Sadness

Depression happens the same way you fall asleep. Slowly, then all at once. Sooner than later you can’t remember when it began. All you know is you’re lost, confused, and completely bat shit crazy with sadness. My mind is strong, but my brain is a fragile, helpless little thing – hellbent on its own destruction.

I thought it was homesickness. And I did miss my home. I felt isolated from my loved ones and from community and my weeping could all be contributed to loneliness. But when I went home, I missed New York. I missed the Puerto Ricans, the punks, and the heroin addicts that made noise in my street. Ohio wasn’t my home anymore and I had begun to create a life for myself without even knowing it. Then it was the boys, the one I love out of habit and the other that I am totally infatuated with. Neither one of them want me, really. They sleep with me and ignore me, and ignore me then sleep with me. And the pattern just continues like this, reminding me that I am still 17 and stuck under the thumb (or, penis if you prefer) of some careless self-obsessed man-child. Between the two of them, I am invisible. I make noise to get attention. I cry, and scream, and throw things, proving that I am still the craziest one in the room, unable to move forward because I am always slipping back into bad habits.

My job only worked to confuse my brain into thinking depression and anxiety were two radically different things. For 40-45 hours a week I move back and forth between being belittled by my boss and being screamed at by clients. It is continuous game of pingpong and I am the ball. I am never prepared to take the hit, so I just fly across the room into the face of the next paddle. I shake from nervousness on the train to work, shake violently during my 30 minute lunch as I try pathetically to gum my banana, and then weep on the F train all the way to Brooklyn. Anxiety, a foreign feeling of high alertness which gave way to the familiar feeling of absolute hopelessness. The two coincide with each other, but are at the same time very different – like twins. They may look and sound the same, but they move through the world in their own horribly unique way.

I have probably struggled with depression my whole life, I just didn’t always know the word for it. When I was a little girl, I remember crying and crying. Crying so hard over things so little that it left my parents confused and astonished. I would write things in my diary like, “Today I didn’t get picked to play T-Ball, I am heart broken.” and I probably really was. I also remember the days, weeks, maybe even months, when my mother wouldn’t get out of bed. I’d come home after school and drop by book bag by the stairs. I still remember climbing the stairs two at a time, holding onto the railing and using it to pull myself up before I jumped onto the landing, my pig tails bouncing wildly behind me. I would push her bedroom open gently and peer in, Mama I’m home from school, and she would open one eye and groan sadly in confirmation. Somedays I would draw her pictures, leaving them in piles beside her bed. I have never been a stranger to depression, only to the notion that it is abnormal or a part of life that can actually be controlled.

As a teenager, sadness showed itself in the form of self-loathing, inadequacy, and rage. I hated myself with such intensity that at times it felt like my brain was actually crumbling inside my skull and that I was inevitably unraveling into nothingness. I couldn’t control my emotions. Everyone thought I was crazy. I was funny, so no one really cared that I was a such a bitch. It’s a fact that people will always forgive you of your sins if you can make them laugh. I read moody teen literature where the main character was always in some psych ward for cutting or making herself sick. The books just gave me ideas, and I liked both of them. Cutting distracted me from the mental pain and bulimia made me feel good in a way that I still can’t quite describe. It took all of the noise away and left a gentle buzzing in my ears that made me feel separate and apart from my body. I have always liked that feeling. Vomiting is gross and pressing a razor to my legs left suspicious little scars so eventually I had to stop. I learned young that drugs, alcohol, and even sex can be used to keep the sadness at bay, but it will always find you.

Irritation is another sign that sadness is on the forefront. A sideways look, an unanswered call, anything can make me snap. I am a reactive ball of fury and I mad with the urge to fight and yell. I am exhausted by my own anger. I cannot trust my own perception and my brain keeps deceiving me. I am not to be trusted, I am paranoid and confused and bound to blow at any moment.

