never let me decide. About anything. Couldn't pick my cereal, couldn't
pick my clothes. Independence didn't fit with Daddy's military agenda.
He liked silence and a nicely made bed. Later, it used to drive
me crazy how he yelled me down, speaking over me and stuffing my
words back into my mouth. He chose my friends, determined my schedule.
Made me want to strike out. At anyone, anything.
when my friend decided to volunteer as a clinic escort, I went with.
Weird thing is, it isn't even about abortions to me. It's about
giving a woman an active role in her future, one way or the other.
We walk her across the parking lot; if she changes her mind, we
walk her back. Something as important as this can only be left up
to her. We let her find out. We let her decide. It would drive Daddy
at the clinic is nervous today. It's Mother's Day weekend. Most
people take their moms to insanely expensive brunches with too much
confusing silverware or give them ostentatious floral arrangements
that smell like funeral parlors. Maybe take them to a nice John
Tesh concert. But not the pro-lifers. Pro-life activists use the
weekend to demonstrate on behalf of the unborn. As a result, we're
seeing lots of action at the clinic.
that's OK, I'm prepared. On days like this, it pays to be a big
girl. You have to work a bit harder to get around us. Our big girl
feet are planted with the force of our size. Our width, which normally
makes us a target, now makes us a better shield. By the sheer grace
of gravity, we big girls, we will not be moved.
the regulars are here today: There's Henny Penny, an anxious, inward
woman who curves like grief over her rosary beads; there's Brutus,
a florid, meaty mountain of a woman who is convinced that the Lord
is benevolent but profoundly deaf, so she bellows her prayers; and
there's the Thin Man, who doesn't say much but doesn't miss an opportunity
to shove his literature in your face. He's not alone; there are
a lot of men in attendance. Between the polyester and the pimples,
they all look like those guys you refused to date in high school.
And they're still pissed.
nickname the regulars because, well, they're always here and we
have to call them something. We don't know their real names because
we never get close enough to find out. And they sure as hell don't
know our real names because we don't want to wake up to find them
protesting on our front lawns and picketing our children's schools.
regulars have brought in reinforcements to mark the occasion: available
relatives, church friends they've recruited to raise the body count.
And of course, they practice their own form of day care: their children
stand with placard pictures of mutilated fetuses and struggle to
mouth the slogans their parents scream.
protesters are organized. They're focused and prepared and you really
have to hustle to get to a client in the parking lot before they
do. It's animal to meat: we're running and jockeying and struggling
and pushing and the poor client is wide-eyed and red-faced, she
hadn't expected this. My escort partner and I introduce ourselves
as we are walking, we are walking, we are always walking, and I
have my arm around the client with my palm out so it doesn't look
like I'm pushing her into the clinic, you have to be conscious of
things like that and with the other arm I'm pushing their hands
and leaflets away like vines in the darkest heart of the jungle.
of the corner of my eye I see the Thin Man writing down the woman's
license plate number, which he will give to his buddy at the DMV,
who will then give him the woman's home phone number and later he'll
call her husband or parents or boyfriend and say do you know where
your girl was today? The Lord has no room in his heart for murder.
they are screaming at her, screaming and detailing her future in
hell, promising a similar fate on earth, and she turns to me and
says, "Is this how they greet everyone who comes for a PAP
smear?" We keep walking.
protesters are very careful. They know just how close they can get
to the woman or the clinic. No one wants to risk an assault charge
so the cross through the parking lot becomes this weird waltz where
the dancers are prohibited from touching and everyone is struggling
to lead. There are times though, when tempers flare and the dancers
lose their delicate rhythm. Once, Brutus cornered this poor teenager,
screaming and screaming until her face turned just the most interesting
shade of purple. Brutus yelled, "The Lord created your body
as a temple! The Lord created your body for a higher purpose."
And the teenager snapped back, "Well the Lord also created
Slim Fast! Buy it, use it!"
a card-carrying member of the Margaret Dumont Society for Big Girls,
I winced a bit, but I figured I wouldn't be meeting Brutus at the
Big Boy for fudge cakes any time soon, and I got a little evil chuckle
out of it. But I noticed Brutus wasn't laughing and I saw her thick
fingers reach for the girl and I stepped back and she grabbed me
instead and she wound up my shirt in her huge, hammy hands until
I bent like Quasimodo begging for sanctuary and she got up real
close and screamed "murder, murder, murder."
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