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In the Company of Many A tinted glass door with block letters reading Women’s Center stood between me and an uncertain future. I went to the center between classes, but I wasn’t thinking about Margaret Sanger or women’s liberation. Nor was I pondering the ranks of women I was about to join in the exciting and unsettling tradition of pregnancy testing. Somewhere in my mind I appreciated the fact that I was able to enter this clinic, very privately take a pregnancy test, and talk to a counselor; but my most immediate thought was whether I drank enough water to be able to pee into the sterilized cup. “Please sign in.” Without looking up, a technician sitting behind a clear partition beckoned me to the desk and handed me a clipboard. The list on the paper was short. I signed my name and phone number and handed the clipboard back to the woman behind the glass. “Have you visited us before,” she asked, entering data into the computer with highly glossed fingers that rapped across the keyboard like rain. “No.” “And what are you here for today?” She continued executing a punctuated dance across the letters. She had not yet made eye contact. “Um,” I cleared my throat, “I want to take a pregnancy test.” I struggled to say it and lowered my voice, even though there were only two other women in the office. “I see.” She finally raised her head and smiled, “Well, that’s eight dollars then.” She had fine laugh lines around the corners of her bold mouth. I slid the money through the hole under the glass and fingered the receipt that she returned to me. “You can have a seat in the waiting area. We’re not too busy, so it won’t be long.” Her smile lingered behind her eyes as she motioned to the chairs behind me. The other women glanced up as I crossed the room. Neither appeared nervous, with crossed legs and magazines flipping. The receipt remained in my hand and I noticed its bounce as I sat down on a boxy chair. My hands trembled. I was probably pregnant. Calm down, I told myself. It was nothing. Everyone was right and I was going to feel stupid for freaking out about this whole thing when the doctor told me the test read negative. Shallow huffs puffed from my nose and I was going to burst out of my skin. I was alone, truly alone, with no advocate other than myself. 55

Spring 2014 Volume 2, Issue 1

Though I was nearly finished with college and living on my own, it was a first for me. Was I strong enough to hear this? Was I strong enough to do this? The technician was saying something through the glass. “Miss...Miss? You can come back now.” She gave me that reassuring smile, saying, “It’s going to be okay.” I crossed through the threshold and she handed me the cup on the other side, pointing me down the hall to the bathroom on the left. “When you’re finished you just put the cup in the rotating cubby and slide it over to the lab, okay, Sweetie?” “Okay,” I choked. I closed the bathroom door and peed into the cup with ease, then rotated my fate over to the lab. I tried desperately to calm my quivering hands with cold tap water. The amiable receptionist saw me exit the bathroom and said, “You can just have a seat in the waiting room. They’ll call you in about ten minutes.” Back to the stiff chair and the glossy rags. The two women who were formerly in the waiting room were gone. My leg jerked tellingly up and down on my knee. Time behaved like a scrawny kid climbing the rope in gym class. Finally, the technician slid back the glass and called, “Miss, the counselor will see you now.” A square woman approached me briskly from a side door. She stretched her hand and ushered me into a private room with walls covered in advertising for various contraceptive devices and hotline numbers. We sat opposite each other at a cavernous desk, she with pamphlets lined up like a game of blackjack, and I with my eyes on their gleaming covers. She began, “Well, your test came back positive.” She paused as I gasped. “You were expecting this, or no?” “Well, I kind of thought...” “It’ll be okay,” she started. Everyone kept telling me this. “Have you thought about your options? Are you in a position to keep the baby, or have you considered aborting the pregnancy? Or adoption? There are many families out there who desperately want an infant to love and raise.” The room spun. Phrases like “unwed mother” and “single parent” cartwheeled through my mind. I’d been toying with this scenario all week. It certainly

Profile for FLAR

FLR the Anthology 2013 - 2014  

A compilation of the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Volumes 1 and 2 (2013-2014)

FLR the Anthology 2013 - 2014  

A compilation of the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Volumes 1 and 2 (2013-2014)

Profile for amybayne