like “truth,” so I
tried to bring him up, to show him
it was ok. “No way,
Viv! can’t you see? It’s not what we
hurts!” And then he said,
with hurt I could feel, “Viv, we did the wrong
thing! We did the
wrong damn thing!” Strange, it didn’t move
me - just
made me a little mad. He
said more - things that took some courage, but
nothing he said ever did get to me. Finally the guilt came all on its own,
the power going off in the middle of your favorite
movie or like the bang of
the balloon and then the birthday baby’s tears. It all came home.
it hard for maybe four seconds before it took
me. And for all we had lost,
now we at least had this together: the same bitter
ashes, the same cold fear.
the next days a numbness set in. Sleeping
was better than
being awake, and waking up was hardest. Every morning it was like, “Oh,
yeah. I remember now. Is it true? Yeah, true.”
And even then we only
knew half the truth - didn’t know yet that we
were pregnant. (And that
was merciful. I think
if I had known that awesome second half in those
first few days, seen that second monster hiding
huge and inevitable
behind the first, I’d have died of fright, sheer
panic. But we were both
too distracted and scared to even look.) We'd gutted it out, prayed about
it, wondered with all our strength what do about
the guilt. We’d both
heard all the current advice on getting rid of
“guilt feelings,” but I’m not
talking about “guilt feelings.” I’m talking about “guilt,” the
merciless truth of having done wrong. And the more we wondered, and
the more we tried to work our own way out of
the trap, the more we
forgot what to do. Parents,
church, all the helps we’d been taught - the
more we tried to figure out the dirt, the more
we forgot about water.
So in the end we didn’t do anything and comforted ourselves as
much as we could with the idea that The Buick
Problem might go away
on its own. And anyway,
for all the torture in our consciences, it didn’t
But The Pregnancy Problem had started too, and
telling Phil was
harder than finding out myself, even. I tried to make it easier by
imagining Phil as a pinstripe-lawyer husband
who would hire a
governess while I practiced the piano all day
and went on tour, and
who could easily alter dates on birth certificates
knowing - or could even change the law to make
acceptable to get pregnant before you were married.
But then I imagined myself stumbling through the dark toward my
parents’ cabin in a howling blizzard because,
of course, Phil had lost all
respect for me and kicked me out. When I staggered up to the door,
there was a note stuck on it with a Bowie knife,
“We once had a daughter
but no more. Get lost.”
Then I collapsed in a snowdrift and knew that no
one would take me in and have me as daughter
or wife, even if I was
lucky enough to thaw.
Finally things got more real in my head, and I
pictured Phil with
a lawnmower and wondered almost aloud if he could
really mow enough
lawns to support us. It’s
the only job he’d ever had.
When it happened, it wasn’t like any of those
things. It was on
the sidewalk in front of Standard Brands Paint,
on the way home from
finals. I couldn’t even
wait till we were really alone. Anyway,
really alone felt different than it once had. You wouldn’t have believed
“How do you know?”
“ I know, I wasn’t
sure at first, but now I know.”
“But how can you really know?”
He wouldn’t take my word for it. I had to tell him things that
embarrassed me. I
was amazed. He’d been in all the same
school, but it was all charts and giggles. Now here it was, for real.
“Wow,” he said.
I didn’t comment on that.
“Do your folks know?”
“Your sure it’s not something else?”
I didn’t feel like I even knew this guy.
He whispered, with a groping tremble
in his voice, “Viv, I’ll
But I knew, and Phil
knew, and every blade of grass, and every
little reflector bump on the freeway knew that
Saxophone Phil was not
gonna marry Amazon Vivian and her baby.
“Baby!” There it was! Nobody’d said it yet.
And the very idea
that this little cell multiplication going on
down there would ever be a
baby scared me and Phil clear into next week. And next week, we were
still pretending there could be a Mrs. Phil, and he had even gotten it all
in the dream stage, with a music room for the
Bosendorfer even, but the
fear and the dream stood on opposite pans in
the scale, and each was
growing, and since Phil was doing zero to actually
prepare to be Mr.