Today, I lay in my bed and count the days until my prescription can be filled. I tried everything – mediation, vitamin D supplements, eating healthy, exercise, and prayer but none of it was a match for my sadness. Depression is the elimination of light. There is nothing at the end of the tunnel when it hits. There are no good days, no sun, no love, there is nothing but the weight of hopelessness – and it is crushing. Sure, there are ways to treat depression without medication but where does anyone get the energy for that? It took everything I had in me to get out of bed this morning and I spent my last bit of willpower pulling this computer onto my lap and writing these words. There are a lot of people out there who do not believe in medication and I think they are fucking crazy. Here’s the truth, mood disorders are not personality flaws they are chemical imbalances that need help to be corrected, and that’s okay. So take it from me ladies, sometimes it’s more than PMS or the weepies, sometimes it’s serious and to that I say fuck diamonds, because Lexapro is woman’s best friend.

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Welcome to New York

I sit down at my desk to write, as I’ve done millions of times before. But today is different; I am different. No longer am I stuck in the grey stillness of my hometown, a town that is unsettling silent and slow. I left that place six weeks ago and already it’s hard for me to remember it. Since arriving in New York I’ve conquered the bustling subway commutes to and from work, I’ve learned how to be patient with people even when I find them intolerable, and I’ve lost love—although it was probably never mine to have. I didn’t step into the city and automatically feel at home or even that I had made the right decision by moving here. Rather, I felt afraid and overwhelmed and about a million other emotions connected to fear and regret.

I was welcomed to New York in a number of ways by many different people. I was greeted by my best friend and her bright smile, by my cousin with a loud laugh and long drag from a shared cigarette, by a broken window and a hole in my wall, a blizzard and frozen pipes, and finally with a whisper between the sheets in broken English. I never made any big declarative statement congratulating myself on stampeding towards my dreams—because that’s not what it feels like. It feels more like moving from a passionate affair right into a marriage. You’re in love, but you also had no idea what you were getting yourself into.

Sometimes in Brooklyn you can see the stars, they begin to show themselves just after 7:30PM and hang low over the park that sits caddy corner to my building. Sometimes at night I would stand on my back porch in Columbus and count them. Too often the trees or the orange glow of the city would block my view, but on a clear winter night I could still see them. It’s these little pieces that help keep me connected to my old life and give me comfort when I’m feeling lost or alone. It’s easy to feel that way here, regardless of the fact that I am usually actually lost.

The people are different too. They shuffle into the subways in herds with their headphones in and heads down. They all stand in close union with one another but are still alone in a world all their own. I watch them, and they watch me. We study each other silently as if there were glass in between us. The people move fast here. They push, run, and shove to get where they’re going, but they’ll also stop everything to answer a question or to point a stranger in the right direction. This is a characteristic of New Yorkers that I find particularly endearing.

The boys here are different too, I won’t call them men because most of them haven’t gotten that far. You have your wealthy ones, the son or grandson of someone who once mattered, but now all that is left is a handsome trust fund and a few entitled brats nursing from it. You have your poor ones; the ones who know how to work but grew up in a place so different from yours it might as well have been another world entirely. There are some that are fast and aggressive, born and raised in Queens or Staten Island or Harlem. They’ll kiss you hard, in the middle of a sentence without questioning it. Or, there are transplants who make jokes across the table in English so broken you can’t help but kiss them back, because you’re different too and you know what it feels like to be homesick.

I feel like I’ve brought little with me that was mine. One thing I made sure to bring was a portrait of my grandmother. I made my dad claim it for me in those few strange months between the death of my grandfather and selling his house. In the portrait, my grandmother is wearing a pale pink sweater with a white collared shirt underneath. In small letters in the lower left corner it reads, Captuto, Italia 1965. I assume she must have been in Italy when it was painted, but I don’t know and I never felt the need to ask. I like keeping her a mystery. Once when the howling winds slammed so hard into my building that my window broke I cried to her and asked for help. I knew she couldn’t here me but I figured it was worth a try, at least until my landlord could come and fix it.

Sometimes I yearn for the quiet stillness of home, or the small luxury of a personal washing machine, a car, or a bedroom wall without a gapping hole in it, plugged up carelessly with pink insulation and Styrofoam. But I also know that by spring I will have forgotten what easy living was like. The biggest change has been within myself. Looking in the mirror, my mirror, in a room that I recently inhabited, with things that are mine or aren’t mine, wearing clothes that are new, and thinking with a mind that is constantly changing makes it difficult to recognize myself. I like the girl looking back, I just don’t really know her yet—but I will in time.

