Whitney Jasmine

Unplanned For

Whitney Jasmine

Since the last cold days of February, this significantly older, Italian man has been calling me his “Unholy Grail.” His son is fifteen. They live together in a squatted building, an apartment that he built walls inside and shelves to keep his hoardings. The building’s other occupants are artists, immigrants, and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo chanters. He is the only single father there, and after fifteen years of internet searching he feels that he may be the only one in Italy. He is a writer, self-described as failed, and a secretary. The company that pays him owns some of the large housing structures that fill Rome: the stacked, multi story, all-the-same, overpriced and plain buildings that are filled with traditional families and newly-weds.

He stands out in this catholic city. A non-monogamist since 1993, political activist, and sensitive heart. Tall, always wearing unfashionable cloths, out-dated glasses, and so much confidence and deep perception that no one dares to care.

The beard distracts one from seeing obvious womanliness. His masculinity felt misplaced for years, and while his son was younger, the significantly older Italian man wore women’s skirts, platform shoes, and brightly colored leggings. He wore these things everywhere, to after school pick-ups and cafes. If it weren’t for the beard, he would have been called transexual. Instead he was labeled as socially defiant, seeking attention, or just punkish. The social apathy that allowed him to brave a conservative city in women’s clothing, failed him when it came to his own face. The beard stayed because it helped him hide his own perceived ugliness. He thought of surgery for a while, researched breasts, and realized that nothing would make him happy with his body, his face. He has now settled into baggy cargo pants, second-hand t-shirts, and skateboarder shoes with purple laces. He keeps the skirts and shoes in boxes on his shelves.

Every night he is home, around eight, to make a meal for his boy. The mother, so beautiful while pregnant, so desperately young, became a drug addict, a stripper, a prostitute, shortly after the boy was born. The kid has vague memories of his mother with clientele. She abandoned him, found salvation in her wealthy family’s perception of spirituality, and returned thinking all would be forgiven. Children are not so easy. The son longed for his mother, but hated her touch, her words, and her new forms of apathy and short attention. She abandoned him again, and returned to her affluent new-age commune. So, every night the Italian man is sure to be home. He cooks a meal on top of a camper stove, and stays, always, in the house to vacate the boy’s fears of being alone. Up until I came to share his bed the boy was still choosing to sleep with his father at night.

We don’t like to hear of unhappy parents, perhaps because so many of us separate love from sadness. We think being a good parent means that you enjoy the job. This father is unhappy, he is caged, he hates being a parent, he hates having his life restricted, and he compensates for the mother’s neglect by being overly forgiving, by not enforcing boundaries, by treating his son like a rational adult. He did not choose to keep a baby. He was foolish, and came inside a girl, believing that he was infertile. His son is his bondage to his mistake. His independence stopped when he was twenty, along with the ability to write freely, and the Italian man counts down the years until he can pick it up again. In 2008 he had a surgery to insure that he would never again help create a sad child. He feels that everything in his power is still not enough to save his kid from further pain.

There are no men in my family. I grew up without a father, my mother grew up without a father, and my grandmother grew up without a father. Three generations of women, playing two gender-role parts. My great-grandpa was an adoring alcoholic, who left when my grandmother was young. She was never loved and cared for by her own mother, who reminded her too much of the departed man. A southern Baptist, a great house keeper, seamstress, and secretly a slut, my grandma seduced my Detroit cop pap-pa one night. They were married a month latter. No one, even fifty-six years after the fact, acknowledges that there was any pre-marital sex involved. The Detroit cop was a philandering man,  running rounds on the women of the city, making more babies, and eventually leaving my grandma to fend for herself and the two children he was leaving behind. Feeling there was nothing she could do to make others happy, she attempted suicide, and then quickly remarried a physically abusive man. Third time round she found a sort of stability with a General Motors engineer. My grandma’s answer became money.

My mother, a college liberated lesbian of the 60s wanted to have a child without the influence and abuse of a man. Molested by an uncle, again by the second stepfather, and abandoned by her biological father at an early age, she had good reason to distrust them, excluding the sexual orientation.  Her stressed, religious, materialistic mother made her feel alien and ashamed. She bore witness to family being something that was inflicted and accused, not something that cared and nourished. So she longed and promised to end the cycle, to stop the pain, by being a mother her own way.

She lost a child a year before my conception, to an apathetic musician. They fucked once, without protection, the only man her body had touched in years, and from this fuck came a baby boy who died inside her from a spinal disease. There was a malpractice suit that she dropped shortly after the impregnator refused to speak to her anymore, and the constant reminder of her lost child became unbearable. She grew, she healed, she kept her son’s ashes in a box. His name /is/was Ryan Jameson.

While working in a restaurant a German businessman began to flirt with her. She laughed, how silly, he was wasting his energy. He was persistent. He had plenty of time to kill, several nights alone at a bar. One night she found herself alone with him in his nearby hotel room, intoxicated, and thinking “why not?” One night, no condom, and a deep feeling of shame. She could not talk to him anymore or meet his eyes, but he managed to tell her that he was married and had sons. He left with no trace, not even a distinguishable last name. She was pregnant, and thought hard about keeping this one. She asked to sit in the room where abortions were preformed, alone, so that she could decide. She left the room, got a midwife, but did not get excited for a baby. Other lesbians kept asking how she did it, curious, seeing it as a social defiance, wanting to be present for the birth. She allowed a few close friends, but after hours of pain-killer free pushing, they became overwhelmed and left her alone with the midwife.

