“Listening to your friends remarks about your silence because words always escaped your mouth. You were constantly getting in trouble for talking for always talking, for talking too much, for talking when silence was needed, preferred. You could not talk because the vomit was moving from your stomach to your mouth..”
At eighteen years old, you thought love was your ability to make your boyfriend succumb to a million conversations about the stars in the night sky. You talked to him incessantly about nothing important when there were so many important issues that deserved his ears. Issues that deserved to be curated into something more than hidden anger, something more than denial of your pain. You longed for a hug, for a place to tell the secrets that happened at home, but how could you tell anyone that your mother slept while her husband beat you. You wanted to tell him about how many bruises were on your body. You wanted to tell him how you were afraid of the dark and didn’t sleep much at night. You wanted him to know that the darkness sometimes covered you like midnight. You wanted to tell him that the baby, his baby you were carrying would not see the light of day. You wanted to tell him the truth that you would never carry his baby, or be his wife, or live with him in those green apartments that sat at the edge of the streets with the palm trees standing like soldiers guarding the rat-infested projects. Instead, you told him you would think about keeping his child.
Your mother married your stepfather for something other than love. Your stepfather was summoned to police you and your brother’s ways. He was supposed to keep you from becoming a teenage mother. He was supposed to keep you from being your father’s daughter. According to your grandmother, you were too much like your “good for nothing” father. You were a street girl and your stepfather’s dictatorial rules pushed you into your boyfriend’s arms, the back seat of his car, his bed. You knew where babies came from and how they were made, but ignorant of the incessant unprotected sex you were having with him everywhere. You believed it was love and that you were fortunate enough to find it as a teenager with him and that this love would protect you from becoming a teen mother until the pregnancy came.
Your boyfriend provided you with this kind of love that you had not known in this way, consensual sex. It was not like when the stranger snatched you from the view of your grandmother’s eyes, her bay window a few yards away from the rec center’s pool room where he forced his fingers inside your panties as if he was searching for something deep inside your tightness. The stranger groaned with his penis pumping in his hand until it expanded like a large snake spewing venom on the ground. The same milky substance you saw on your de-virgin thigh when your boyfriend snatched his hard mass from between your groins to prevent babies. He groaned too just like the stranger except, he did not threaten to kill you if you told your mother that you were naked on your bed while she worked the graveyard shift. There was no pleasure for you with the stranger, you had not known pleasure yet, just terror because unlike your boyfriend there was something different on the stranger’s face. The stranger’s hunger for your innocence as if it was to be consumed by him alone was as frightening as his unwarranted touch. Something that your six-year-old mind did not know yet was that sex was this forbidden thing. Sex was an act of insurrection. This taboo. This sin. This prohibited offensive act that sometimes strangers did to little girls.
Sitting with the girls in the back seat of your best friend’s car, you were quiet that night as the music played outside the car and people walked to and fro at the teen center where your boyfriend played racquetball. You sat allowing the weed to fill your nostrils with smoke. You avoided pulling the smoke into your lungs from the joint they passed around from lips to lips. It was your boyfriend that you watched admiring his swing as his arm forced the ball against the wall with athleticism and his taut body. He was handsome and sexy as far as your nipples allowed you to know. Your boyfriend made your panties wet unlike the stranger although he did some of the same things.
It started with your boyfriend’s hand inside your panties too and sometimes you did not know if you were supposed to be frightened. It felt good and you wanted to be like the other girls and go farther, but without the babies. Three of your girlfriends were already teenage mothers and you were eighteen taking precautions not to end up like them or your mother. You held your breath ready to leave as your stomach swirled in cyclone fashion while holding the vomit down your throat telepathically screaming, “take me home!” Home was a tenuous place. Your mother’s husband no longer her husband but her friend now with a key and a medical diagnosis that promised no more abuse but offered a plausible reason for the manic behavior that had been the blanket over our home for several years. You were still angry. The past was very much a part of that present moment watching him unaware that life was growing inside of you.
Listening to your friends remarks about your silence because words always escaped your mouth. You were constantly getting in trouble for talking for always talking, for talking too much, for talking when silence was needed, preferred. You could not talk because the vomit was moving from your stomach to your mouth. The only thing you could do was listen and smirk, and grin because you were afraid to laugh too. Your girlfriends were high, flying like kites except for your best friend who was the designated driver, and too prude to even as much as bring a joint anywhere near her lips, but she got the notorious contact high from sitting in a fogged-out car filled with marijuana smoke. It was illegal when you were eighteen except your brother sold it, your male friends sold it and your boyfriend had his own stash too. Marijuana was everywhere and smoking it was as part of growing up a Black girl as sex and teenage pregnancy were. You were surviving trying to grow up into something better than what surrounded you, but you hadn’t seen your period in months.
You walked in the house as your feet crossed over the threshold the vomit spew out of your mouth. It was in volcano proportion. You could not hold the lava inside your stomach or your mouth any longer. It was a violent eruption of morning sickness at night, the house darkened and still. You made it to the bathroom and slumped over the toilet bowl with the bathroom door opened because you could not close it behind. All you could do was vomit, and vomit and vomit until your insides were hollow and your mother’s voice echoing from the hallway, “are your pregnant? are you pregnant?” It was not posed as a question but a statement. Your mother uttered it as a matter of fact making an announcement that the trail of vomit leading from the front door to the bathroom was the only proof she needed. I raised my head to greet her voice with additional instructions and an announcement that she was not going to clean up the mess. She told you that you were going to clean up your own proof and that tomorrow you needed to make your way to the clinic to confirm the trail of vomit.