Thursday – Looking into the Past

Shea

That was his name. Like the stadium. My partner and I were discussing if I had ever had an abortion in my life. Before I had my tubes tied. Yes, I did. I am not ashamed. I was irresponsible, as was he. He was a fuck up. But so was I.

My first year in the southwest. Fresh out of college. Having no clue what the hell to do with my life but fortunate enough to have a small inheritance from my dead grandparents that I lived on while I pursued “artistic” endeavors. I went from painter (such a political, ass-kissing world) to fashion designer to writer within a year. All while working part-time as a barista in a horrid little coffee shop on tourist row, with an owner who wrote a book about becoming Cinderella and allowed her 4-year old to wear make-up and heels. I hated it, but I wasn’t ready for the real world and luckily I had a co-worker I bonded with immediately, and we were joined at the hip for a year. Natalie.

But his name was Shea. He was a friend of her boyfriend. He had a reputation for loving and leaving within a 2 week period. It was a challenge when I realized he was interested in me. I was rebounding from my 19-year old boyfriend. He was older. Than the boy. Than me. Most importantly, he was a writer. Or he believed himself to be…

What do I know? Perhaps he is. Or perhaps he’s dead. Either way, I do not care.

There are very few people I feel that way about. Shea. Dan. Peter.

He dreamed of being Jack Kerouac. Perhaps he believed he was the reincarnation of the man. During the time I was seeing him (and I broke the two week record), he showed up at my friend’s studio, which I was living in, though I had my own apartment with a roommate. But Natalie lived with her boyfriend at the time and offered me the space, which gave me the ability to be me and try to understand that my roommate, the person I had come to love when we lived in Greece, was not the same person I moved west with. It was such a disappointment. She became a trustafarian. She became one of them. And I found that lifestyle vapid and boring.

So, Natalie, her boyfriend and Shea were good distractions. And I had my own space. Late one spring night a knock shook the door and I saw him and a bottle of tequila. How could I say no? He had called me the week before and read me a poem he had found by Shelley that reminded him of me, and it was beautiful. We had been lovers for several months. We had called Southwest at 4 AM one morning and booked tickets for a flight to New Orleans, simply to live. And it was like a drug. We spent 3 days drunk and fucking and high on life. We were young and didn’t have a care in the world. And I was his piggy bank.

The blackness had started to descend on me during that period, right after college. It wouldn’t become an issue for a few more years, but it was affecting my reasoning. And I was a drunk. Shea and I would go to our favorite bar at 2 PM, because isn’t that what writers did? Weren’t we that talented? It’s ridiculous to think of it now, that we compared ourselves to great writers because we could hold down an amazing amount of alcohol.

But I digress. He showed up at the studio. Tequila. Late. I let him in and he collapsed on the futon, explaining (as he poured shots) that he had to leave and “travel the country to experience it and write”. I was, obviously, devastated but I refused to show it. I put on the facade, the cheerleader face, and encouraged him to follow his dream – though I knew he was a fool.

Of course, it didn’t come without strings. He needed money. And, as foolish as I was, gave it to him. Within 24-hours, he called, asking  us to pick him up. He had made it two hours from town, hitch-hiking and basically getting nowhere. We went and picked him up, acting as if it was the homecoming of a war hero.

I don’t remember how and when we broke up. Perhaps it just faded out. But there are two distinct memories of our time together. The first was early on in our relationship, when I was still incredibly guarded. I had horrible insomnia. I would spend nights in my room or the studio simply painting and listing to the same songs over and over as my mind raced. The first morning I woke up with him, I had slept for the first time in weeks and yet his arm was wrapped around my throat. I felt almost suffocated, and then I heard his voice whisper in my ear, “I know”. It scared and reassured me at the same time. He knew what? That he was choking me? Or that we had found solace in each other’s arms?

The second time was one evening, after a party where we both of course had had too much to drink, but I still managed to drive us home. We were listening to Pearl Jam’s Ten which I had on a loop on the car stereo, and “Black” came on. It was a dark night, on a dark back-road. As Vedder’s voice filled the car with ache and heartbreak, Shea asked me to pull over. I did and he cradled my face and kissed me, and for the first time since Sean’s betrayal, I felt cared for. As if there was someone else on the planet who understood me.

It wasn’t to last. It was over long before I realized I was pregnant. I hadn’t had my period in over 2 years so I had the ridiculous notion that I couldn’t get knocked up. But it happened. I was at the Island when I discovered it. My body had been going haywire for weeks – mood swings, crying jags, you name it. I thought I was going insane. Finally, I bought a handful of tests and each one showed me the fateful + sign. I didn’t know what to do.

I knew if I had the child, which was never an option for me, as I had never wanted to be a parent, it could potentially be unhealthy as my lifestyle was one of cigarettes and booze. But I was frozen, and the one person I called, the one person I reached out to was the friend I had moved to the southwest with. Whereas I had spent the past year in a haze of denying adulthood, she was embracing it and was more level-headed than I was. She assured me we would get through this. I will always be grateful for that.

Abortions are not easy. They are not fun. They are emotionally and physically horrid. But I believe every woman should have the choice to decide what happens to her body and I stand by that today.

What I ultimately learned from the experience was that it was time to grow up. I couldn’t keep living the life I had been. It wasn’t healthy for me, I was making tremendously bad decisions, and something needed to change. I also realized, from the experience I had gone through that I wanted to help other women not be ashamed of any decision they made regarding their bodies and health. Emotionally the abortion scarred me for a long time. I wanted others not to feel the shame I felt.

I changed my lifestyle and went to work for Planned Parenthood (our clinic did not provide abortion services, as many do not, although most of the population thinks all these places do). We provided a myriad of health care, on a sliding scale basis, for men and women for any medical issue they might be having. For a few years, it was a rewarding experience. Until I burned out. I think anyone in this industry does.

Several years after my affair with Shea, I wrote him a letter in my journal. It was full of the anger and hatred I had toward him, and it was cathartic. I wish I still had it today, but during one of my many moves I destroyed all my journals, save for one. The one from my year living abroad. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t. But I felt the need to rid myself of so many pages of angst and grief, and since I am a nomad it lightened my load considerably.

It is amazing what will spark a memory. I was listening to Chris Cornell last night and wondering why I had fallen in love with Vedder before I realized the magnitude of Cornell’s talent, his poetry and pain. So I played “Black” and it all came rushing back, like a wave crashing against you in the ocean, knocking you under for a few minutes, leaving you without control.

In retrospect, I am glad I had the experience. It taught me a great deal about myself, and if I hadn’t gone through it I would not be the person I am today. I wish I could have been wiser, but that comes with age and the hurdles we have to overcome in life. I am not ashamed. I am grateful I had the choice and I will fight for other women to have that choice for the rest of my life.

© Sorrow & Kindness

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