Vivian, I had to see that the fear was out swelling
the dream. And I
could imagine the growth inside me out swelling
So it didn’t surprise me much when he asked me
what I knew
been to the clinic. I’d met Emily. I told you about that.
Something I didn’t tell you about was the recording
It was really strange. We’d tried
my dad’s cassette recorder, but it
kept sounding like choirs of Chinese bees. So we just looked in the yellow
pages and picked out a place, “World-wide Syndicated
Studios.” It turned
outto be in a storage complex, those things that
look like rows of garages
along the freeway. My
dad and I walked in and were met by a blonde kid
with long hair who seemed to be struggling with
his English. My dad let me
do thetalking (poor Dad - he’s come to and slept
through untold dozens of
concerts,waking up for my solos. He loves me.
I told you already about
the Bosendorfer). First
the kid wanted to know if I was “going down
multi-track,”and I sad no, we’d probably just
be returning on the freeway
and thought it was valiant of him to try a little
small talk. Then he
asked me if I would “overdub” the rhythm section. I didn’t know if
“overdub” was really a word, but it didn’t
matter, because I explained that
the sonata I needed to record didn’t really have
a “rhythm” section,
unless he meant the“scherzo” movement at the
end. He looked at me as
though I’d suddenly lapsed into Swahili, and
once I saw that I
couldn’t relate particularly well to the hired
help, I asked to see the piano,
something familiar and trustworthy. He pointed through a smoky window
in the wall and threwa light switch. Electric! The
switch, of course,
but also the piano! It
was a piano that plugged in! An
next Tuesday my uncle brought over his nice reel-to-reel
microphone, and we asked our neighbor to please
not mow his lawn for
I’m telling you about the recording session so you can know about
my life. What it
says about my life is that I’d decided to have one - a life,
I mean. You see,
the tape of the sonata was required along with the
written stuff in applying for a scholarship to
the Nibley Institute. They
have a great piano program there, with Bachauer
Festival and all, and I
figured that it was my best shot at a concert
career, which I’d been
getting out of bed for everyday since I was about
had started feeling like abortion was about the greatest thing
since Earth Shoes; the stuff I got at the clinic
reassured me a lot
- simple procedure, out in an hour, just a clump
of cells gone, and I
began chalking up the darkness in Emily’s voice
to some problem of her
own. Sure, a lot
of people had tried to make some kind of moral big
deal out of it, but they’d done the same thing
with girls wearing boots to
church dances, and there were even people reported
in Time magazine
who said that “Rockford Files” was from the devil.
So I was blasting ahead anyway, and if I couldn’t
be perfect in
every way, that was no reason why I couldn’t
at least be excellent in
Then Phil had his interview with Ned. (I know
we should call him
by his real church title, and we did, whenever
we were with him, but he’d
been Phil’s scoutmaster for such a long time
as just “Ned,” before he was
made “shepherd” over the entire flock of believers
in Phil’s end of town.
Besides, our folks still call him Ned.) The interview wasn’t for a special
calling or anything - Ned just wanted to see
how Phil was doing. Well,
Ned had this way of seeing through any kind of
jive, and Phil was no
good at jive anyway, so he spilled it all (not
all, just about his part - and
that’s when he forgot that he was pregnant). I’m not attacking Phil’ he
did the right thing, I guess.
It’s just that his timing was so lousy. Better
if he’d waited, say twenty or thirty years. Ned wouldn’t have told
my folks, I don’t think, but I thought maybe
I’d better tell them just in
They did not take it well. The tough
part was trying to be selective
about the details. I
mean, to admit that you’re pregnant is one thing.
To admit that you got pregnant ought
to be something else. To let on
that you’re having an abortion ought to be a
whole other thing entirely.
So I told them about the Buick and not about
the clump of cells.
I really expected my mother to be the steady one
and my dad to
freak out. I mean,
he’s the one who interviewed all my dates and never
fell asleep ‘till I got home.
