BY CLAIRE JENNINGS
“Hey, CJ! Have a good day in class. I love you.”
“Thanks, mommy…I love you too.”
Unbeknownst to her, I am not in class. I am not even on campus. I look down at the cracked phone screen. Tiny fractures distort the background photo— my friends and I at a fraternity party, Solo cups in our hands. I look happy. Drunk, but happy.
I never went back.
NO CELL PHONES OR ELECTRONIC DEVICES OF ANY KIND PERMITTED IN BUILDING.
I put my phone in my car console and head inside. A young woman in pink is at the front counter. “Hello, ma’am. How can I help you?”
“I— uh— I have an appointment.”
They take me to the waiting room. It’s filled with uncomfortable people in uncomfortable chairs— picking their nails, reading outdated magazines, staring blankly ahead. One woman is smacking her gum, which makes me want to smack her.
“Claire Jennings? Claire Jennings?” It takes me a second to process this. “Miss Jennings?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. That’s me.”
I am cramped awkwardly in a small back office. A nurse is taking my vitals. There is a clipboard with my paperwork on it. “Before I take you back there, I need to ask you a few questions.” She takes my blood pressure. I feel the squeeze of the cuff on my arm.
“Can you please confirm your date of birth?”
“April 18th, 1995.”
“Hmm…eighteen. You’re still so young. First of all, are you doing this at your own will? Is anyone pressuring you to do this?” She keeps asking questions, but I’m too embarrassed to think past the first one. So young.
She leads me further back into the building. My hands are sweaty and my voice is shaking. On the exam table, a white gown awaits. “So what I need you to do is take off all of your clothes from the waist down, then put this on and try to relax.”
I stare blankly. Relax. I lay on the crinkly paper that covers the table. Everything around me is harsh and foreign. Then a knock on the door.
“You can come in,” I call, timidly. A man in a lab coat opens the door. A man is the last thing I want to see right now.
“Okay, Claire. Just put your feet right up here, and scoot your bottom down to the end of the table. That’s right, just there.” I’m nervous. “What we are going to do first is dilate your cervix and give you a shot that will numb you up.”
Suddenly, it hits me. My chest tightens. I begin to sweat. Before I know it, I feel a burning sensation deep in my pelvis. “OUCH!”
“Try to relax. We can’t complete the procedure unless you lay as still as possible.”
I begin to sob. I’m more alone now than I ever have been before. I squeeze my legs together out of instinct, fighting the arms that pry open my knees. Staring up at the fluorescent lights, I slowly sink into the exam table, imagining myself anywhere else but here, until the whirring sound of the aspiration vacuum ceases.