Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The End of the Innocence

I remember very distinctly the evening when I lost my innocence. No, I don’t mean that kind of innocence. I mean the innocence of youth. The innocence of a life led freely without consequences.

I was visiting a good friend of mine during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. I looked up to her and, quite frankly, would have traded my life for hers in a nanosecond. She was a cheerleader in high school, was popular, had a boyfriend, and smart. She was confident and strong. I felt that in many ways she was everything that I was not.

M had just gotten home from the hospital after having an abdominal surgery a few days before. Her mother had agreed to let me take her to a movie that afternoon. We went to see Ghost. We both enjoyed the movie, but the demons kind of freaked M out. I then took her out for ice cream. That was a mini-mistake. Her mother had expected us right back after the movie was over. She was a strict woman to say the least. After our tongue lashing, we spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the hood of my car talking.

It was a pleasantly warm that day and as the sun started to set, the breeze picked up and was so refreshing. The sky was so beautiful. I can honestly say it is the only sky I can remember in my head with the exception of two others: the sky over Cape Canaveral when Challenger blew up and the sky on the morning of 9/11/01. I’m in no way comparing my loss of innocence to those tragedies. I just find it interesting that such major events are connected in my heart by the sky.

Looking back, M was trying to figure out whether or not to tell me the entire story behind her surgery the entire afternoon. I was just rambling on about nothing in my usual manner while she was more contemplative than usual. Finally, when our time was running short, she told me her story. She would not have known about the rather large ovarian cyst that she just had removed had the nurses at the clinic not been required to take an ultrasound to ensure that a pregnancy isn’t too advanced before performing an abortion.

Abortion? That word hit my ears like a bolt of lightening. M had an abortion? M, the same friend I considered to be the rhythm method guru (we’d had many discussions about how that worked and what I would have needed to do if my relationship with K had reached that point). M had it all together. How did this happen? Abortions wasn't supposed to happen to people like her. She is such a disciplined person. She’s a stickler for details and so thorough. That’s something that would have happened to me had I been lucky enough to be sexually active in the first place. As the sun finally set, I physically felt myself age. Life was no longer just some fun game. Just hearing that story from such a close friend opened my eyes to the divide there was between my youth and adulthood. I couldn’t jump back over and adulthood wasn’t all that I hoped it would be.

Through the conversation, M and I cried together a lot. I was thankful in my heart that she didn’t tell me about what happened until after it was over. I didn’t know how I would have responded if she had asked me to go with her. From a purely religious standpoint, I wasn’t raised as someone who would ever step foot inside an abortion clinic. Wouldn’t that make me just like the men who brought the adulterer to Jesus with rocks in their hands waiting to stone her? What good is having principles when there is no love behind them? I hope that I would have been a supportive friend who would have been there to hold her hand if only she asked me. After all, this wasn’t about me at all. It was about M, and her very painful decision.

Today, I am glad that I was that supportive friend to her that night on the hood of my car. I’m glad that I never told her how held her due date, January 30, in my heart. I’m glad that I’ll never tell her that I have been thinking all day about how that child would be on pins and needles at the DMV today. As I get older, I realize that I’m not so much keeping a vigil for the child who never was as I am for the child I would never be again. Adult life is complicated and you can’t go back. I hope I can convince my daughters to cherish every beautiful blue sky and every glorious sunset before the responsibilities and consequences of life knock on their doorstep. Innocence is something to treasure, not something to throw away. But how can a child ever know that until it is too late?

1 comment:

Trista said...

I love this post. I don't think I could pinpoint my loss of innocence so easily. I can't imagine how I would have responded to M if I were in your shoes. It really makes me think.