No More Ms. Nice Girl

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I stepped out onto the mat. With my feet placed firmly beneath me, I began to breathe. I heard the cheering from the line of women at my left. They were waiting for it to begin, for my triumphant win, waiting for something to happen. And happen, it did. Julie, a woman no taller than 4’9, stood beside me and asked me to lie down on my back. “Remember, he can’t hurt you. I’ll be right here the whole time. I won’t leave your side.” I dropped gently to the ground and stretched my legs out in front of me. I could feel my assailant, a man in a homemade padded suit, standing over me. It didn’t matter who the man behind the mask was anymore, the only thing I saw when I looked up at his makeshift helmet was the rapist, the kidnapper—the enemy.

Originally, I was going to use this piece as an opportunity to discuss the illusive soccer player I had been seeing and his latest fuck up, but none of that really seems to matter to me anymore. Looking back, the challenges I faced with him seem so miniscule in comparison to what I confronted on the old blue mat in my self-defense class. I enrolled in the course on a whim. My mentor got me an amazing deal, one too good to pass up. She had been talking up the benefits of self-defense classes for weeks prior. She explained that it would give me a chance to make peace with my rape and reclaim ownership over my anger and my body. It all sounded good until I learned that I would have to reenact the experience of being raped and fight the man— the rapist, off of me. Then, I got scared. It was the kind of scared that makes your stomach jump and whine and leaves your hands and knees shaking long after the excitement has settled.   Consumed with unease I could no longer focus on the boy and our non-relationship.

Lying on the mat, I clenched my fists and the man knelt over me. He stroked my arms and grabbed hold of my wrists—a move I always hated. Joe would grab my wrists a lot. He’d grab them and pull me on top of him, “No, no….can’t we just talk? I don’t want to.” But soon my “no’s” would be silenced and he’d have me anyway he wanted. But now I was here, surrounded by friends, I was safe. “Use your voice Liz, use your voice.” The women called to me. I choked on my “no” and could barely get it out. My voice was shaking and its weakness surprised me. “NO.” I tried again, this time it was louder—angrier. Tears were rolling down my cheeks and into my mouth. My vision was turning black and I had to fight to stay present and aware. “NO” I said again and waited for my opening, a moment when he’d be the vulnerable one, and then I could strike. He was down at my feet and about to flip me onto my stomach when the women screamed, “Kick…kick….KICK!!!”  I kicked him in the face once, and then again, and then one final time before his head hit the floor and he assumed the “technical knockout” position.

I didn’t fight when it happened. I never fought with him. I was too afraid to face what I already knew, that if I refused to give him something, he would take it anyway. The night he pinned me up against his wall, I froze with fear. My screams went unnoticed and my “No’s” were ignored. Something deep inside of me was broken that night. Some kind of God given trust was lost and my mind and my body were separated from one another. I was no longer in control; I could no longer protect myself.

It wasn’t just my physical boundaries that I had trouble protecting, but my emotional ones as well. As I stood in line and cheered along for the other women I couldn’t help spacing out. The moment was gone and I was no longer in Joe’s bed, hands pressed against the wall. Now, I was in my hotel room in St. Augustine, Florida, lying beside a man I had been fantasizing about for months. We were inches apart but I couldn’t have felt further away. I was turned over, crying silently to myself and listening to the low hum of his snoring. We had, had sex…semi-painful, unromantic, awkward sex. It was nothing like I had imagined it would be. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I didn’t need to be there for it. Like, I could have been anyone, it didn’t matter, the connection we once shared was lost and I was just a body for him to rest on.