Even on the night of the Buick he was awake.
His voice from the bedroom:
“That you, Viv?”
“Everything all right?”
Then he was out. Knowing
his only daughter was safe and good
and home, he let go of the day and let himself
dream. Because he trusted
But when I told them, both together, my mother
became a total
basket case. I wanted
to feel for her, to try to reach out and help, but it
was like she had become someone else - someone
I didn’t know and could
never have recognized. And
I guess with all the embarrassment and guilt
I felt, I also was a little annoyed that she
hadn’t just calmly sentenced me
to hang by the neck until dead and then gone
to the kitchen phone to make
the arrangements and then whisked upstairs to
make sure I had the proper
clothes or something predictable like that. But there was my mother,
the always composed, ever considerate Mrs. Wilding,
who met my
passing her up in height with mixed emotions,
relieved that she was no
longer the tallest living Wilding but genuinely
concerned about what
that distinction might mean to a sensitive sixteen-year-old.
She was sobbing
and listing all the things they’d done for me,
as though she was reaching
for pieces of furniture even down to table lamps
and clocks and piling
them against the front door to keep out the monster
who had already
entered and was sitting on the piano bench watching.
This may sound a little cold and mean. I don’t want it to.
my mother. And in
a way that’s big and deep and a little strange (being
mainly another way of loving herself), she loves
me. It’s just that it was
always my dad who was good at “Warm.”
He sat on the couch and looked at the glass grapes
on the coffee
table for a long time, in the hugest silence,
almost smiling. He
wasn’t quiet for my mother’s sake - I don’t think
he even heard
her. He was just
quiet, thinking. You know how if the sun was
size of a baseball, then the earth would be as
big as a fruit fly or
something like that. Well,
if my life was the size of those glass grapes,
the length of his silence was the length of my
life. And every grape
a lens into a different moment of my childhood.
And through all the silence (neither of us heard
Mom now) I
looked at my dad, wanting with all my heart for
him to look at me and
so ashamed and scared that I hoped he never would.
“Viv, we’re glad you told us.
We love you.” Then
turned huge and sad like the world turns away
from the sun, and looked
at me. There were
tears in his eyes - tears and still almost a smile. And
softly and simply and surely he said (and even
Mom was still, now),
“Viv, It’s over. You
told us now. No need to worry anymore. The
book’s closed on this, Viv.
It’s all over.”
But it wasn’t closed. And
something priceless and holy inside
me died. Not because
of some sin in some Buick, but because I knew
my father believed what he’d said.
went to the library in the next town over.
bigger and newer and had lots of lounge-type
areas and a big music
listening room, and, of course, lots of books.
But we didn’t really
go for any of that stuff.
We went because our boys went there to
check out new girls from the other high school,
and we felt like we
needed to protect our interests. Even in summer it was that way.
That’s not why I went there, anymore,
and certainly not why I
suggested that Emily meet me there. It’s just that, well, it was still
kind of “where it’s at.”
I hurried through the main hall with its sunken
lounge, on to
where it was cooler, smaller, safer, where Emily
would be, by the
Renaissance books. She
was really into Renaissance and talked about
it a lot. But I didn’t
hurry too fast - didn’t walk loudly. Didn’t
the hungry boys to look up and say, “Gee, what
a tall girl - sure walks
loud,” and then notice that my shoes were size
fifty-four. That’s not
true. Actually they
But when I got the Renaissance place and Emily
yet, I looked down, and the sandals had changed
into gym shoes - not
sleek windswept running shoes, but big clunky
basketball shoes, white
high-topped Converse basketball shoes, about
size fifty-eight. And
suddenly it wasn’t me standing in them.
And the world laughed. And
it spun one double-time spin on its
axis, something it’d always wanted to do. And then the world brightened,
and grew, and split into two worlds, each laughing. And they brightened,
and grew, and split into four.
And they brightened and split into eight
and sixteen. And
with every split the brightness grew, and pulsed, and
Then one star beyond the edge of it all shone
brighter than the rest.
