Yesterday evening while sitting at my dinette table doing some article editing and journal reading, my 18 year old daughter walked in the door with tears in her eyes. There was nothing unusual about her timing, so I initially didn’t look up from my computer. My chic Dior reading glasses sat at the top of my head and the wine glass of Riesling was collecting condensation around the circular bottom. She walked in quietly at first but when the sound of her multiple key chains slammed against the cherry wood, I rose my head in an angered frenzy, only to see the first of six more tears that would follow. I counted them. Whenever she cries in front of me, oddly enough, as much as I can, I count the tears that fall. It becomes my mission to create a world where each time she has a sad cry, it contains less and less of her pain. By the sixth, my eyes had filled with large droplets and I lost track of the extent of her hurt. Before I could ask what was wrong, she had sat down, veered off into space, blinked and said “he got me pregnant on purpose.”
The crackle in the creation of the that statement stunned my soul to a point where my body naturally reached out to the wine glass nearby, but my frozen stance never allowed my head to turn. The glass of course was knocked over. My laptop was spared but wine spread across the infinite possibilities of the table and dove off over its edge. I didn’t move to wipe it. The emergency logic inside of me kicked in and transferred the laptop to a footstool nearby. Only moments before she walked in had I moved it to the side of my chair for what seemed like absolutely no reason.
I cleared my throat.
She turned and looked at me like she was disappointed in me for not being able to prevent this. My beautiful Brooklyn. I had named her that because of a prior conversation about baby names with friends who had deemed it a “white people’s” name. I laughed at it and vowed to name my first born Brooklyn. She was born shortly after my sixteenth birthday and when they first put her in my arms, she looked at me and tried to smile. She knew me. And I was terrified of her. I spent the rest of my school years determined to beat the odds. I took college classes in the evening, but dropped out due to funding and sitter issues. Eventually I went back and earned a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice. I’ve worked as a probation officer for the last six years and have become the one everyone wants to get but no one wants to assign. I’m hard on the kids in a good way. I make them write their feelings as part of probation. They must keep journals and they have assignments based on their situations that are as required as a clean drop. I make them aware of the possibilities of change. I also run a small column in a free paper. As we sat at the dining table with space and silence between us, my next tear fell hard and fast on a stack of papers that had my newest work on it. This was real life. This wasn’t writing or a probation hearing. I had less to time to come up with a response and anything I said couldn’t be deleted. I could tell she wanted me to say something. I mean, shouldn’t I know what to say. I had two pregnant teens younger than her on my count and besides that, I am known for having good answers. But in this moment..i had nothing.
As determined as I was to be successful, I meant the same thing for Brooklyn. I pushed her in school, enrolled her in arts programs and created an outlet to speak within the confines of our relationship. We sort of grew up together by accident but I was still the authority. I played it well. She was a great honor roll student and as she neared the ending of her high school career, she being scouted by a few colleges that wanted her artistic drawing skills. Yes, she was a drawer and a painter. She had an eye that could capture the slightest wrinkle in ones cheek down to a missing hair on a mouse’s tail. It was an unbelievable but undeniable talent. She was planning for school in New York. She said she loved that city and blamed me because I named her Brooklyn. It was amazing how drawn she was to a place that she’d never been but I counted it as teenage lust for emancipation and supported her desire to seek schooling there, although the city scared me. I had been once for a newspaper writing seminar and hated it.
It was too much bustle and loud noise for me. And how does one sleep there or think there or keep themselves safe? I’m no one’s prude and still love a good time but New York is just scary. I’m much more of a tropical, calming, quiet gal myself.
All these thoughts started scattering thru my head at once. What about school? Why did he do it on purpose? Who is it ?????!!!!! The last I knew, she wasn’t dating anyone anymore. Her most recent boyfriend of the two I had given my blessing on was terminated for breach of contract nearly 6 months ago. His name was Terrance and his faithful gene was still growing.