“I’m about to blow your mind, Liz. Listen up…this is serious.” I wiggled around in my chair and looked over at my friend, awaiting her next words. We were sitting on the front porch of her mother’s cozy Italian Village home and the sunlight seemed to dance around our bare feet. “You wanna know why we date guys who treat us like shit and have nothing going on?” “Because boys suck?” I joked, half-heartedly. “ERRR. Wrong! It’s because we don’t think we deserve those nice guys with college educations and good jobs, the ones who will treat us like queens.” She was right. I had spent most of my adolescence convinced that there was something wrong with me. I was a victim—I was damaged; I had, had an abortion—I was controversial. Nice guys like nice girls, ones without scars or pain, the kind of girls who wear pearls and smile a lot—girls who are whole and happy—girls who weren’t like me.

Then something shook me from my trance. It was my mentor; she had placed a bag of ice on the back of my neck. “This will help keep you present. Hold it to your chest.” With shaking hands I thanked her and took the ice focusing my attention back onto the mat. One by one I watched the women step out onto the mat and fight their battles. Some were fighting old lovers, nameless attackers, and others were fighting family members. I watched as they screamed from their bellies and kicked and punched as if their life depended on it—because for many of us, it did. I stood in awe as I watched quiet, reserved women rise with ferocity and anger like phoenixes, hungry for redemption. I saw women who had never gotten their chance to scream and fight retrieve their dignity from the ones who stole it and revisit dark places they had spent years trying to hide away. The energy in the room grew thick with power and I fed from it. I gathered strength from their strength and their cheering kept me awake and ready.

I was my turn again, and this time I was going give it everything I had. Before I had a chance to catch my breath he grabbed me from behind. The line roared with support and direction. He threw me on the ground and slipped a pillowcase over my head. “This changes nothing. You don’t need your sight—you can feel him. Wait for your opening.” Julie’s voice was calm and clear. I breathed and centered myself, waiting for my chance to get out from under him. “I’m going to fuck you in the ass and throw you in the dumpster.” The words slithered out from behind his mask. My eyes widened and I got pissed. In that instant I knew exactly what I was fighting for. With one move I heaved him off of me and ripped the pillowcase from my head. I kicked and kicked without stopping, my limps flailed about and I hit every target on his body I could find. Finally, I got up—refusing to fight him on the ground—I was going to show him that I could take him where he stood. At the same moment he charged in my direction I shot my foot into his groin and he fell to floor. Julie blew her whistle and the women screamed with joy. He took off his helmet and looked up at me with a smile, “Well I know I wouldn’t mess with you if I wasn’t wearing this suit.”

I’ve been called brave before. They’ve called me brave for sharing my story on the Internet, or for handling my abortion alone, but this was the first time in my life that I had actually felt it. I had overcome my greatest fear and persevered when I was at my most vulnerable. In a lot of ways it was the best moment of my life. It was better than the time I meditated under the sun in New York City, or climbed the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and saw a lake so clear it looked like another sky. I ran back to join the women in line and I heard a familiar voice calling me from the other side of the gym, it was my father. Smiling ear to ear he held out two big thumbs up and I realized how blessed I truly was. I have people who love and care for me because I’m worth being loved. I’m tired of letting others push me around and silence my voice. Now is my time celebrate my life and my body. This is the beginning of the greatest love affair of my life—the one I’m having with myself.

Voices To Vote For

She gasped for breath and sat up in bed. Startled by her own unconscious screaming she awoke with shaking legs and stared at the clock which hung crookedly on her bedroom wall. The paint around it was peeling and the state of her dilapidated apartment reminded her of a post-apolocolyptic movie she had seen some years earlier. You get what you pay for, she’d always think, even in the south Bronx your money won’t get you very far. Beads of sweat sat still on her forehead. She wiped them with her hands and laid back down. Biting her blanket and pressing her eyes tightly together until hot little tears appeared on her face and dripped off of her nose, she tried to fall back to sleep. Cassie was haunted by a memory that didn’t exist. Her dreams were plagued with the body of a person that had never come into being. The formation of her newborn baby wasn’t real, but the guilt she carried was. For weeks after her abortion every night was the same. She would dream of holding her baby in her arms, rocking it gently back and forth. Her dreams were so vivid that she could feel its soft, warm body pressing into her chest. She felt save and loved in a way that she never had before. Hearing its cry sent her stirring restlessly into waking. Then the dream was distant, fleeting too fast to catch it, she was stuck with the harsh reality that none of it was real, and she was alone.