And it moved. Not
like a falling star, more like a rocket, or an angel, slow
and steady, full of purpose, aimed and certain. And it smiled as it got
closer - smiling nearer, burning some, lighting
up the floor between the
stacks of Renaissance. And
then it spoke.
“Hi, Viv.” It was Emily.
The fact that a blazing star had just
turned into Emily seemed weird to me only for
a second, until I realized
I’d been dreaming. But
I hadn’t been asleep, and that made me wonder.
“Viv, are you okay?”
“Oh, yeah, hi, thanks for coming.”
“Well, you sounded pretty upset on the phone. Besides, you
knowI haven’t seen you head-on since that day
on the bus. The day
you, well, the day we met.”
And it was true. I
was upset. And it was true about not seeing
since the bus, and that threw open the door to
the truest thing of all, that
seeing Emily, falling star or not, was like breaking
the surface and
breathingafter you’d decided to swim the whole
length of the pool on the
bottom, forgetting that it gets deeper, and then
when you reach the goal
and yourstrength and air are gone, you remember
that you’re still twelve
feet under and start clawing that incredible
distance to the sun.
“Emily, do you remember when I called you last
when I went back to the clinic and actually made
an appointment for the
there was that double-knit lady walking back and forth
outside with a sign that said ‘Abortion is Murder’?”
Emily was quiet and looked at her hands like she
“Yes, I remember.”
“Well, Emily, it’s getting harder, thinking about
the appointment. I
wish they’d done it right then, but they do one
every twenty minutes, and
it’s still a week before they can fit me in. I don’t believe the lady’s sign,
but it’s getting harder.
I’ve got crazy feelings, crazy pictures in my head.
Emily, it’s like on the one hand
there’s some kind of ‘murder,’ but
do you know what’s on the other hand? Suicide!
Suicide and murder!”
Emily was listening really hard, with deep sadness
in her eyes.
“Listen, if this clump of cells turns into a person,
my dad’s gonna
know I lied to him by not telling him everything. And it’d kill him.
how could I? He might
believe the double-knit poster lady, no matter how
much he loves me - and he’d tell me to have the
baby, and I’d have to.
And that would kill my mom!
And it’d kill me to have to live with a
couple of dead people! Emily,
how am I gonna keep my house from
turning into Forest Lawn?”
She looked at me for a long time. Looked through me, it seemed.
Her eyes uncovered hidden places
in my mind, gently lifted Halloween
masks from the faces of frightened feelings,
softly burned away some
fog like morning does.
“Vivian, who dies really?”
I looked at my hands, and she covered them with
I heard a voice behind me and spun in my chair. It was Phil.
What was he doing here?
What in the heck was Phil doing in this library
in the middle of summer?
“Oh! Gee. Hi, Viv!”
“Phil! Hey, hi, Phil. Phil, I don’t think you’ve
met...” But I
turned, and Emily was gone.
“Viv, How’re ya feeling?”
“Me? Oh, fine. Hey, call me, would ya? I have
had said, “Who dies?” But Emily, nobody dies, really.
A clump of cells gets removed.
How can that be much worse than a
haircut? But it was
too late for that kind of talk. The
clump had a
I have a friend (who’s name also is Richard, oddly
Richard Ellsworth), who owns a houseful of musical
instruments, and he
gives them all names, not like Hohner or Steinway
or Fender, but like
Henry and Elaine and Kim.
And every time he sells or trades one away,
he’s always careful to let the new owner know
what the instrument’s
name is and you have to remember, because every
time he asks about it,
he calls it be that name.
I thought it was cute, a little bizarre, but cute.
Naming my clump of cells Richard was not cute. It was really dumb
and dangerous. But
I didn’t name it Richard - it just came already
named. And the moment
you’re dumb enough to call even a wart
Richard, it’ll be that much harder to get it
removed. But who ever thinks
of a wart dying?
That night I had the nightmare to end all nightmares.
I woke up, put my hands under my pajamas and held
the part of
me where Richard lay.
