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Rule Number One. Welcome clients to the reproductive-health clinic while a dozen or so protesters, mostly men over 60, hold posters of mangled fetuses and shout at patients, mostly women under 30.

Standing outside on a soggy November morning in your orange vest, you open the heavy glass door for a woman and her five-year-old son. You watch the little tyke's eyes widen when he is yelled at by the self-acclaimed protectors of women and children: "Don't let Mommy take you into a slaughterhouse." You open the door for a mid-20s woman and middle-aged man while they are implored not to murder their baby; direct the woman to the lobby; and share a wink with the lab guy who comes every Saturday and happened to arrive at the same time as the woman. Abortions account for just 3 percent of the services here, and you don't know why individual clients have come at a given hour. The protesters don't know either, so they just holler at everyone, mostly people who can't afford health insurance: a teen getting a v-check, a single mom getting her annual pap smear, a drop-in UTI (urinary tract infection) or EC (emergency contraception), or even a neighbor just passing by on her way to the corner drugstore for some soap. Only dogs on leashes are immune. Say goodbye to the couple leaving the clinic. You can't do much about the gaggle on the sidewalk next to their car, screeching that the woman should be ashamed; you can, however, give an interior high-five to the man who replies that it was he who had the procedure and "By the way, have you ever considered actually helping someone?"

Apparently, it's a vasectomy day. [End Page 83]

Resume conversation with the other two escorts, who, like many on the rotating roster of about 60 volunteers, were raised as Christians and who, like all of you, have a story that inspired this service. One on your shift had an aunt who was said to have died at 18 in the 1920s of an appendicitis, though the official death record, recently requested from the coroner, revealed the cause to be a pregnancy-related septicemia (read: infected wound from coat hanger/knitting needle/other dangerous object). The other escort says that when his Catholic parents sought a vasectomy after their third child, they were told by their priest that the church would no longer recognize them. Like most of the escorts, these two make good company for a two-hour shift. In fact, you are so engaged in the conversation that you accidentally address one of them by name, which is a no-no here-you've read about the posting of license plates online, the "wanted" posters, the slandering and stalking of clinic personnel. The one with the vasectomied parents (now Episcopalian) tells you not to worry about the mistake, though he once spent a half-hour chatting with a friendly man who appeared to be waiting for a partner to finish her appointment-that is, until he crossed over to the protester camp and harangued the escort by name, bellowing scripture at him for the next two hours.

Still, you remind yourself that you live in one of the nation's most liberal cities (gay-/eco-/renter-/stem-cell/out-of-Iraq friendly), and that numerous other Americans would consider themselves lucky to have this comparatively mild version of harassment and Hell-hawking. Visit your octogenarian father in a southwestern town that is 40 miles from the nearest abortion provider in a state where 78 percent of the counties have no provider at all; in contrast, you travel fewer than four miles to the clinic where you escort, and every county in your state has a provider. Pop a CD into your dad's car stereo to silence the radio shock-jock screeding about the kinds of feminists, queers, and pot-smoking humanists who populate your personal address book back home. Your father, however, is a soft-spoken philanthrophile who prays daily and has an anti-choice slogan on his refrigerator, but has never, to your knowledge, stood in front of a health clinic and shouted at patients. As a courtesy, you try to keep your views to yourself around him, but you cogitate nonetheless on whether it's judicious or just cowardly to tell him you're a volunteer patient-greeter at a women's medical facility, rather than a clinic-defense activist for Planned Parenthood. [End Page 84]

Rule Number Two. Do not interact or speak with protesters unless it is to make clear that they are violating the law.

The clinic is on an urban residential block between two neighborhoods-one known for its cathedrals, the other for its porn shops. Is this a causal relationship or an example of Mutually Assured Destruction? For the most part, the ideological streetscape consists of the obstreperous folk with their signs and rosary beads, plus two or three escorts standing near the clinic entrance and opening doors for clients. Sometimes a client will thank you for being there or tell the protesters to "Fuck Off." Sometimes a passing driver will honk to oppose or support one side or the other, though you seldom know which. The majority of pedestrians are inured to the sidewalk proceedings, having thrown on jeans and headphones to forage a cup of caffeine. Some nod at the escort crew or stop to tell a pre-1973 horror story, usually a back-alley abortion or a friend who died from one; some nod at the protesters and accept a pamphlet. And some say what you cannot, given the escort's agenda to provide a calming presence. A 30ish man with tattoo sleeves tells them, "You people are the height of hypocrisy. This place prevents more abortions than it performs; don't you get that?" A woman pushing a stroller and scolding the three kids behind her to "Hurry yo' asses up" tells the gabblers of verse, "Don't you be in my face. I ain't never gettin' knocked up again." A wiry man with a brisk walk shouts that forcing women to have babies is a bad idea; he grew up as a ward of the state because his mom was such a mess when she had him. Occasionally, a protester or two will respond by praying in tongues or shrieking, but mostly they just cross themselves and look away.

