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Ardsley: Erica - Part three

In tenth grade I switched back to public school.  Girls.  

Somewhere I met Erica. Beautiful, intelligent, talented Erica. She was a senior and I was in love. She had beautiful dark hair and an incredible voice. I, of course was insane and she wasn't any better.
   Despite our undying love and incredible passion, there were days when a little argument would grow into something big.  Often times our friends would intervene and separate us. While I never hit her, she did hit me once or twice.  I would respond by 'restraining' her. Once, in a headlock, I dragged her across the courtyard of Ardsley high School, where the smoking section used to be.
   The drama with Erica could be anything I guess, but it's too much. Coming from an abusive family I knew anger and violence and incredible self-pity.  Also coming from a horrible abusive family, Erica knew a little rage and mistrust and martyrdom.
   You see when I met her; she had already been accepted by the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.  She played violin in the All-State Orchestra.  She had done some modeling. I was not in anything of the sort.  I had already turned my life over to survival as a life choice.
   I lived only as a reaction to the stimuli I encountered.  I would just run and run until I hit a wall and then turn, jump or, sadly, give up.  I would take almost every invitation. I would walk until someone told me to stop.
    After enjoying sex with Erica for half a year, I found I was desired by other women. Sometimes I went with them -every time I went with them. Unless Erica was with me, I would run off with whoever was interested and available.
    My whole life before this was abuse. Physical, mental and sexual an unending circle of submission. I never seemed to be in control of anything.  Suddenly I was in control.  I got to choose who I was with. I couldn't let something like commitment stop me from exploring this kind of freedom I'd always dreamed of.
     I met Erica in September.  In May she told me she was pregnant. I was in 10th grade, she was a senior. Being an adoptee I often wondered, even at that young age, what it would be like when I had a child. I always thought it would happen some day and I imagined the joy of holding a blood relative for the first time.
     Being the horror story that she was at the time, Mother came across some Planned Parenthood brochures that were in my room, along with their trademark little brown bag of condoms. During a rousing fight one day Mother even said, "Wish Erica a happy Mother's Day!"
      She knew!  I guess I wasn't really trying to hide it.  I never even considered that she would concern herself with what was going on in my life. Being newly sober and starting a lesbian relationship with an A.A. buddy, Mother never paid much attention to me. I was surprised when she said this, and angry as hell that she would use this tragedy to hurt me.
      I was starting too really like the idea of Erica being pregnant.  I knew I was only 15, and Erica had plans that didn't include me for the following year. But I thought this would connect us forever. Finally, I thought, I had someone in my life that wouldn't ever leave me.  It had been done before and it could be done again. Besides, I loved Erica, and any child that we had together would be a blessing from God that I would take care of forever.
      I had never heard of Planned Parenthood before. The counselor at school gave us the pamphlets and directions.  I had heard stories about guys who ran away from these kinds of circumstances. I was not going to do that. I was going to stand with Erica every step of the way. No matter what, I loved her and I was not going to give her any reason not to love me.
      Erica was not having an easy time with this. The truth is that she had a lot more to lose than I did. While I saw this as an opportunity to permanently hitch my wagon to a super person, for Eric it was losing her dream of going to F.I.T. Instead of having the impeccably planned future she had been working on that would take her away from her alcoholic mother and crazy brother, she was going to be stuck here longer and risk not going anywhere.
     She began to drink a lot.  Not only was she drinking but she would tell me how much she was drinking. Except at school she was avoiding me. At school she was angry and distant and kept telling me that she was drinking more everyday and how she didn't feel well. Finally, when she was complaining the most about the pain she was having, we made an appointment at Planned Parenthood.
      On the day she drove us there for the first appointment (You have to go, my friends all told me) she seemed to be in the most pain I had seen her. I really wanted to hold her and make everything all right. I didn't want the baby to go away, I wanted that connection, I wanted that blood relative, but I wanted the pain to go away for Erica. We went into the sterile environment that was the waiting room.
       The receptionist seemed very surprised that I was the "father" and that I was there with her. Of course when the doctor came I was not able to go into the examination room.  I was left outside in the waiting room reading the Time magazines and Highlights for Children.  I am embarrassed to admit that I probably have spent more time in waiting rooms reading "Goofus and Gallant" then anything in Time.
        An hour or so later I was called back to the room to talk with her. She was crying. Immediately I went to her and tried to console her. She could tell me what happened later.  I just wonted her to be alright.
         She could not wait until later to tell me.  Apparently the pain she was feeling was the baby angled wrong.  The Doctor saw this right away and tried to move the baby to alleviate the pressure inside Erica. Something terrible happened then, she told me. There was a rush of blood that came out when he moved the baby.  The baby disconnected from the wall of the uterus and came out by the force of the blood.  A miscarriage, she said, probably from all the heavy drinking.
          After about another hour, with little discussion with me, the doctor let us go. It was May, God damn May, and I was living in Michelle's apartment.  Erica drove me there and came in.  We were very quiet and just laid in the bed holding each other.
           What started out as comforting stroking and reassuring kisses led to sex. Afterward Erica said, "That was the most horrible experience of my life."  There was blood on me, not a lot, but enough to know that we should not have done it.
           She left eventually and I never really spoke with her again. A few weeks later I went to drug treatment in Minnesota. She wrote to me a few times.  I told Michelle that when I came back from treatment I was going back with Erica. But that never happened.  I came back in June and without school to bring us together everyday I never saw Erica.
          Five years later I was in a diner in Dobbs Ferry.  I had to meet some friends and I was killing some time.  To my surprise Erica was my waitress.  I had heard she was working at a grocery store and was a single mother. We talked very secretively about our lives. She confirmed that she had a daughter and showed me a picture of the year old girl.
           My first feeling was jealousy.  What happened to our child?  I would have done anything to make it work! Now she was raising this girl alone because the father was uninterested in being a part of her life. Uninterested!
           I stayed until the end of her shift, failing to meet my friends. Erica gave me a ride home. I told her I was sober and she kept saying things about how I turned out all right. I didn't feel all right. I was anything but alright.
           I wanted her.  I wanted to make things right between us.  I wanted her to be a fashion designer not a waitress.  I wanted us to be a happy family. But there were no words to say this and she sure didn't seem like she wanted to hear them.  She seemed to have adjusted to her life the way it was. If there were regrets she didn't mention them. I hated that she was okay with who she had become. Didn't she remember what her dreams were?

           20 years later I was watching something on TV that prompted me to email an old friend.  Sue was there through the whole ordeal.  And, while she was one of my closest friends ever, she knew Erica well and saw her even after that ride home five years later.

Me: Tell me the truth; Erica had an abortion didn't she?

Sue: Yeah, I thought you knew that. You went there with her.


I could have died when Sue confirmed what I questioned. Fr. Godley offered me absolution but said I didn't need it because I truly didn't know, but I still never really felt better. Not many people have been able to understand why this was so horrible 20 years later.  The kind ones just accept that it hurts me; the others wonder why I'm not over it. I have two beautiful children now. Why let the past haunt me.

It just does, and it pains me so.

        

Posted: August 14, 2005 ,   Modified: August 27, 2005





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