That morning I called Emily and wanted her to
weep. But once
again it was like she was holding back. “That’s good, Viv.
I think it’s right.
For you, I mean.
Maybe not for everybody. It
could be real hard, y’know.
But I’ll be there if you need me.”
I didn’t call Phil, not yet.
It would be a big thing for him, maybe too
big. I had to think
the whole “Phil” part through again.
And it would take awhile to tell my folks. You remember, I said it
would be something like murder. Well, it still would be.
I did write the scholarship committee, asking
them to consider me for
spring semester. That
would give me time for, well, for whatever was going
to happen. Somehow
I couldn’t imagine the piano department taking kindly
to extended fall “sick leaves” on their dime. Fall was for other things, this
But I didn’t cancel at the clinic. That was five
days away. I forgot.
Not all of me forgot. Only
part of me forgot. The part that remembered
how hard it was to get an appointment.
that way for a whole day - the day I felt I owed myself alone,
turning away from all other faces and shutting
out all clamoring questions.
That one day was great.
And to magnify the weight of congratulations, I
myself agree with the double-knit sign lady -
got myself thinking that I was
on the only train bound for the only glory there
is, and if all the pregnant
people of the world, with their own petty little
didn’t get on board quick, they were liable to
get run down. It was a pretty
self-righteous little trip - pretty heady, almost
The next day was different.
Same friendly grass, same grateful
wind, but I let my dad’s smile get to me. At breakfast (which I skipped
yesterday, saying I had a headache and cramps
- haw’s that for improbably
ingenious?), he leaned over the waffles and patted
my hand. And I was his
little girl again, four feet tall and flat-chested
with blue skies and white
knights spread out before me as far as the eye
could see. That was the
first hard moment.
Then later my mom interrupted my practice (which
me and which she was usually quite careful not
to do), and got all soft
and talcumy and said, “Vivian, dear, your father
and I have talked long
into the night about you, and I want you to know
again how much we
admire you and to remind you of the dreams we
have for you. Vivian, the
future is a clean page now.
Let us help you write something beautiful on it.
Oh, and Vivian, this young man Phillip
- I suppose your relationship has,
well, cooled somewhat? That
is, I haven’t seen much of him lately.
He is a good boy, Vivian.
I believe that. I imagine
don’t you think?” Well,
you can imagine the effect that had on me.
Then Phil called. He
had the Buick and wanted to know if I’d go
for a ride with him, to get his sax out of the
shop. That seemed insensitive.
We hadn’t been in the Buick since
we’d been “in the Buick.” But here he
was asking me as though it was a Ford, or even
a Volkswagen, which I
wish it had been in the first place. Sure, I’d go with him, but I wouldn’t
tell him about my decision - not in the Buick.
As it was, I never would have a chance to, even
if I’d wanted.
The more he talked about college stage band and
about how there was
plenty in his college account, even figuring
in current “medical expenses,”
and how he could hardly believe how forgiving
Ned had been, and on and
on, the more clearly I saw that there wasn’t
room in his head for the
slightest consideration that maybe I’d come to
feel any different than he
did about our little plan.
Freedom to reconsider was out of the question,
since that freedom might put our hands on the
door that held out all the
hard choices and heavy burdens of growing up.
You know, walking a two-by-four that spans a mile-deep
hard. So here’s Phil,
pretending with all his might that this board we had
to walk was pegged down safe on the lawn. In fairness, I think some part
of him knew he was pretending.
But he pretended so good! Maybe
because I was the one who really had to walk
That day became the heavy operations day - hard,
Okay, so Richard didn’t have to
give his life to save mine. Did
I had to give my life to save his? Did we both
lose? Or could we save
each other’s lives? How
could we? up to now the questions had all
from the past and present.
Why did we do it? Why
did this happen?
Am I a rotten person? Why does Dad love me? Is abortion murder?
What if I got raped? Did
I get raped? What if your kids a vegetable?
Is Richard a vegetable?
Who thought up this “Richard” idea, anyway?