Beyond these brief and vocal moments, however, escorting involves a lot of standing around on a chill-bone sidewalk where the drill is largely the same from one Saturday to the next. Morbid signage loses its punch after repeated viewings, publicized prayer fades into magpie chatter, and the spectacle of Saturday morning becomes the satire of Saturday night. And while this weekly ritual of harassment will never seem exactly normal, you filter out the rumble as you would if you lived on a streetcar route or next to a freeway. Contrary to your expectations, you find that the greater challenge is not that of maintaining your cool amid the hostility, but rather of maintaining your guard amid the drone. After the escort training session, you pictured yourself in frontline formation with your boots polished, but the camaraderie turns out to be much more congenial than that-the battle against complacency, more [End Page 85] subtle. You swap stories about appalling roommates and blooper-chocked weddings; you impersonate absurd politicians, share treats from the bakery, practice dance steps to keep warm. You've never seen a client turn back because of the yawpers, but the intensity with which a weekend ambler is approached reminds you of the morning you arrived for your first shift, when protesters thought you were a client: it took a few seconds to realize that the vague buzz you heard in the distance was a chiding swarm, that the hint of a hymn was a call to arms, that the pervy signs in the periphery were directed at you. Logging protester activity in the designated notebook helps you reclaim your focus: "Blinky With Knit Cap followed a client all the way to the corner . . . Stocky With Round Glasses carried a large wooden cross . . . Young Priest conducted a recitation . . . Middle-Age BuzzCut tried to block an escort from crossing the street to meet a client . . . Slick-back With Gray Windbreaker erected American flag . . . Booming Baritone With Beret ordered a lesbian couple to 'Please Spare Your Child.'"

Please Spare Our Ears.

Then, just as your escort trio is about to reach a consensus on the city's best burrito joint, the usual lunacy shifts to full-moon overdrive. Dial 911 when a 4,000-pound pickup truck-also sporting an American flag-lurches into the driveway and disgorges a towering, combat-booted skinhead screaming obscenities at the protesters and kicking over their signs. Stay calm when his female twin jumps out of the passenger seat and is instantly in your face with her illustrated neck and screaming doughnut breath: "You fuckers are the problem! You fuckers are hurting women! And why don't you just fucking fuck off?" Refrain from offering her a thesaurus and a pair of reading glasses; despite the large black letters on your vest, she has mistaken you for a protester. Exhale when the raging duo retreats: he, skidding the truck backward up the street to hide its one license plate; she, chasing after him on foot. Wishing that the skinheadette had not dropped her keys on the sidewalk in front of the clinic, you deposit the brassy mass (with its Playboy Bunny keychain) at a safe distance on the curb and then shake your head when Booming Baritone With Beret sets his Wall Street Journal aside, picks up the keys, and puts them in his pocket, muttering, "Over my dead body." You sidestep the interaction rule and try to talk him out of it, mainly because he resembles your dad with his white hair and cardigan sweater, and because the sight of one Homo sapiens pummeling even a very annoying other Homo [End Page 86] sapiens would be truly sickening. Baritone won't budge, however; he wants that Bunny keychain.

Then, in the protracted time-freeze of hoping the police arrive before the skinheadette returns for her keys, you observe Blinky With Knit Cap reciting, "O Mary, Mother of God . . ." while kneeling for the third time that morning. It's the same every week, the same syllables delivered in the same monotone without pause, cadence, inflection, or any of the other elements that make human speech musical. You can't help wondering what this woman of 70 could have done-and not put to right or rest-to be owing so much penance. Too slight for ax-murdering, too jittery for sharp-shooting. Given her mantra that behavior in this life determines the quality of one's afterlife, you wonder if her harassment of the needy will land her precisely in the fiery place she's always warning other people about. Eventually, you scratch that and find a point of empathy, not because she's kind or pitiable or particularly deserving, but because maintaining her humanity is essential to you maintaining your own.

