Abortion, High School Pregnancies and Memories


It amazes me how one memory leads to the next and so on and so forth. Our brains are a beehive of memories, each one stashed in its own little honey-comb hexagon that doesn’t break out until something triggers it.

Today it was talk of abortion with a friend and how she told of her own at 24 years old, how she named her baby and how someday she will meet him or her again beyond our Earthly limits.

As I ate my late lunch of Cup o Soup with real added chicken, I thought back to my days of fooling around in high school, careful not to go all the way for fear of getting pregnant.

Mom, stop reading this now. Children of mine, proceed with caution.

Then another memory popped into my head — Brenda, the cheerleader.

I had a girl crush on Brenda, not in a lesbian kind of way, but in an admiring kind of way. She was blond, she was older, she was a cheerleader. She had smiled at me across the hallway ever since I was in 5th grade, my desk near the door, her desk near the door across the hall in the 6th grade classroom.

She graduated to the junior high.  We 6th graders got shipped off to the new wing of the high school.

Then, when I was just a sophomore, I ran into her again in the high school hallways. She recognized me from elementary school and smiled again. Until one day, when she didn’t smile.

She was with two other older girls, also cheerleaders. They hurried by me, whispering. I wondered what that was all about.

The next day, they hurried by me again. As I was heading to PE, they were heading to lunch down the same corridor.  But this time, the two girls stopped me. Brenda went on to the cafeteria while the two girls explained why Brenda’s belly was larger than normal.

“It’s her periods,” they said.

“They are backing up inside of her,” they said.

“It’s causing her belly to swell,” they said.

Okay, I was only in 10th grade, but even I was suspicious.

I thanked them for the explanation with my best poker face and went on to P.E. I changed into my ugly smelly gym suit (had I forgotten to take it home to wash it?) and thought about what the girls had said about Brenda.

Her periods backing up. Her belly swelling. It sounded an awful lot like being pregnant to me.

Then Brenda disappeared for a whole semester. She was no longer in the cheerleader line-up at any of the pep rallies. Her two friends were there, and they sometimes glanced my way.

It’s funny how a talk about abortion can trigger a memory of three cheerleaders trying to save one of their reputations by lying to an impressionable young sophomore.

Actually, they weren’t lying. Periods really do back up inside a pregnant person and become nourishment, placenta, all the stuff a growing embryo needs to survive.

I lost track of Brenda after that. She probably came back after delivering her baby and putting it up for adoption. I no longer had PE at the same time the upperclassmen had lunch. I didn’t pass her in the corridors anymore.

I was glad about that. My cheerleader girl crush had gotten herself knocked up. It was shameful, at least that’s what we were told back then.

Girls carried the burden and humiliation of high school pregnancies. The boys got off Scott free, if you even knew which one had pulled the trigger.

I wonder if Brenda went on to have a family. I wonder where her baby ended up. I wonder how a brain as old as mine can remember that conversation oh, so long ago.

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