What if an angel came down and said, “Abort”? Now the questions were
future and harder than
ever before. Mainly, am I going to hell? How
fast? How much does
hell hurt? Am I already there? Then how come
the grass likes me?
Always there was this grass, this
lively, natural, faithful, steady
grass, just bravely growing always as if there
were no such things as big
shoes, and dogs, and broken sprinklers. It even sought out the cracks in
the concrete walk and pushed through to the sky. And the grass was my
friend. And all day long I laid by friend and
asked it all the questions
and probably even prayed some, and the grass
kept silently silently
growing, and the kind wind blew whispers I couldn’t
I turned on my stomach and cried.
night I didn’t dream. I’d been pushed
around a lot by dreams
lately, like I was living in them instead of
in my life, and as frightening as
they were sometimes, they felt more real than
practicing the piano and
worrying. Even Emily
had become like a dream. We couldn’t
seem to get
together. I couldn’t
pull her face in front of mine to ask her how to feel -
not even about Mendelssohn, let alone about Richard. I’d leaned on that
lady a lot (told her things I can’t even tell
you), but now she was like a
dream, fading. I looked
in the mirror and tried to see her face, tried to feel
her eyes and hear her mouth, but she wasn’t there
anymore. I’d called her
number lots of times since I told her about not
aborting, but every time I
got this pinch-nosed recording, “I’m sorry, this
is not a working number.”
So, without a dream to batter me through the day,
I made one up.
I sat on the grass and imagined
a lavish concert hall in Paris, and people
were pouring in. There
was Phil, sitting on the front row with a huge box
of popcorn in his lap (that was weird but somehow
felt right). My mom
was there, full of jewels and talking to the
people behind her, pointing
excitedly to the name on the program. My dad was there, sleeping with a
peace as deep as the ocean.
There was a tall old man there, too, bright
and pressed, hair plastered down, tapping his
toes on the floor like some
people drum with their fingers. Him I didn’t recognize. But he looked
happy- they all looked happy, and that made me
glad. All the days of,
What about Phil? and, What about Mom? and, What
about Dad and God
and the United States of America? all melted
into this moment. What
about them? They were happy - finally happy and
all because of...And
then I saw the stage ant sitting there at my Bosendorfer
like she owned it
was Emily! And I
was nowhere! And then the angry question
been aching to burst broke out like Mount St.
Helens. What about me?
I tore out two handfuls of grass
and stomped across the lawn to the back
I yanked it open and threw back my head and yelled
with all I had,
What about Meeeeeee?!” But
my mom was yelling so loudly herself that
she didn’t hear it at all. “Vivian! Vih-vee-yun! Look! Look at the mail!
Look look look look look!”
She had, of course, opened the letter to me
from the scholarship committee.
Full ride. Life in the dorm. A practice room and
But only for Fall Semester!
I grabbed the phone and direct-dialed
the number on the letterhead.
Mom never looked so puzzled and lost.
“Vivian, that’s long distance!”
“Hi, this is Vivian Wilding ...Yes,...Yes, I just
got your letter...Oh,
yes, really -- really pleased... Well, I was
wondering if there was any way
I could use it later than Fall?”
(Mom: “Vivian, why later than fall? Vivian, do
you know what
Very nice, very polite. Yes,
they’d gotten my letter. No, there
wasn’t really any possibility.
They had a handful of piano-wizard early-
graduating high school juniors pegged for the
winter and spring money.
“Oh, Well, well thank you (I’m clenching the receiver
like a club)...
Yes, I’ll write...Yes, Good-bye.”
“Vivian! What is all this about?”
I looked at the clock. It
was two. I had an appointment at three.
I left my mom with her mouth hanging
open and tore out of the front door
and ran (I wasn’t worried about that now) to
the corner. There was a bus
every day at 2:03. There
was nobody on the bus. There was
on the bus. There
were no windows in the bus. There were
advertisements in the bus up above where no windows
were. There was
just me and the appointment.
