Neither Lucky nor I were saddled by that catechism, but we had no money to pay for a visit to Doctor Sunshine, a bona fide doctor on a prescient mission. Lucky was on the outs with her domineering father, her mother didn’t breathe without the old man’s consent, so the burden fell on us or, more accurately, on me.
How do you reconcile affection, maybe love, with jeopardy, desolation, and the sense that everything is ending? You don’t. You feel as if you’re covered in a myopic goo like the August humidity outside. Add a trashed domicile, a pressing need for $400 in cash, a felonious trip across state lines, and a heart-wrenching procedure that should have been Lucky’s civil right, and you got personal and political hijinks.
But people knew people who knew a guy, and we found ourselves in the lobby of the Copley Square Hotel, talking to a well-dressed gentleman. Through metaphor, simile, and unfinished sentences, the gentleman suggested he might be able to help.
Thomas Wolfe wrote that “you can’t go home again.” However, the family doctor and his wife had become a sponsor of sorts for me and my sister when my father died, and the household had dissolved. I called upon them for a loan and drove back home, Thomas Wolfe be damned.
The good doctor hadn’t arrived home yet, so I sat with his daughter. She was a freshman at Wellesley and was enchanted with her new boyfriend. I listened to her chirp young-love clichés; she read my ennui as a lack of understanding.
“You just haven’t been in love yet,” she said.
“Okay,” I said, too freaked out to become indignant.
When the doctor arrived, his wife joined us and sent the daughter away. The three of us huddled over coffee at the kitchen table. They asked me about Lucky. My downcast stammering convinced them that Lucky and I deserved a break. They wrote me a check and gave me a hug. Entitlement. I returned to the Copley Square Hotel, cash in hand. There was no receipt.
A week passed. Precious biological time was ticking, doubt laced our bodies with adrenaline, and the well-dressed gentleman had our money. Panicked, Lucky and I returned to the hotel unannounced, raising the ire of our liaison. There had been a delay. He would contact us.
The call came with time, place, and instructions. I don’t remember much about the trip. There was a train out of North Station, silence between Lucky and me. I remember the yellow wallpaper on the waiting-room walls in the farmhouse where Doctor Sunshine performed his procedure. There must have been a return trip to Boston. Lucky sat side by side in silence, watching the landscape tick by, numb, confused by the loss of an embryo that would have become a baby, a little kid, then a teenager and a grownup. What would that person become, be like, the living outcome of an angry fuck? Would that make a difference? What would Lucky and I become? Would we stay together?
I shuddered, not at the prospect of being with Lucky, but at the awful inevitability of birth and life and destiny. If the tiny speck grew into a person, who would he or she be? Would he or she be anything like me? Or Lucky? Or both of us. Would the child live to grow into an adult? Die? Travel, fight a war, have sex, make other children, become a doctor, a lawyer, an artist, a bum? What if we gave birth to a murderer, a Hitler?
I felt a weight, the speculative reckoning of 70 years or more of human existence. We had ended all that with a grim decision. There was no way to rest with our choice. We couldn’t stand it, not together. Lucky moved back to New York. I put the apartment back together again. Late September descended into a smoky Indian summer silence and a haze of raked and burnt oak, elm, and maple leaves. I embarked on my final year at the university, recollecting the smell of eucalyptus in the parks of San Francisco.
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