You appreciate the unexpected rain that sends the protesters scurrying off like Cinderella's lizards, prompting one client to quip that she's disappointed because she "was ready for 'em." You appreciate, as well, the timing of the ambulance that arrives for a different client who had come alone without an appointment, thinking she was three months pregnant, but finding that her unusual pains were actually contractions from the 30-week fetus she was about to deliver. The young woman, arms wrapped around herself in cold-weather clothes, looks merely thick-waisted; there is no glow of imminent celebration, no maternity-clad sphere to be patted and cooed at and showered with gifts. This mom has not been carrying ultrasound photos in her purse for brunch-boasting. She has not been getting obstetrical exams, shopping for car seats, interviewing midwives, or arranging parental leave. You can hardly imagine how alone she must feel as the professional strangers buckle her in for the ride with a baby she has been too distraught, too druggy, too messed up, or otherwise ill-equipped to be monitoring. Maybe they'll give her a drug to stop labor; maybe she'll need an emergency C-section. Maybe this baby weighs 2.5 pounds with only minor problems; or maybe this baby is a single-pounder with a serious brain bleed resulting in cerebral palsy or retardation. Right now, the only certainty is that nobody is going to clink bottles and trade hugs in the hospital lobby to celebrate the long-awaited [End Page 87] child; you're just hoping there's a man, a sister, a best friend, or available nurse to hold the woman's hand. Then what? Who will help the mother who was unaware of the entire second trimester and, in a mere few hours, will be responsible for the care of an infant? The EMT thanks your crew and takes off. Had the ambulance arrived just minutes earlier, the protesters would be blogging about the incident as a botched abortion. Far worse is what these hallowed messengers of love and compassion would have carped at her as she stood there, trying to hang on to herself.

Rule Number Three. Do not laugh or make jokes about the protesters; respect their right to free speech and assembly.

You are serious. You are staunch. You are committed to protecting women's reproductive rights. But how not to smirk/giggle/peal forth a hee-haw when Middle-Age BuzzCut is murmuring epithets ("Murder Women") at you in his throatiest, exorcistical rasp and could spin-and-spew at any moment; Pink Face Jowly Guy sits reading in his director's chair, looks up just long enough to shout, "Save your baby!" then goes back to his magazine; and Tall With Blue Raincoat is thrusting carnations at the ascending windows of departing cars? And really, you ask, how not to bust up completely when an earnest sloganeer in a gray trench coat alternates between "Don't do it, Daughter!" and painfully pitched ululations of "God Bless America," aimed and fired at every adult, child, and brown paper bag exiting the clinic?

You shrug at your fellow escorts, sip hot tea from your thermos, and question the likelihood of an awesome being who would create an entire universe-particle, energy, space, time-only to throw his/her/its sacred, unfathomable clout behind something as mutable and insignificant as a nation. You wonder whether God Bless has a soul that precedes and exceeds her corporal life expectancy of 80.5 years, and if so, whether said soul-if born to a person 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, or sixth-century Persia, or even forty-eighth-century Planet Zorg-would be subject to a creator who had granted preferred-customer status to the United States in 2008. You wonder, too, how it is that when a client's boyfriend suggests to the ensemble that those who are truly concerned about the loss of innocent life should protest the war instead, God Bless replies, "War has nothing to do with killing innocent babies and children."

You wish that you could ask your father some of these questions when [End Page 88] you visit for the holidays, that you could challenge his favorite TV anchor's theatrical spew about the necessity of parental-consent laws: "Your nine-year-old daughter could have an abortion without your knowledge!" Because you know that this would only inspire your father to change the subject or pat you on the head with his You-Should-Have-Been-a-Lawyer look-which is both praise and disappointment-you tease him instead about his framed photo of the President, which is bigger than his framed photo of you. You add that you stopped on your way into town to buy some holiday meth from the defrocked pastor and his boy toy at the nearest megachurch. And while your father says grace before dinner, you bow your head and dispatch a silent blessing to your favorite charity-The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, those transvestite nuns back home who raise money for causes seldom featured on bumper stickers near your father's house.

