I know that self-disclosure can be a dangerous thing. With all that is going on in Texas, South Dakota, and other communities across the country, I feel a need to go there with a couple of personal stories. First and foremost, it is not my intent to debate right or wrong. Second, all I can really do is tell you how it was in my life. Third, pray that you don’t have to make the sorts of difficult decisions I have had to make. Finally, wish you the best possible outcome if you have faced or are facing similar circumstances, or know someone in such a situation.
Continuation from Yesterday’s Post:
It was 1978; I was not yet 18 years old, with a son not yet two years, an abusive, estranged husband in Germany, and an abortion two weeks behind me. I had spent the last two weeks sitting in the living room floor with my son in my arms, crying, and listening to Linda Ronstadt albums, over and over. Linda Ronstadt gave way to Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks and slowly I began to feel less sorry for myself.
I still had my job as a nursing assistant at the local hospital, but I had spent most of my money on the abortion. I knew that I could not stay in my apartment, but I had no idea where I could go. My grandparents, a hundred miles away, were clueless to all that was going on with me. I did not feel that I should trouble them.
One night, at the hospital, I met a man, D.H., who was at the hospital because a female friend of his, A.L., had overdosed. On what, I don’t know, probably Quaaludes and Tequila, since that was the passing fancy. The drug culture was not new to me as my husband and his friends were in the thick of it before he joined the Army. It was just not something I personally imbibed, except for an occasional smoke or a very rare snort of a line…which did absolutely nothing for me. It was certainly not something I wanted my son exposed to. Yet, this man made me an offer I could not refuse.
D.H. was of Polk County Pot Plane fame. (I won’t go into the details of that, you can look it up on the web, a “B” movie was made about it [the movie is a joke, not at all how things really happened]). He had led the group who unloaded the plane and had a 75 acre pot farm hidden away in the North Georgia Mountains. D.H. was a Grizzly Adams type of guy, with long, blonde, bushy hair and beard. He ran a hippie commune in the midst of this pot farm where about forty young men and women made their home. They were mostly runaways, remnant draft dodgers, or people over eighteen who had been kicked out of their homes. Four or five of the young women had infants or toddlers. He invited me to relocate there and bring my son. All I had to do was help with the children, gardening, harvesting food and meal preparation. Being a farm girl in my youth, I thought this would work out well. My son would have playmates and I would be living the farm life again, which I had so dearly loved in my childhood.
Meanwhile, back at the apartment, I had a new neighbor, a Greek Adonis, N.K., whose friends and family owned and operated the local pizza parlor. Knowing I would be moving to this farm in the wilderness, I also knew I would have to give up my job at the hospital. I had no transportation, and while a few of the men had vehicles, I could not depend on them for a regular ride to my work. This guy, N.K., promised me a job as a waitress, paid in cash every Friday, plus keeping my tips daily. Most significantly, he would pick me up and drive me to work every day. I would only be working evenings from 4pm until 10 pm Thurs. and Sun. and 4pm to 2am Fri and Sat. I had promise of cash and a ride. I also had built in babysitters for my son.
I acclimated to life on the farm/commune quite well. I would get up and bake biscuits every morning served with grits, eggs, ham and sausage. We had goats, pigs, a couple of cows, and chickens. The vegetable garden was plentiful. We made jellies and jams from wild berries. The kids all stayed together with their toys in a huge playpen we had constructed outside and two smaller ones inside. The women, with flowers in hair, running around in tie-dyed maxi dresses, blue jeans and sandals, attended to each other’s children as needed. We were rainbow colors dancing rings around the sun.
Evenings, all would gather on a huge Asian rug in the living room in a circle on the floor, pass around the pipe, and talk about the day’s events or what was planned for the next day, listening to Marshall Tucker, CSN&Y, Pink Floyd, Bob Seger or whatever tunes we happened across. Fluorescent posters papered the walls of the old farm house, lit by black lights and strobes. We had a pet raccoon, named Rocky, and two flying squirrels that would join us. Though not ideal, I did feel safe. I did not; however, feel that I or my son had any sort of future there.
My new found friend, N.K., would come inside the house with us on those weekend nights that he drove me home from work. He was exotic, tall, dark and handsome, speaking with a thick Greek accent. I was all of 5’ 4 1/2”, 100 pounds soaking wet, had long blonde hair that I sat on, and bright green eyes. I must have seemed exotic to him. My commune friends were suspicious (and perhaps a bit jealous). N.K. drove a black on black, brand new Trans Am. One night, a couple of guys from the commune were busted in the parking lot of the pizza parlor and my friends were sure N.K. had something to do with it, but I doubted it. Needless to say, I was not trusted anymore.
N.K. vehemently denied any involvement, and I believed him. After all, he informed me that he was planning to move to NYC with his partner to open a Greek restaurant in Jamaica Bay. He offered me to join them. I didn’t know, at the time, that he was deeply entrenched with the Greek mafia. That is something I learned a thousand miles from my home and a month later. All I knew at the time is that I was promised a job in the new restaurant. N.K. also assured me that he had connections in NY that could get me a modeling job. With some hope for a future, I left my son in the care of his grandparents, and struck out for NYC.
Friend is a dangerous word in some circles. I won’t go into the details here, but I will say that his plans for me did NOT include a modeling job. At seventeen, I was merely a charm on his arm to various functions and parties in wait of my 18th birthday, which would be November 15th. N.K., and his friends, who were brothers, S.N. and L.N., and their wives, were busy setting up the new restaurant.
