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By Lisa Buscani

I watched the whole thing from outside myself, too shocked to believe it was actually happening. Holy steaming crap! Someone hated me enough to put their HANDS on me! Where the hell did that come from? We were awkward and unsteady and sweating. She curled over me screaming and yelling and shouting every time I tried to speak and hey . . . hey, no. Oh, I'd been here. I'd been here before and I didn't like it one bit. Screw you, Daddy, I'm a big girl now!

I threw Brutus an elbow to the throat and her screaming stopped and she gasped for breath and felt for the ground. And the cops sprang into action. Most of the time, the cops stick to their cruiser, amused that they're pulling easy overtime for refereeing squabbles between God freaks and crunchy, feisty college girls. But when something nasty happens they're on it, rolling their eyes with jaded impatience, "Ladies, ladies, come on now." We didn't see Brutus for a while, but soon enough, she was back. She never touched me again, though. She remembered just when to stop.

Next we escort this woman and her boyfriend, who introduces himself as Luis. I can tell Luis hurts about this; he keeps blinking his eyes hard and biting his lip. Occasionally he touches his girlfriend on the shoulder and says, "Monica, are you sure? We can work it out, my ma will help. Are you sure? Baby, please . . ."

Monica shrugs her shoulder away from his touch and clicks her tongue and I can imagine how it happened, because I've been there myself. The party went beyond control and there's a cock-rock soundtrack playing in the background and she's so drunk she can't feel his lips, there's just this general warmth in front of her face and he's in, he's out whatever. And the morning after pill isn't an option because she doesn't know about it. Monica makes a point of walking six spaces ahead, we have to hustle to keep up. There's nothing between them, she knows that. But Luis doesn't. He's already fallen in love with the fact that someone might wear his face, and he keeps keening, "Baby, baby," something sweet to wet her taste for him.

There's all that heart-wrenching, mind-bending stuff going on between them. Then the protesters notice Luis is Latino and automatically assume he is Catholic, which in this case is true. The Catholic contingent steps to the front and guilts Luis up but good, questioning his loyalty to his faith, mocking his manhood, "Don't let her do this to your baby." Luis is maybe seventeen, but he's already got the mandatory facial hair and his Virgin Mary tattoo expands and contracts in anger and he swears no one will tell him he is not a man, and he starts to yell at them, "You don't know me, you don't know me." And I grab him and tell him it's not worth it, we know he's a man. Which is true. After all, he's here; he showed up. No detached car ride from Luis, no dropping off and driving away. Points for Luis, he stayed and stepped up to the plate. And he's looking at her, looking at his hands, looking at her and looking down, stunned to discover that he has reached the point in this thing where there is simply nothing more a man can say.

After I leave Luis in the waiting room I go outside for a smoke and I see Henny Penny worrying her rosary beads on the sidelines, and it occurs to me that she's a nun. She's not in any kind of habit but her crucifix is pretty industrial and her sandals have these hand-tooled leather crosses on them, which suggests that she either has a quirky fashion sense or she's working for the firm. I can tell she's spent some energy praying on this; she's been on her knees so much the skin has darkened and toughened, I can imagine it, her shifting from shin to shin to relieve the pain. And before I know it, she slips across legally mandated boundaries, touches me lightly on the arm and RESPECTFULLY (which sounds so strange to me because we've long since lost the ability to speak to one another about this with respect), she respectfully SUGGESTS (which also sounds odd because my ears have become so accustomed to threat), she respectfully suggests "Dear, think about the potential."

And well, that's it, isn't it? That's why this hurts so damn much. What at one point might just be a clump of cells, will become so much more nine months later. It's option versus potential here, both wonderful things that must be sacrificed to one another. And I think of what a horrible business this is and how much I hate it. I hate it. I mean, this is not a nice thing, this is not a pleasant thing. Who truly wants this? Who would advocate this? Clean steel instruments and sickening gas and clinic staff speaking in the royal "we." No one wants that. And for a moment it seems that the line of protest is not so far away at all.

But ultimately, what carries me back is the fact that I am a woman of option. When you're a woman, every waking moment is full of potential, but option is a window that closes slowly: time, then no time, then all the time you never wanted. So many women move through this world alone. My job is to keep the options open for these women until they choose. That's as far as I'm willing to go. Beyond that, I will not be moved.

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