The meetings helped. Every other Wednesday she sought refuge from her sadness by attending a support group for girls and women who had become pregnant and “taken care of it.” The group was put together by a social worker as part of some community outreach program. The women’s health clinic had recommended she go as a way to “alleviate the pain of having an abortion”. The nurse had handed her a box Kotex along with their card. “Every little bit helps sweetie.” She said gently, looking over the desk through tiny reading glasses, probably purchased from the Dwayne Reade around the corner. Still in shock and nauseas from the anesthesia, Cassie brushed it off. She hadn’t once considered actually going to group until the nightmares began.

“So how is everyone feeling today?” Janice, the social worker on hand that day said, as she smiled and looked around the small, lifeless room. The meetings were held in the basement of a women’s healthcare building in Spanish Harlem. The room was dark and the smell was a combination of feet and Lemon Pledge. The walls were pretty much bare aside  from a diagram of a cervix plastered on the wall. Besides a few groans and mumbled “Fine”‘s no one really responded, but no one ever did.

“Lola, I’d like to hear from you today, how is everything going? Are you still in recovery?”

Lola was a dancer for The New York Ballet and she was beautiful. She even sat like a dancer, with her back straight and her tiny feet splayed out to each side. Lola had planned to keep her baby. She was engaged to a young surgeon named Luke, and when she found out about her pregnancy the two were overjoyed. That is, until Lola started getting sick. Nausea hit her like a gust of wind pushing her into the bathroom until it threw her over the toilet. It came at all hours of the day and night. Her OB/GYN had told her it was normal, and it probably was, but what Lola was feeling wasn’t. She liked throwing up. She liked it ever since she was eight years old, when she would lean over the toilet, emptying her stomach of meals. Then in a poised manner she would gracefully stretch her long, lean leg into the air, rest her foot upon the toilet handle and flush it gently. She would dance around her Upper East Side apartment loving her thin body, catching glances of rib cage in the hallway mirror. Lola stopped when she met Luke. She was devoted to staying healthy and dreamed of enjoying cake on her wedding day like other “normal” brides. Morning sickness had caused her monster to resurface. Knowing she wasn’t ready, she made the appointment.

“I’m fine. Just worried, I guess.” Lola looked at the floor as she spoke.

“Why is that, dear? What are you worried about?”

“Sometimes I wonder if I’m gonna get a second chance, you know? Maybe that was my one shot and I blew it. Everyone thinks that I can help it, wanting to be skinny. But I can’t. If I’m not fit to be a mother yet, what if I never will be?”

“Recovery is a process Lola. It takes time and everyone’s different. There is no expiration date on grief or recovery. When you’re ready, really ready, you’ll have what you’re looking for.”

Lola bit her lip and nodded her head as she began to cry.

“I’ve got something to say.” Tanya called out from the group.

Tanya was finishing her junior year at Columbia when he took it. He didn’t take it in an alley, behind a bar, or in a parking garage. He took it in her home with the doors locked. He worked with her at the diner down the street from her building. They spent most nights talking and laughing with one another, flirting with each other and teasing the patrons behind their backs. Tanya was ecstatic when he finally made the first move and asked her out for drinks. He told her that he was working on his law degree, which wasn’t true, he also told her that his name was Allen, which wasn’t true either. His real name was Tom and he was facing three counts of sexual assault and battery in his home state of New Mexico, another fact that he forgot to mention. He had lead Tanya to believe he was from Rhode Island. Tanya was drugged, carried back to her apartment and raped in her own bed. Several people passed them on the street that night but none of them stepped in to investigate. One eye witness told police that, “Girls go out and get drunk. How was I supposed to know she didn’t have too much to drink? I thought it was her boyfriend.” The next morning Tanya awoke huddled at the edge of her bed. Her body was sore and she had no recollection of what had happened. When she looked down to see where the throbbing was coming from her heart felt like stopping. Dried semen covered the inside of her legs. She screamed into her hands. As tears flooded her face she realized that her lips were burning. Tanya stumbled wearily to her dresser and didn’t recognize the girl looking back at her. Her bottom lip was split open in a way that made it look like another set of lips. Her nose was broken and just above her brow laid a gash in the shape of a crescent moon, crusted with dried blood the color of merlot. Five weeks later Tanya found out she was pregnant.

