Humans are prone to forget pain. If the memories of pain were too vivid the human race would have died out long ago, because women wouldn’t had had more than one child as the first delivery pain would stop them from having sex with men completely. Even men forget the pain – if they truly remembered the hangover pain, the alcohol retail business would barely make any money.
Six years later I remembered the pain and humiliation of the first abortion as a distant war that I had survived once and might be able to get through again. But in those six years Latvia had become a different place. It had become an independent country that embraced democracy and capitalism. Latvian nationalism that was oppressed and punished during Soviet times now was openly and proudly waving red-white-red flags. The nationalists looked around and saw that the pool of pure bred Latvians was small and getting smaller. Only 52% of people living in Latvia were Latvians. The rest was an international cocktail of Russians, Belorussians, Ukrainians, Poles, Lithuanians, Jews, and a sprinkle of Estonians. There was a threat that soon Latvians will be a minority in their own country.
The nationalistic newspapers cried out:
– Latvian women, be patriotic, give birth to Latvians!
But it takes more that a newspaper headline to convince a Latvian woman to give birth. For that we needed a man, inner stability, material wealth and excitement for the future.
I felt nauseous, dizzy, sick and painfully unhappy. I thought if I got rid of the thing that made me so miserable, I would be happy again, just like I was before I met Lasse. But was I happy before I met Lasse? That question was unanswerable because the answer lay in the past. The future was all that mattered. I had to be happy in the future and I thought I knew what I had to do to get there. I started to work on submitting my present to the goal of getting rid of the sickness.
– You are 12 weeks, – the small town’s gynecologist said after the examination.
Usually, in the moment between walking from my wide spread legs to the paperwork on her table a gynecologist would ask:
– Would you like to keep it?
Because it was not given that you’d want to keep it.
But this was a reformed gynecologist of a newly independent Latvia, she was silent till she sat down in front of her paperwork, looked at a calendar and said:
– Your next appointment is in 2 weeks.
I felt agitation arise in me like a hot wave.
– Why? – I asked.
– To see the progress of the pregnancy.
The heat went into my face, it lit up red.
– I don’t want to keep it.
– Why not?
– I have a whole list of reasons.
– Give me your list of reasons, slowly and one by one.
Sweat from my armpits started to stream down my rib cage. The blouse under the sweater got wet.
– First, I don’t have a partner.
– I am sure you can manage without a man.
– I went to a dentist in Canada. To do my root canal he did about six X-rays on me. That might be damaging to the fetus.
It was true about the x-rays. I was hoping that this fact, like the psychotropic pills 6 years ago, would affect the doctor’s mind.
The gynecologist looked at me ponderously. I could tell she didn’t quite believe me.
– Why did you do root canal and x-rays if you were pregnant? – she finally asked.
– I was in a horrible pain. It was an emergency. I had no idea I was pregnant.
– How could you not know? Didn’t you plan?
That was a confusing question. Did we really plan? Or we made a plan that after a little while didn’t work for one of the plan-makers so she just went along with the plan to soothe the other?
Or we made a plan, agreed upon it and now am betraying the trust of the other?
– Do you plan everything? – I asked.
– Having a child is too important. One must plan it. If you plan to do x-rays, use contraceptives.
That sounded ridiculous. Every single baby I knew had come unplanned. Besides, a life of square planing allows no emotions. Emotions was all that mattered to me. Be it love. Be it depression.
– Well, I didn’t plan pregnancy, my toothache was not planned and x-rays were administered. What do you suggest I do?
The doctor was silent. She looked at her paperwork, then looked at me again and said:
– I want you to go home and think about this.
– I already thought about it. I don’t want to keep it.
– I am not going to help you to abort it.
I stared back at her.
Something that used to be so easy now was blocked from my access. I didn’t expect I had to fight for it. If 6 years ago I could paint myself as an innocent victim of circumstances (careless husband, psychotropic pills, some doctor’s decision) then now I was a perpetrator. Rather than wailing over what I was forced to do I was now demanding blood.
– All right, – I said.
– Your next appointment is in two weeks, – the gynecologist said when I headed for the door.
If the bad news were that with the return of Latvia’s independence nationalism invaded the minds of gynecologists then the good news were that Latvia’s independence brought in capitalism, with it’s sophisticated markets and advanced technology.
In the big town of Riga there were plenty of for-profit clinics that performed abortions. They boasted steady-handed handsome surgeons, effective anesthesia that makes you dream of Caribbean and cutting edge, minimal invasion tools that barely touch anything inside you.
The clinics did anything for money, but one thing they couldn’t change was the gray, uncomfortable Baltic sky that was spitting rain on me when I walked out of one of them one early morning clutching my stomach and feeling the blood seep through the cotton wool between my legs.
I had expected that after I cut all my physical ties with Lasse I would feel happy and healthy again. None of that happened. I was still sick, tormented and without future.
Night after night I lay in my bed watching through the window stars and Moon slowly cross the dark sky.
I used to think that all my failures – as a mother and as a wife were on the account that I hadn’t met the right person. It was not really my fault. My Russian ex was an alcoholic and a philanderer. It was impossible to make home and family with a man who would walk out in his slippers to get milk for a breakfast to come back in two weeks worn out from carousing.
But Lasse was a good man – a reliable man who didn’t drink more than a simple diner required, a man who knew how to make a living, a man with unique, remarkable talents, a man who was handsome till, mysteriously, he was not.
Why didn’t it work out? Who’s fault it was? In the long sleepless nights I examined and re-examined every minute of our brief relationship. What did he do, what did I say, every single thing was played back under unforgiving magnifying glass of my mind. Slowly, creepingly a realization accumulated it’s weigh inside me till is squashed me: I was evil.
It was all my doing, my fault, my responsibility. Everything horrible that had happened in my life happened because I made it happen. I couldn’t be a good wife because I was evil. The husband who went to get milk for breakfast didn’t have other choice but go and drink for two weeks because I was insufferable. I was haughty and bossy to my other husband who tolerated me because he was a nice man, but I punished him by leaving. I had betrayed him and promises I made. I had destroyed his life.
I couldn’t be a good mother because I was evil. I slapped my son once when he was a baby twitching in my arms too much. I forcefully potty trained him and thus probably ruined his life for good. I left him with my mother because my work was more important to me, as was my love affairs and excitement of travel. I did an abortion and I did another because I was a killer. I was evil.
Unlike millions of other women I was incapable of submitting myself to a will of a man, nor to boundaries of a marriage, nor to expectations of society. I was evil because I had flares of high intelligence, emotional overdrive alternating with strange mental and emotional blackouts, depression. I had put myself above everything, I was egotistical beyond belief and thus – evil, evil evil.
Those thoughts brought a relief and strange sense of power. I couldn’t control circumstances outside me, I couldn’t change them. But I could change what was in my control. I decided that from now on I will isolate myself from love, sex, men and be cautious towards life. Never again I will fall in love. Never again I will destroy a decent man’s life.
Then Lasse called:
– I want to talk to you. Maybe we can repair this.
– I don’t want to see you. I have nothing to say to you.
I was afraid to tell him what I had done.
But Lasse didn’t let me decide.
– You are still my wife. I am coming to Latvia. Meet me in airport in 2 weeks.