Later, while sitting around the glammy tree, you give your brother an anthropological book on evolution and receive his gift of a book by John Stewart Mill. You watch your father and stepmother share a puzzled shrug that you and your brother could be so pagan, so faithless, so different from them. Do they worry that the two of you are doomed, not only to be excluded from the ultimate kingdom, but to eternally gnash and burn? Probably not. Your stepmom wears an angel on her lapel, and your dad just bought new choir robes for the small-town church of his childhood, but the two of them never talk fire and brimstone. In fact, the pastor of their current church has been accused of religious pluralism and rage deficiency. And so, you give your dad a CD of choir music and remember yourself in barrettes and shiny shoes, wrestling your grandparents for the aisle seat of a pew at church, where the choir procession paused in twos like the animals of the ark and your throat tightened when you picked out your father's sublime tenor. You remember, too, the dread in your belly when the music ended and the minister's pedantic thrumming turned magical parables with their rich, poetic language and whorls of meaning into the sterile sermons you would later liken to kissing without saliva.

Rule Number Four. Avoid physical contact with protesters. Remain calm and nonconfrontational.

It is illegal to intimidate, interfere with, or threaten a client entering a clinic; it is illegal to block the entrance or driveway, or disturb clinic services [End Page 89] with noise or unruly behavior. In your county, protesters may not come within eight feet of a client unless the client consents by accepting a pamphlet or, as it usually happens, by unwittingly passing through a pamphleteer's eight-foot circumference while heading for the clinic. Sometimes a client allows herself to be engaged by a protester by making no clear objection. You can offer to walk her into the clinic, though you are trained to respect her decision, even if she is being admonished or otherwise intimidated-which, escorts agree, is like watching a car accident in slow motion. Other times, protesters simply get bored and test the limits of the law. BuzzCut, who would be hilariously camp if he weren't so menacing, paces back and forth in front of the clinic while sibilating, "Murder for money. They sell the parts." The playground bully of the group, he frequently stares down clients and hisses at escorts, picking on one in particular ("Satanist!") when her shift partner has nipped inside for a minute to use the bathroom. BuzzCut is the most aggressive, the most visibly unstable, and, of course, the most meticulously documented of the regulars. He is also the most frequent challenger of the eight-foot radius of the clinic door, a boundary that is invisible to other people, but jackhammered into the sidewalk, wired as an electroshock fence, and painted hot pink in the minds of escorts. You notice the pun in action when a protester delivers a stentorian reading from the Amplified Bible. You notice her two, three, six colleagues gradually congregating in the driveway they are not allowed to block. You ask them to disperse, then deliver a firm rebuke to Beer Belly With Cowlick when he walk-shoves into you, snarling to get out of his way. You pray that his god brings him some manners. Or at least some hair gel.

Rule Number Five. Be observant.

You open the clinic door at 7:39 am for a couple in their early 20s. She's head-down in an unsuccessful attempt to hide a bruised eye and split lip; he's stormy and reeking of alcohol. Picture them as parents.

Rule Number Six. Work as a team.

You stretch your hamstrings while the morning trio discusses an anti-choicer who recently called clinics and posed as a pregnant 12-year-old with a 22-year-old boyfriend-a stunt to portray the phone staff as "protecting a pedophile." One escort accompanies a client who is afraid of elevators; another feeds the meter for a client who forgot. A man in his early 20s waits outside [End Page 90] with you for his girlfriend, who is having an abortion. He just lost his job; she's still in college. They really wanted to keep the baby and are sad about the loss, can't understand why these people are out here persecuting them for waiting until they can actually support a family.

You trade harassment stories at an escort meeting and are intrigued by the males who posit that their particular presence might, in fact, yield better-behaved protesters. You suspect some unfortunate truth in this, but are genuinely heartened that several of the escorts are men. You welcome the new guy who works double shifts and circulates emails that liken protester aggression to primate behavior and feature spreadsheets about statistical-lie tactics. You think nothing of seeing him at a gender-bend theater, where he looked puzzled as though he couldn't remember how he knew you, but then later said he knew all along. You continue trying to think the best of him when a book he proposes for a group discussion is about motivating women to reclaim the word "cunt" as a positive and powerful force in their lives. You try not to be irritated when he says he reads pornographic novels, then confesses to some arrogance about his elitist literary tastes. You find that some of his suggestions have crossed the line from well intended to damn annoying. Another escort posits that the guy must be a mole from the other side. You deny this because you're an affable person, a team player, a true feminist who wouldn't rubber-stamp the man as dominating and egocentric. Slap. You admit failure on three counts and have your guilt expiated at a street party by a cackling, six-foot nun with broad shoulders, hairy forearms, and an infinite supply of confetti glitter.