“Yes, okay go ahead.”

“Yeah, well I was passing a church yesterday on my way to class and I saw all these little crosses in the front yard so I stopped to read what the sign next to them said.” She paused, turning red with anger.

“Go on dear, this is a safe place.”

“It said they were graves for aborted babies. Like, what the fuck? Are you kidding me with that bull shit? Where’s the grave for my fucking dignity? It wasn’t even a real person. It made me so angry!” Tanya began to cry, so much so that she couldn’t catch her breath. Every part of her seemed alive in that moment and she was pulsating with rage.

“Just breathe Tanya. I know it hurts but you’re doing okay. If those people who put up the signs and the markers knew how it felt to be you, if they even had a glimpse into your life then maybe they would’ve gone about things a little differently. Let’s hear from someone else in the group now.”

“But they don’t know what it’s like to be me…to be us. How could they? How could a man know what it feels like in woman’s body? How could a woman know if they’ve never had to go through it?” Laura looked up and around at the faces that stared back at her as she spoke.

Cassie hated the sound of Laura’s voice. She hated her story, hated that she was left behind by a man that didn’t want her. She felt sick when she thought about how weak Laura must have been to throw herself at a married man and toss out the product of their affair like garbage. The only lasting memory of their love and what they had made together. Cassie hated it, because it sounded all too familiar. They shared a similar experience and it was too close to her own. Laura represented something bigger to Cassie than a woman scorned. She was living presentation of Cassie’s unwavering guilt.

In an effort to distract herself from the lump that was forming in her throat Cassie directed her attention to Nikki who was kicking her feet back and forth and chewing on the zipper of her oversized coat. Like Cassie, Nikki usually didn’t say much. Mostly, Cassie guessed, because her English wasn’t very good. She lived close to Cassie and sometimes they would exchange glances on the subway but would never say anything even though they both knew they were going to the same place. One of Cassie’s friends once lived in the same building as Nikki and used to catch her and her boyfriend kissing passionately under the stairwell, which Cassie figured was probably how she found herself in group. Nikki was seventeen and her family had immigrated from Honduras some years earlier.

“She probably doesn’t even care.” Bella whispered to Cassie once, “I heard that in Honduras they’re so poor and Catholic that they have babies and just lay them down in rooms to die because they have no food to feed them and they’re going to die anyway.”

“No way!” Cassie shot back.

“Yes way! it’s the reason why the pope got rid of purgatory…”

Nikki could understand what the girls were talking about. Contrary to popular believe, her English was just fine. She chose not to speak because she was nervous and embarrassed. Her parents didn’t know about the meetings. She would tell them that she was going to the library to study and would instead take the long subway ride into Manhattan. She felt different and alone there but not as alone as she felt at home when her father ignored her at dinner and her three brothers and sisters would call her a slut and a murderer behind her back.

Taylor was fifteen when she got pregnant. She didn’t have any family members to sign the consent forms for her. Her family believed in Jesus Christ and the power of the holy ghost, who they praised rigorously and feared with the same sort of intensity. They believed that every life was a blessing, but Taylor didn’t see it that way. To Taylor, any baby born to a dirt poor, teenage mother in an already crowded Brooklyn apartment was more of a burden than anything else. Taylor had big dreams. She was smart, and wanted to be the first person in her family to go to college. Her math teacher, Mrs. Wilson accompanied her to her appointment, signed the papers, and let her spend the rest of the day watching soap operas in her bed. Taylor loved Mrs. Wilson and envied her soft blood locks. Sometimes she would look in the mirror and tug at her dry hair half heartedly. Taylor was bigger than most girls her age and had been fully developed since she was eleven. The boys at school always noticed her, which made her feel strange and embarrassed. Eddie was different than them. At nineteen was a man and his love made Taylor feel beautiful. He would hang around outside in the school yard and wait for her to get out of class then he would take her behind the laundromat and kiss her. He would start with her lips then slowly move to her neck, all the while caressing her smooth brown skin, whispering to her that it was “sweeter than chocolate.”

