It was the summer of 1984 and all my friends were losing it. Senior year in high school was when they all lost their virginity. S lost it with her Indian boyfriend on the floor in her parent’s study while they were eating in the dining room; N lost it with Keith, who also hit her and left bruises; L lost it with her boyfriend who drove a garbage truck just like her father.
I wouldn’t be losing anything but my car keys for two more years.
I had just turned 17 and was getting sick of hearing “I think I’m late,” so one Saturday I packed them all into my robin’s egg blue Chevy Chevette under false pretenses of going to the mall, and drove them to Planned Parenthood in Danbury, Connecticut.
“If you’re going to do it,” I said, “at least don’t get pregnant.”
“The only way I’m getting fitted for a diaphragm is if you get one too,” said N from the backseat.
I was making chocolate chip cookies after school when L’s call jangled our mustard-colored rotary telephone. Our Mom’s weren’t home from work yet. L sounded upset, but wouldn’t tell me about what over the phone. I left the cookie dough and walked the half-mile to her house.
“Will you help me?” she asked after telling me she was pregnant. She’d already scheduled the appointment. I would drive her into Danbury again that summer–this time for an abortion.
We drove to the office building and I remember the picketers holding signs. I don’t remember what the signs said, just the protesters’ red, angry faces pressed close to the car windows as we turned into the driveway. They shouted at us, their mouths contorted.
The waiting room at the clinic was decorated in a 70s color palette of browns and mustard yellow. I sat on a Naugahyde chair and stared straight ahead for what seemed like hours. I half expected to hear a scream of pain, but mostly I had no idea what to expect.
When the nurse told me I could see L, she was sitting up in a chair, still in her hospital gown. She was in tears, rocking back and forth holding her abdomen.
“They made me look at it,” she said.
N constantly left her diaphragm on the edge of the bathtub to antagonize her mother.
“You have to put it in its case with cornstarch,” I said, “or it will get holes in it. Was I the only one who was listening?”
S went on the Pill and did a lot of screwing around before meeting her husband. On her wedding day, he announced he had re-enlisted in the Navy. L and Billy went to the senior prom, and later got married.
I didn’t have one date all throughout high school.
My feet were in the stirrups and I scooched my butt down toward the end of the exam table as instructed. The tissue paper crinkled. I tried not to think about his eyes on me.
“So, tell me why you’re here,” said the doctor at Planned Parenthood. My friends were in adjoining exam rooms. The nurse stood behind him.
“I brought my friends because they need diaphragms,” I said. “They told me they wouldn’t get them unless I get fitted too.”
“Have you had sex yet?” he asked.
I felt the cold metal of speculum as he opened it fast and wide. I gasped. It hurt. I felt a warm trickle of blood.
“No.” I said.
“Oh,” he said and looked up at the nurse.
“Let me get you a towel, sweetie,” she said.