THE LOST ONE

By Joshua Centor

They walked in together, holding hands, holding on to life. It was a dreary Thursday afternoon and Jeff thought the rain meant God was crying for them. He wished one more time that he could be at the park playing ball with his friends. But he couldn't. He was here. In this place of death.

They both knew they couldn't keep the baby. They were only 16. It was an accident. The pill hadn't worked, or she forgot to take it. He didn't really know, but it didn't matter anymore. What was done was done. They had talked about it before, what would happen if she got pregnant. They had decided that aborting was their only realistic choice.

Jeff knew it was his only choice, but he wasn't happy about it. It was his concession to Monica. "If you get pregnant, I'll support you," he had said four months earlier. But he couldn't. Sure he was there with her, but it was Jeff who needed the support. She was going about it as if it were a business, just another thing in her life. To him, it was like he was helplessly watching as the life he helped create was being taken from him.

They sat in the waiting room for an hour. It seemed as if it were days. The clock above the receptionist's desk moved at a snail's pace. It was the longest day of his life. The cold, sterile feel of the clinic was something he would never forget. Finally at 3:30, the nurse came out and called for Monica.

"Miss Reilly," she said softly. "It's time."

It sounded like the beckoning of death. A call of finality. Once Monica stepped in those doors there was no turning back. The baby, their child, would be gone forever. She rose up and walked toward the nurse. She didn't look at him.

He sat there waiting. A junior in high school in an abortion clinic. He had become what they talked about on the talk shows. He was the teenager who had knocked up his innocent girlfriend. He felt guilty. Not for himself or for Monica, but for the life that they were taking before it even started.

He had nobody to talk to. He was ashamed. He couldn't tell his parents. What could they say? His parents knew they were sleeping together, but Jeff had assured them they were being as careful as possible. They wouldn't understand, and they wouldn't support him. He thought about telling his best friend. What could he say? He had no idea what Jeff was going through. Nobody did, not even Monica.

She was set on her life. She wanted the Harvard education, the big wedding, the house, the car, and then the kids. She had her life mapped out, and there was no room for a surprise. She couldn't deal with things not going as she had planned, so the abortion was an easy choice for her. She was upset, but she knew what she had to do. Jeff wasn't so sure. 

Jeff thought he had known what he wanted. To play basketball after school. To do well, and go to a good college. To get a good job and make money. He wanted a family at some point. He didn't know when, but he wanted one. He loved Monica and could see them together forever. If they had a baby now, why couldn't they still achieve their goals, but maybe a little altered? Jeff was willing, she was not. It was her body. Jeff had no say.

He felt alone. Alone in life and alone in the waiting room. The clock said 5:27. Monica walked through the double doors and back into the gleaming room of tiles. She stopped in front of him.

"Are you okay?" Jeff asked her.

"It hurts," she said.

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah."

She sat down. He stared straight ahead. It was over. Their child was over. What now?

"Are you okay?" she asked him.

"No." 

And he cried. She had never seen him cry before. Nobody had ever seen him cry. He couldn't even remember the last time he cried. It's not the manly thing to do. But now he wept. He couldn't stop, and she sat there.

At 7:30, they were told they had to leave. They got up and walked into the drizzling cold. He walked her home, kissed her and told her he'd talk to her later. He walked into Posey Park and found a bench. And he bawled. He cried for himself and he cried for Monica. But mostly he cried for the child they had made and the child they had lost.

©1999 Joshua Centor