“I thought we were in love.” Taylor’s voice was small and shaking. “He was the only boy I ever had sex with but when I told him I was pregnant he called me a hoe and accused me of running around with all the guys in my neighborhood. I can’t tell my parents. They’d throw me out…does God hate me now?”

“No, honey, God doesn’t hate you.” Janice softened her gaze as she attempted to comfort Taylor with her words. “Nobody knows more about God, or religion than anybody else. God doesn’t hate or hurt, only people can do that. It only forgives and loves. Cassie, what about you, would you like to share something?”

“Like what?” Cassie turned red.

“Anything dear, anything you have to say is important.”

“I just wasn’t ready to be a mother…so I took care of it. That’s all.”

“I don’t understand what you mean about ‘taking care of it’. Could you explain further?”

“I was in love with a man…well, no. Let me start over, a boy. I was in love with a boy who didn’t love me back. He didn’t like condoms, so I didn’t make him wear one. I found out I was pregnant and that’s it. Accidents happen.”

Cassie looked around the room and could see that no one was really satisfied with her answer. Everyone seemed to be waiting for her to confess that her boyfriend beat her or her uncle raped her or something truly tragic but Cassie didn’t have any of those stories.

“Cassie, I think it would be beneficial for you to really reach down and make contact with your suffering. Can you do that for me?”

She paused for a moment and thought about yesterday. She had come home to an empty apartment filled with roaches and sour smells from the surrounding units. She sat down, unsatisfied with her new life. The life that was supposed to be truly amazing, the one she left her family and friends for, and began to cry. She cried harder than she did when the doctor laid her down on the plastic, wax paper covered table, and told her to stay still. She was more terrified than when he inserted the plastic probe covered in blue gel into her body. She was more furious than when she locked herself in the bathroom stall and saw red and blue striped throughout her white underwear. Cassie had been running for months and for the first time realized that she was alone in a city that didn’t know her.

“I can’t touch it. I don’t want to. There are entire populations and groups of people who hate me for what I’ve done, for a choice that made and they don’t even know me! You know, I want to be a mother? I do…but I wasn’t going to have somebody’s baby who didn’t want me.” Cassie’s body was buzzing with energy as her voice grew strength.  “Why? So his whole family could look down on me and my child? I wasn’t going to have his shamed baby! Every man who has ever come into my life has left me and that’s fine but I will be damned if they leave my child!” She took a deep breath and thought for a moment. “My body is a warzone. It’s hurt and it’s angry. It’s no place for somebody to grow. I let the little soul go because I wasn’t ready for it. I loved it so much that I just let it go.” Cassie’s voice was calm as she gazed at her knees. They had stopped shaking and she felt a great sense of relief come over her.

Cassie took a seat on the train and pulled her red curly hair up over her head and exhaled. Her eyes were closed for a slow moment when she felt someone sit down next to her. She quickly snapped back into the present, letting her hair fall down around her shoulders, when she looked over to her right. It was Nikki. She smiled up at her and placed her head on Cassie’s shoulder, saying nothing. Cassie responded with a weak smile and allowed herself to gently wrap her arm around Nikki’s shoulders, bringing her in close. The two walked in silence to Nikki’s building. Sometimes silence says it all and words lose their meaning at time when things felt become more powerful than things said. Cassie drifted off to sleep that night knowing in her heart she would wake up twisted with pain and guilt, but she didn’t. The guilt had faded along with her isolating silence. The next morning brought with it new hope as she smiled, admiring the newly fallen snow.

This is a fictional story meant to remind those who choose to vote what they may or may not be supporting. For millions of women throughout The United States our right to choose is being ripped from our hands while our bodies are being put on display. No matter what political party you primarily support or religion you choose to affiliate yourself with, remember that their are two sides to every story and to judge someone is to lack understanding and empathy. Your choice in this election will directly effect the health and wellbeing of women and girls. Please stand with women and reproductive rights by voting for Barrack Obama in the 2012 election. This may be a work of fiction but it was inspired by various articles, first hand accounts, and testimonies of women and girls.