I was and still am a difficult kid: fiercely independent, mischievous, distracted, emotional, imaginative, and defiant. My mother and I went through everything together, two cross-country moves, crazy ex-girlfriends, judgmental family, tight bills, torturing kids, and eventually her cancer. We argued daily, despite having a dependence and love for one another. I felt like I had no control in my life, and when I was seventeen I moved out with my twenty-three-year-old boyfriend. I really thought I knew what I was doing. The boy and I lived in a tent that summer, saving money and enjoying the outdoors. I got a bladder turned kidney infection that immobilized me, and began a month of antibiotics. I took each pill until they were gone, even after I was no longer sick. No one thought to tell the seventeen-year-old girl that antibiotics make birth control not work. Two missed periods and three negative pregnancy tests latter, one night while standing in his mother’s bathroom, I saw a pink plus sign.

Not talking to my own mother, deeply afraid, and sworn to secrecy by my boyfriend, I argued in front of a female judge in order to get permission for an abortion as a minor. We drove three hours south to the closest clinic. I was the first one in, the youngest, and I sat in the waiting room with other nervous women, their friends and/or impregnators. Six hours latter, after a psychological examination, blood tests, pills, and an ultrasound, I was handed a yellow, backless robe to change into. Then I entered a room similar to the one my mother left eighteen years before.

One machine, one woman at a time. I can hear the doctor talking to the two nurses just outside the door, one is new and in training. The doctor is a huge black man, with a stern voice. Their three bodies crowd the walk-in-closet space. The numbing does not work on me, and the two nurses have to hold me down, shitty sick-cadmium blinking lights, loud machine, commands to hold still, ceiling tiles, nurses’ fingernails, and no one can tell if I am crying in pain or crying out of fear.

Sent into another waiting room with EZ boy chairs, my body shaking hysterically, handed a blanket, and a cup of orange juice that clears and stings my mucus-filled throat. The second woman that enters was the oldest, a mother of four, she is calm, reserved, and brings some maternal comfort to me without trying.

I leave the room first, and see the waiting men, all with bright faces, greeting me as I leave. My boyfriend is happy, excited it is over: “Let’s leave!” Once in the parking lot I fall apart again and he is completely incapable of offering any help to me, aside from suggesting that we get into the car.   We ate gray hamburgers at a fast food place. He asked me not to fall asleep and leave him alone on the ride home. I bled more then I have ever bled for days afterwards. Constant cramps. We told each other that we would make up for this baby by having kids in the future, and being great parents to them, building our own family and not making the same mistakes as our parents.  My mother did not know of my pregnancy, but tells me now that she had the urge to hold a baby those months, and once she found out about the abortion she mourned for “her.” I still cannot tell if assigning a pronoun has comforted or horrified me.

That boyfriend turned out to be, or became, controlling and abusive. I turned out to be easily influenced by him for the next three and a half years. I stuck it out for a while, feeling like I had something to make up for. I broke free, drove from the disgusting desert of southern California to Ann Arbor, Michigan. The ex was in a car behind me the whole way, driving towards a new job. We parted paths in Toledo.  I arrived that day, on my own, new place, really really on my own.

The first things I did were wander around, get a job, and fall in love with a dreadlocked-hippie. We walked everywhere at night, wrote sometimes, and eventually built up to a kiss. Just one.  Those things started my awkward freedom. I then spent the next year or so, falling in/out of love and/or having sex with a large variation of men. The Mechanical Engineer, The PhD Lit, The Punk, The Marine, The Biochemist, The Brewer, The Schizophrenic, The Activist, The Musician, The Artist, and on.  I felt like the bad kind of slut, but never stopped myself. Got used some, and hurt sometimes. Grew. Eventually, at some point, acknowledged that I really did like sex. I also liked impassioned women. Admitted that I was intimidated by them, but kept trying. I formed my own, proud identity. Got into school, paid all of my bills, built a studio, and began to thrive on my own. I traveled. Then, the life that seemed to fit so well with my past, with the people around me, became foreign and gross. I latter found out that that life is called “heteronormative.” I do not fit comfortably with many titles, but I am comfortable saying that I am not that.

I became more and more radical, and more and more frustrated with the simple nonsense around me. I taught art in a juvenile detention facility. I kept seeing this pattern, in both my lovers and these kids, of parents not doing enough, not doing it right, not being able to do more, and it began to seem that there was no way to prevent humans that caused other humans to hurt, or just pained people. Kids have it the worst. I fought oppression.  I preached, asked Socratic questions, and pushed, hoping. I became obsessed with community and education. I wanted to make a better place for my future offspring. Now, now, I feel like the best thing I can do for my children is not have them. I am getting my tubes tied.

I will focus my maternal natures on the already living, including myself. My sterile, queer lover and I intentionally procreate through art and writing. No more accidents, maybe bad memoirs.