She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. This is how my uncle described their last moments together, before getting choked up about recalling the memory. He was still holding that bible in his hand like it was connected to her spirit in some unseen way. The operation was supposed to be a simple one, but even simple operations can be botched by inexperienced doctors using make shift equipment.
At first, I couldn’t believe that she died. We all loved her, and she had so much life ahead of her. I remember the first time we met. Her family drove over to our house to share Thanksgiving with us. We both walked along the top of a hill outside my house as our parents got liquored up. It was a clear day, with a slight breeze. We didn’t speak due to the awkward shyness of both being ten years old, and having just met. Most the long wild grass on the hill was still alive, and swaying in the breeze. Winter was here though, and it had claimed a few small patches of grass that were faded, and dying. She grabbed a piece of cardboard in the garage, and placed it on the ground carefully positioning it to avoid the dead grass below, and said “hop on!” I hesitated at first, but then thought to myself that I don’t want to look like a coward, especially in front of a girl! We coordinated our bodies for a couple of clumsy thrusts, until the momentum took over, and friction gave way to our combined weight. We glided smoothly down the hill for what seemed an eternity, even though it lasted only a few seconds to the neighbor glaring at us from down below. He was a Baptist minister, and his mind was always focused like a laser beam on converting me.
My family wasn’t the religious type. They remained good people though, and proved to me over the years that you can still be good even though you don’t subscribe to a particular religion. Looking back at it all now, it makes too much sense. We forgot to focus on what should have mattered to us, and instead focused on just getting by day-by-day. Hot issues like Medicare, the war, homelessness, and abortion, were talked about, but only in passing. The corruption in Washington was obvious, and no one really felt they had power over political decisions anymore. It is all about the money. This is why she died.
My uncle explained to us that their family couldn’t afford college, and if she wanted to go, would have had to pay for it herself. In her mind, having a baby would make that impossible. She felt torn between the life she wanted to live, and the life that was being thrust upon her, and her family. My uncle told her that “abortion is illegal now, and you can’t trust those back alley doctors!” She listened, but her mind was already made up. She asked him to go with her after she made the appointment, and naturally he agreed to go.
I heard that her boyfriend asked that her father forgive him when he heard the news. All my uncle did was turn around, and walk back inside the house, just before he locked the door. I lost touch with her when we were about 17 or 18 years old, but I will always remember that day when we first met. Sliding down the grassy hill, and being innocent. Being young.
Submitted to NPR for their Three-Minute Fiction contest Round 8 (Spring 2012)