The other moved to California with his parents as they were both in the military. I had never had much of a problem out of her with boys even though her father was a lost cause. The last I heard from him, he was on his way over with a sack of diapers and a new car seat when she was six months old. I’ve actually seen him on Facebook but I’ve never reached out. For what? She knows all about him and I’ve never talked bad about him to her. She has seen his Facebook as well and consciously decided she was in no interest to meet him now. But for me, in this moment, I was suddenly angered at the fact that he wasn’t here to conjure up the words that were still formulating one slow letter at a time in my head.
While it seemed like an hour had passed between us, it had probably only been two minutes before I snapped out of my trance. Standing to grab napkins and clean my wood table before it stained permanently, I couldn’t help but pour me another glass and take a sip before I’d be willing to back whatever else came out next.
I mustered up,“First of all, who is he and why would he have done it on purpose”?
By this time her face was buried in her hands like she used to do when she was a kid. I smiled thru my tears at the memory while she wasn’t looking.
“Momma, I started sleeping with Terrance”, she said thru her fingers.
“We started talking a few months back and I knew you wouldn’t be happy because of how we had broken up. I was tutoring his sister and that’s how it started.”
I didn’t say anything. I just let her talk and sipped my wine slowly, savoring each flavor as if pieces of my sanity were going with them down the hatch.
“I know you are thinking why didn’t we use condoms, but ma, we both went to the clinic and got tested together and were both clean.”
Great! Now teenagers just go on clinic dates to determine raw sexual encounters. Somehow I felt like I should feel lucky but I couldn’t get past the numbness.
“I told him I got accepted at the Arts Institute of NY.”
Hmm, more info she neglected to tell me. Sip six kills the glass and another is poured.
“He kept telling me he was gonna get me pregnant so I wouldn’t go to NY, but I thought he was just joking. He knows how bad I want to go to THAT school!, she yelled.”
She slammed her wet fists down on the table hard enough to make her keys bounce upwards and yelled “Momma, he got me pregnant on purpose!!! This nigga did it on purpose and I know it !”
The next question was the one I knew was coming. The question I knew she was sure I’d have the perfect answer to, just like I do with my probation kids. I was hoping thru my lightweight Riesling buzz that she would not ask me, at least not right now. But I knew in my gut that she would. I would if I were her.
Hell I did. And just like my mom, back when Brooklyn was nothing more than multiplying cells, I was clueless as to the answer.
“What am I supposed to do now”, she asked softly?
She looked at me and threw the tears off her face in a hand-rage. We stared at each other, eye to eye in silence and equally confused.
She waited for the answer.
I waited for its appearance. But all I could do was lean over, grab the bottle and drink straight from it. Tears hit the neck right above where my grip. When I sat it down on the table I looked up and she was still staring at me. Her eyes told me that she was ok with my initial response but that she was muted until I had some concrete input.
My brain did a quick-scan of a multitude of events. The election and how women’s rights are being challenged. I thought of how I grew up and what little I knew about loving myself, my body and especially my choices. Most of all, I thought of the women I am today and the young women I had spent the last 18 years raising. Then I took another sip and said, “Brooklyn, in life we have regrets. Many of them are avoidable if we simply take time to think our actions thru. What is happening in your life right now is out of my control, but not out of yours. Take some real time, alone time, and weigh all of your options AND their potential repercussions. What can you make work and how? What do you want and why? Ask yourself real questions and give yourself real answers. When you figure it out something, even if its multiple choices, come back and talk to me about what you think. But in this raw emotion of it all, do not do anything except breathe and search within.”
Her shoulders fell back and she slumped in the chair like I said just what she needed to hear. Still in silence, she got up and pushed the chair in.
“I’m gonna take a shower and lay down mom. I have to study for midterms before bed.”
She walked off. I picked up my laptop and went back to work as the showerhead turned on full blast. The topic of my story: Women Who Have Abortions & The Children They Never Stop Thinking About.