How did I get to be in this place, at this time, for this reason? We are about 6 girls now. We are basically girls. The oldest of us would probably be that girl sitting at the far end of the bench opposite mine, reading a Joyce Meyer book (very inappropriate for the moment except she’s desperately looking for some conviction and last minute excuse to get out of here). She looks about 20 years old. But apart from her, all I can see are my age mates. 17-19 year old girls, from different spheres of life, different backgrounds and educational advancement, but here, for the same reason; to terminate the growing lives inside us.
Even as I think of that, I shiver. The girl beside me who has been chanting Psalm 23 since she got here hands me her sweater and I politely refuse. Everyone here has a sweater. I guess it’s like some unwritten rule. I look around and my eyes rest on the door of the operation room (if I can call it that). I am next in line. If not for anything, I would like to get this over with so that this nervous feeling can leave me. I keep expecting and at the same time dreading the nurse’s announcement of my name. We never get to see the girls after the abortion. There’s a back door that leads outside… away from the shame.
I look around the waiting room. Apart from the Psalm 23 girl and Joyce Meyer girl, the other 3 girls are doing nothing but waiting. To pass time, I decide to give each girl a name and tell her story.
Zainab: Zainab, dressed in the long black hijab, covered from head to toe. I can see only her face. She had a tiny pointy nose and cat eyes… eyes like a cat’s. They look sharp and angry, fearful and fearsome. She was raped. It is written all over her. This abortion, to her, is a necessity. She has to get rid of the baby… she can’t raise a bastard. Allah forbid. She wants to keep him. She wishes she can… But, it’s a lot more complicated than that. The only thing in her head is ‘if not for…’, ‘if not for…’. If I knew more about the Islamic religion, I would hear her quoting scriptures on forgiveness, mercy and protection from the Qur’an, admist tears.
Chidinma: Chidinma, wearing a halter neck top, no bra, a mini skirt, no cares. She probably has a date after this ‘exercise’. Chidinma constantly lives and wakes up in delusion. She is here because Charles asked her to abort the baby… for the last time… again. She believes him. She does. The same way she believes he is on his way. Occasionally, she presses the call button on her phone and says ‘Ahahn, where are you na?’ Every time, there’s an excuse from Charles. One time she replied, ‘hahaha… this your ajebutter will not kill you o! I said the clinic is in Mushin not around Muson centre. Muson centre ko’. Another time she said ‘Ohhh… who told you I am hungry. Okay, yeah, buy the bucket chicken and be coming fast fast.’ Charles is not coming. Chidinma knows that. But she is not ready to accept it. Charles is not coming.
Teju: Teju, wearing a long (maternity) gown. If anybody here would scream out “why on earth can’t everyone be okay with pre-marital unwanted pregnancy?!!!’, it is Teju. Teju is only about 2 months pregnant, but she’s being dramatic about it; wearing a maternity gown and dragging her feet when she stands up to go pee or spit. This is because Teju wants that baby. Her parents don’t anyway. It’ll bring shame to their name. They should never have sent her to the boarding school. In fact, she should have been home-schooled. But Teju is not about that type of life. On her twitter and Instagram, her profile description is made up of a four letter word, with a hash tag in front of it: #YOLO. In her head, she’s like ‘So what if Kunle did not man up and accept his baby? I’ll take care of my baby by myself and with my money. And my baby will become great in life. And me too.’
Favour: Favour, in her simple white top and blue jeans, quoting Psalm 23. Right now, Favour is a mixture of regret, fear and embarrassment. In that order. She isn’t so embarrassed because we are all here for the same reason, but she regrets ever even meeting Nonso and she fears that the doctor would flush or cut out her womb in the process of the abortion. She doesn’t even know how abortions are carried out. Nonso brought her here. He is waiting outside. She hopes… or not. She hates him. If not that her father who is suffering from stroke and her mother who left them 10 years ago, must not hear about this, she would have carried the baby. Or so she tells herself. She would NEVER have anything to do with any man in this life forever until she dies. And even in heaven, she won’t talk to any male spirit. Dear Lord, she hopes she even makes heaven.
Joyce: Joyce, in her simple Ankara gown. (Joyce is not her name, I just can’t take my mind off the fact that she’s reading a Joyce Meyer book). Simple enough, Joyce cannot carry a baby through the rigors of final year in a university. Especially if that university is Covenant University. She wishes the baby came as she was graduating though. Anyway, what has to be done has to be done.
Those are the girls and their stories. But what is mine? Why am I here?
I’m 19 and married to a man I barely know. I was betrothed. If he was a charming, respectful and respectable man, I would really not mind. But he isn’t. He is an ingrate, self-centered, proud bastard of a man. He cares about nobody but himself. No… he cares about nobody but himself and his prospective children. He wants to have children so bad. It’s like his life goal. And guess what I’ve chosen to be apart from his constantly beaten wife? Yup… His goal thief. That’s why I’m here.
But even as I wait my turn, and think about the stories of each one of these girls, I suddenly realize that we all share a similarity; a common doom: a part of us is going to die with this abortion. Whether physical or emotional, a part of us will die today. I begin to weigh the importance of myself, my dignity, my life and my well-being against the sheer satisfaction of seeing my useless husband sorrowful, and I realize that I’m only hurting myself.
I stand up reluctantly, with tears in my eyes, knowing and accepting that I want to keep this child, but also knowing that bearing a child for my husband means I’m permanently hooked to him thereby sentenced to a life of suffering.
Favour runs to me as I get to the door and taps my shoulder. I turn with glossy eyes and smile at her. She says ‘Are you sure you don’t want to do this? I mean… no… are you sure you want to leave? Not that I want you to… you know… but are you sure?’
I smile sadly and nod as I say ‘Definitely unsure’. Favour frowns… and we both laugh.