N.K. had secured an apartment in what was once an old bank. It was two stories. The upper rooms were stocked with evening gowns, cocktail dresses, shoes, accessories and makeup. There was only one door in or out of the large apartment. N.K. bolted it locked when he left for the restaurant every day. There was a vault in the old building that once housed a safe. The safe was no longer there, but the space had been converted into a well secured closet. The closet housed guns and drugs. My job was to guard these, call N.K. if anything suspicious occurred, and to escort the entourage of beautiful women who came and went to the upper rooms all day and all night to change clothes. These women had keys, and I didn’t. Where they went every evening, I did not ask.
One day about noon, I was sitting in the living room reading a book when I heard scratching at the front door. At first, I thought it was one of the girls who had forgotten her key. Now, it was November and already cold and windy, but there were no tree branches near that door. Then, the scratching again. I was dead bolted inside this apartment with no way out, … or so I thought. Then I heard “Ayuda! Ayuda!” There was a Peurto Rican village on one side of our Greek village and a Mexican village on the other. These were the first words I learned in Spanish, long before I learned to count.
I tried to peer out the barred window, but I could see nothing. Again, I heard, “Ayudame! Ayudame!” louder, pleading, crying. A knock at the door, timid at first, and then forceful.
I put my book down and, on a whim, tried the door. It opened, and into my arms fell a young girl. She had long black hair and large brown eyes. Her eyes were screaming with fear, yet glazed and reddened from crying. Her face was pale and dry, no tears. Unable to hold her, we both went to the ground. Her head lay in my lap. Her lips were blue. She was larger than me, but could have been my age, a young woman, not more than twenty years. She could have been younger. Her blue jeans were wet and black, soaked with blood. A pool of blood at her feet, and a trail behind her to the sidewalk and beyond. Her breath was in gasps. Her pulse was fast and thready. I had to let her go to call for help. Amazingly, people were passing on the sidewalk, and no one bothered to help at all. They glanced in our direction as if to say, “Looks bad, but not my problem,” as they stepped around the bright red sidewalk mess.
I left her there in the doorway. I made a call to the operator and asked for an ambulance. My fear, though not as great as hers, was that the police would come and find the closet. A fleeting, selfish thought. N.K. and I would go to jail. It was not something I could dwell on long. This girl was dying. Already, she slipped out of consciousness, eyes closed, limp as a dishrag. I knelt beside her and held her in my arms, brushing her hair from her face with my face, and begging her to hold on. Her skin was cold against mine. I felt her spirit leave her body. I knew she was not going to make it. She was barely breathing when the medics arrived, along with the police.
They carted her off on a stretcher and into an ambulance. She was somebody’s child, somebody’s sister, she was somebody; perhaps, a mother, like me. The questions from the authorities came like rapid gunfire. Was she alone? Did I see which way she came from? Did she say her name? Had I seen her before? Did I know her? Did she get out of a vehicle? How long had she been there? Did she say anything else at all? They repeated the same questions a dozen times and all I could say was what little I knew. They took photographs. They walked all around the building. Then they left. No one asked to come inside.
I cleaned up the blood all the way to the sidewalk, and followed the trail, as the police had, to the parking lot behind the building, where it disappeared. I called N.K. on the phone and told him what had happened. He was furious with me that I had opened the door, and more so with himself for having left it unlocked. “She could have died on our doorstep!” I exclaimed.
The next day, N.K. made sure to dead bolt the door. About 10:00 am a couple came to the door, a man and a woman. They identified themselves as detectives from some task force. I could not open the door to let them in, so I spoke to them through the door. They asked me the same questions I had been asked the previous day. They told me the girl had died. She died at 5:00 pm, alone in a hospital, another statistic. Yes, it is always 5:00 somewhere. She had suffered a traumatic botched abortion. They believed by her pimp, or some John. Who knows? It could have been a “friend” trying to help her out of a bad situation. These were common deaths back then, not even noted in the news. She was known in the neighborhood as a street girl, Maria, like so many other Marias. No last name. Maria Doe. Just another whore. Who knows why? Somebody’s child. Perhaps, somebody’s mother.
God only knows why that door wasn’t bolted on this particular day. God only knows what life He saved Maria from, what life Maria saved me from. Or why?
Why did I find that ledger in 1992 stuck between two torn down walls?
This is from where comes some of the passion to tell the story in Red Clay and Roses.
This was 1978, just four years after Roe versus Wade, two years before I started nursing school.
The title of yesterday’s and today’s post is sarcastic. Of course, I can’t possibly imagine criminalizing abortion again. It would not stop the practice. It would only create more criminals, cause more pain and suffering.
I can’t condone abortion used indiscriminately and irresponsibly as contraception. I can support a potential parent’s right to decide and choose if they are ready to be responsible and committed to raising a child. For the child’s sake, if for no other reason.
If you want to know the rest of the story, you will have to wait until I get around to writing the memoir, autobiography, or roman à clef.
Teaser: I spent the latter part of my eighteenth birthday night naked in Central Park, near Fifth Avenue, close to the zoo, hiding behind a trash can and my hair until rescued by a soul man with a huge afro named George, and his woman, Ernestine, in a big, shiny, black Cadillac who took me to K-Mart to buy clothes. I made it back home to LaGrange, Georgia, by way of the Cayman Islands. It’s a long story.