The story so far:
It was November. Church was ending, slowly; the priest was giving his final blessing to the congregation. I was sitting on the end of the Pugh closest to the aisle, the two kids beside me, separating Chris and I. Outside the heavy winter-clouds enshrouded the sky like a velvet robe.
Inside his robe was white, silken, embossed with golden stitching. He spoke to us congenially from behind the altar. “Hope you all enjoy your Thanksgiving this weekend,” he said. “I know I will,” laughing, patting his protruding belly beneath the robe. “Make sure you take the time to give thanks this Thanks-giving—both for those who actually share the meal with you and those who can’t: the out of towners and also the faithfully departed.” He looked at us solemnly, and then smiled. “And don’t forget to bring me some leftovers.”
The crowd laughed. The priest raised his arms.
“Peace be with you.”
“And also with you,” we all said perfunctorily.
“Mass is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the lord.”
“Thank God,” Scotty said as we—me, Chris (my wife), Scotty, and Gillian—walked out of the ornate wooden doors of the church to the asphalt parking lot.
“Who’s coming with me?” I said. No one volunteered. “Fine, I’ll see you all at home then,” I muttered, sticking out my tongue at the kids jokingly, meaning it for my wife, less-so.
We had argued earlier that morning, she and I. She didn’t like Catholic Mass, said it was all too mechanistic or something—no one really believed anything. I told her that it’s in her Scottish blood, just like the red in her hair. You can dye it, hide it, cut it, I said, but it will always grow back the same way. Besides, I said, this new-age crap she was into wasn’t really religion anyway. You can’t just ‘be nice’ to people and expect to go to heaven for it when you died—that doesn’t cut it. I told her that she didn’t have any idea what exactly she believed in. And she told me that I was right.
She’d been conflicted about religion ever since the abortion. We had taken every precaution we could besides getting me ‘fixed.’ I even still wore condoms. But she became pregnant, as if she had Immaculately Conceived. She told me one cold morning in October, almost a year before I met the preacher for the first time. I didn’t believe it then. How was it possible? While I sat on the bed speechless, she spoke liberally; enumerating every thought that had already came, and passed, through my head. We already had Scotty and Gillian, she had said, we can’t afford another. And neither can our marriage—we both knew that. And neither could her body; she was tired of the stretch marks on her sides—deep and wide, like scars from a stabbing spear.
A couple weeks later she told me that she wanted to abort it; that she thought it was the best option given the circumstances. I disapproved, and told her so. It wasn’t morally right, I said. From that day on we didn’t speak to each other, just coexisted somehow in silence.
But now I realize that the matter of abortion is more complicated than dogma, ideology, morality, freedom, right or wrong. It goes beyond all that. Now I realize that if I could go back, one year before the day on which Satin’s messenger—that angel that slipped through the eternal folds of Heaven and fell bodily to earth--came to my door, I would probably still remain silent. I still would not know what to say.Because I never saw them again: Chris, her unborn son, Scotty, or Gillian. It had been a multi-car accident, the officer told me, no one at fault, no one to blame. She had simply been forced to make a decision that day after church: plunge head-first into the wreckage ahead of her or turn away, into the flow oncoming cars, each going too fast to stop in time, each as oblivious to our white mini-van as the next. Chris’s body, I learned later, had had to be cut out of the van using what they called ‘the jaws of life.’ They had done everything they could for the unborn child, he said, but it had already lost too much blood when they arrived. I cannot help but think that, when the preacher arrived on my porch nearly a year later, he was coming to claim my life—the last casualty of the abortion never performed last November.