Rule Number Seven. Report unlawful activity, including trespassing on private property.

You attend the escort refresher training, where 28 women strategize over Thai food and talk about the holiday-week protesters who put their liver-spotted hands into clients' car windows and attempted to enter the building. You unlearn the deference to elders you were taught by your parents, increase your volunteer commitment, and dispel any doubts about your sidewalk presence making a difference.

Rule Number Eight. Be aware of unusual behavior and follow security procedures in case of suspected danger to the clinic. [End Page 91]

Staff has been notified that a 27-year-old white male drove by our satellite clinic last Saturday with a loaded firearm and the intention to harm one of our physicians. Deterred by the presence of our security guard, he sought mental health care services at a nearby hospital. According to police, the man was upset and disoriented after his girlfriend ended their relationship in part because of her abortion at the clinic. Police have since arrested him on charges of attempted murder with no option for bail. Highly trained security personnel are now on duty and we have provided the targeted physician with extra security as well.

The scary email pertains to a clinic 20 miles away, but still, you view your regular rosary-holders with new scrutiny, searching their ranks for unfamiliar faces. One morning a taxi circles the block several times, slowing down in front of the clinic before jerking up the street again. When the taxi finally stops, you make yourself disimagine the assault rifle that is actually just an umbrella pointed at you for an eternal millisecond by the flustered young woman hurrying toward the clinic door.

And though your street protesters are hostile and annoying, a more immediate concern is the red pickup truck that has been inexplicably parked in the clinic's garage for three hours by closing time, with two rowdy dogs crated in the back. You shrug, make a joke about the "Barking Garage," then forget all about it; that is, until you and your growly stomach are home in your kitchen making a portobello-mint-artichoke sandwich and thinking, what if . . . You sit at the table, put the napkin in your lap, bring the long-awaited sandwich to your lips and think again, what if . . . You take that first delectable bite and open a Thomas Hardy novel to page 209 on which a man literally clings to a cliff, contemplating his mortality and the trilobite fossil just inches from his eyes while the raindrops pierce his cheeks like cold needles, his hands aching and tired as he struggles not to lose his last hope of rescue, but then, what if . . . You sigh, put the sandwich down, close the book, and call a clinic administrator at home to report the truck. She thanks you and calls back later to say that it did indeed belong to the companion of a patient. No threat, no harm. You apologize because it's the weekend and you really don't even want to think that way but still . . . She concurs, what if . . .

On the phone that night, your dad says he's going to be a great-grandparent again. You note that through his wife's family he has 14 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, most of them within an hour's drive, while your nuclear family of origin has produced one step-grandkid living 1,380 miles away. [End Page 92]

"They start early in your town," you say, aiming to match his wryly celebratory tone.

"Yes, I was just reading in the local paper about all the babies people are having around here," he says. "Must have been in the Sports section."

You miss the joke at first. You also miss the significance of the new parents with different surnames when he reads you the day's birth announcements. To you, it's couples having babies; to him, it's unmarried couples having babies, or at least, married women keeping their maiden names. He registers the observation without further comment, a restraint you've had occasion to appreciate-for instance, when he merely chuckled at the pimply, peevish, orthodontic daughter who castigated him for using the Lord's name in vain after he stubbed a toe. He still remembers your teenage speeding tickets, but is kind enough to forget that you urged strangers on Greenleaf Avenue to accept Jesus as their personal savior, and pitied the doomed, inferior souls who rolled their eyes and kept walking.

You talk to your father about his new garage and the fallen tree on your porch, saying nothing about the armed guy, or the red truck, or the threats of eternal damnation, or the accumulated exposure to animosity that gives your vascular system frostbite. It's pointless to worry him about your safety or annoy him with your politics, and yet you wonder about this quality of silence: Is it empty, or accepting, or merely pragmatic?

You answer your door at home one Saturday morning. "We've been asking people what kind of change they would like to see in the world," begins the tract-bearing spokeswoman of the pair in dark, churchy dresses.

You reply that you'd like there to be fewer religious organizations harassing women about their family-planning decisions.

Rule Number Nine. Step in front of a client if protesters attempt to photograph her. Document harassment; protesters do not have a right not to be photographed.