We got there. I gave
sixty cents to nobody
and hit the sidewalk. Through
the white birches I didn’t see, through the
tinted glass door that wasn’t there, up to the
only other person in the
world who existed - the fat receptionist who
would let me into my
“Why, my dear, you’re twenty minutes early. And we’re thirty
minutes behind! As
you can see, the waiting room is full. You
enjoy a short walk in the park across the street.” All this as though
she somehow didn’t know that it wasn’t even there
But there was nothing I could do. Couldn’t drive the ladies out
of the waiting room, couldn’t clear the patients
out of the procedure rooms
like money changers out of the temple, so I went
outside. And sure enough,
someone had put the park back where it had always
I crossed the street, then into the park, careful
to stay on the dirt
paths - didn’t want to feel grass (or wind). I hurried past the slides and
teeter-totters, full of toddlers laughing in
the sun. I wanted shade, and
some yards ahead I saw a bench with nobody around,
a bench in the
I sat down and closed my eyes against the light
- closed them for
maybe three seconds.
I jumped up. There
on the bench where I’d been sat Emily.
“Where did you come from?
How did you know I was here?
What are you doing here?”
She just looked at me, like she was looking over
miles and miles,
or years and years, and yet there was a sadness
in her so close I felt it
under my own skin.
“Vivian. I’d hoped
it wouldn’t go this far, hoped I could keep it
“Keep what back? C’mon, what’re you talking about?”
“Vivian, you just have to know that whatever I
say, the choice is
up to you. It’s your life, your choice.”
“Well, yeah, I know that.
And I’ve made it!”
“But, Vivian (and she looked at me as though she
was going to
say something I’d never heard before or even
imagined), Vivian, what
What about you?
So far it’s been, what about
in the doggone phone book,
but I never thought it’d get down to,
Are you my friend or
looked at me full and deep, and all the
word games fell
away - all the hints and
whispers and thin-veiled dreams.
this isn’t to judge you, but ever since
that day on the bus
your eyes have been turned
in on yourself. That’s
okay. That’s how
was supposed to be - me for
there’s a courtesy that escaped
You never asked who I am and
why I have been you friend”
"Who you are Emily?
"yes Vivian, who I am"
"I'm your friend and more Vivian, MUCH MORE.".
"What in the heck is that suppossed to mean?"
"Who are you then?"
“I'm Richard's daughter, Vivian”
“No. Emily, I’m Richard's daughter.”
“ You’re R. Edward Wilding’s daughter
"I'm your baby Richard's daughter."
“But, but...How can that
Vivian. It’s all years away.
pulled me to the bench.
And she kissed me, and I felt
her forgiveness flow through
me like blood. I
closed my eyes, and tears
squeezed out over the lashes.
all years away...
all years away...
all years away...”
up, knowing she’d be gone, and she was. And it was a
real heartbreaker, to let
go of that sweet dream.
But I guess I don't need
I know now who I am and
don't need to reach into an
imagined future for a better
me. Not a perfect
me - a badly wounded me,
but a me ready at least
to gather the pieces of my life, pieces I’d
apart and stumbled over.
about five minutes ago.
I don’t know quite how to tell
you what I feel. But I can
tell you what I’m going to do.
I don’t mind telling
you I’m scared spitless, ‘cause it might
be a little like walking
the plank, and it might be a little like
But here it goes.
tell you something else, and you can be
the first to know.
in all the crazy wonder of Emily’s coming
going to have an abortion. ....Just now, when
I stood up, I felt a
sudden kind of
a bump inside, like a toe inside a shoe, or a kitten in
- or a baby in a blanket.
going, I imagined hearing
a distant voice, though I knew it was years away,
for the Bosendorfer!”
My life will not be
complete until a motion picture is made
based on the above
story. If you would like to help, please let me know.
-- Darrell Stoddard,
For more vital information to save both the unborn
and women with unwanted
pregnancies, to put God back in the United States, to Save
our nation from
Priestcraft, and Save our economy, see: Saveusa.biz
on the internet
to save and bookmark this page.