When Blinky With Knit Cap snaps a rookie escort's picture every half-hour or so to harass her, you step in front of the new gal (escortese for taking a bullet) because she is genuinely startled-for the moment. Then, after she's done wondering whether her face will be posted on a hate site, whether a psychotic sign carrier will follow her home, and whether these particular protesters are likely to murder clinic personnel in the name of Jesus, she [End Page 93] decides that the camera is a mere tactic. Your time-tested strategy is to resist provocation, remain impassive. Not everyone on your shift agrees. The two Julias, who signed up recently and always work together, bolt into action-one returning fire with the clinic's camera, the other maternally herding clients to the door by putting her hand on their backs to guide them.

Then, just when you think it will all calm down-Blinky, BuzzCut, God Bless, and Company have packed up their wagon and departed; you've sent the new escort home-The Scarecrow appears. Tall, with a floppy hat over blond straw-like hair, and a red-lipstick parallelogram that looks like it was applied by a child without a mirror, she tends to show up alone when the others are gone and the clinic is about to close. In her dental-drill voice at full volume, she reads from a widely discredited report linking abortion with breast cancer. One Julia tries to reason with her, then retreats in rhythmic waves from the verbal torrent in reply; the other Julia is discernibly pissed at the attack on her friend. Simultaneously, they turn on their heels and face the clinic, heads held high like steadfast soldiers. You understand their exasperation, and yet . . . .

"If you're a passionate orator eager to fire up the crowd at a rally for reproductive rights," the escort trainer had said, "let me point you to another volunteer opportunity-escorting is not the job for you."

Meanwhile, The Scarecrow has started berating a young woman who is "headed for Hell" and whose boyfriend shouts from his double-parked truck to leave his girl alone; they are actually trying to get pregnant. When the client is safely inside, the boyfriend calls you over to say, in his thick Irish brogue, that the clinic really saved his girlfriend when she came to this country a few years ago, young, broke, and "in trouble" with nowhere to turn. Relish the feel-good story-until you realize that The Scarecrow is now in the clinic's loading zone, inches from a young Latina trying to get out of her car. You feel bad for the client because you were distracted and didn't get there in time to offer assistance. You feel bad because the two Julias, not facing the street, didn't get there either. You feel a twinge even for The Scarecrow, who probably did not become this twisted and hostile from having a charmed life.

Fortunately, just then, the postal carrier on the yellow-brick sidewalk points a thumb at The Scarecrow and tells you, "Just give her back the ruby slippers and she'll go away."

You take the escort gear inside and wave goodbye to the receptionist behind the security door. On the bus ride home, you stare out the window [End Page 94] and wonder whether or not an ability to stay calm amid the vociferousness is an even trade. You decide that there are, in fact, not nearly enough of the aforementioned feminists, queers, and pot-smoking humanists in your personal address book. The Protestant ministers of your childhood never explicitly said it was a sin to be exuberant, but there is a chronic moderateness about you, a reserve that gives you the perceived emotional range of a dial tone, a demeanor that recently prompted an acquaintance to shush a bawdy joke mid-sentence and refer to you, with wounding generosity, as "polite company."

Rule Number Ten. Protect clients' legal right to access clinic services. Walk clients to/from the corner when your assistance seems warranted.

Another day, another slogan. "Adoption is the better option!" shouts God Bless. Note that people are sometimes surprised to find that you, adopted at birth, are pro-choice. They point out that if abortion had been legal in 1959, you might never have been born. You'd like to ask them whether a nonexistent person could be upset about not existing-or about the more likely possibility that your mother could have ceased to exist after a back-alley procedure. You'd like to ask them what it would have been like for a young college student (her own mother five years dead, her father in an iron lung) to be allegedly sent away to a mental hospital because it was less embarrassing than her true destination, a home for unwed mothers. What might it have taken for her to relinquish the baby she had carried for nine months? What was your birthday like for her over the next 20 years, and who would have helped her raise you-groceries, transportation, daycare-if she had made a different decision? Then, as you often do during a quiet interval on the Saturday-morning sidewalk, you picture your mother at 19 with her jitterbug legs and forehead curl, frightened but hanging onto herself as she walks toward the clinic, hoping that someone like you will be there to greet her. [End Page 95]

Lisa K. Buchanan

Stories and essays by Lisa K. Buchanan have appeared or are forthcoming in Mid-American Review, the Missouri Review, New Letters, and Quick Fiction. She lives at

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