Slowly I built up my physical stamina to a level equal to that when I played basketball six years earlier. My daily running routine worked to discipline my mind as well as my body. Also, at age 26 I was involved in the newspaper and magazine business as a writer, and that, I came to understand, has little to do with softness or sympathy or paying heed to the feelings of other people (sometimes even one’s lover) but a lot to do with meeting deadlines. That kind of tension was transforming me the way boiling water hardens an egg, and about as quickly. I put intellectual pragmatism above the freedom (or natural inclination) to follow one’s emotions and feelings. But Kelly never felt pressured to succeed in a career; she was born into a wealthy family and knew she could always turn homeward when in need of money — if she were desperate. Many evenings when Kelly went with friends to the Triton to listen to jazz, I would stay home to work. What I denied she embraced.
I had wanted life to go smoothly after the ovarian cyst. But now in July, when Kelly was finally happy and active again, enjoying walks and running, came the pregnancy. While I wanted children — maybe even five of them eventually — our first wasn’t to come for another year, with one to follow every 18 months. That was the plan. The baby she now carried was not part of the plan, a road hazard in need of removal. In my journal I wrote of the resentment and anger I felt that such complications — and her need for my emotional support — took me away from my work, work that produced the money for us to have such things as a home of our own. That second week in July I felt my anger all the more intensely, because she said she felt no anger or resentment, yet insinuated little things about me, quick stinging barbs — I cared more about money than about her and the living thing she carried.
At the same time, something intriguing and provocative was also occurring. What was inside Kelly was more like a human than I had imagined. By the tenth week, a little miniature person had formed, half the size of my thumb, a bump on the wall of Kelly’s uterus. The head was inordinately large compared to the rest of the body, the eye orbitals forming, little dots for ears, tiny arms and legs. And I wondered: was the embryo cognizant on a human level? A brain the size of my fingernail. Could it function? What is human cognizance? How do you judge functionality? I wondered whether what was inside her possessed a soul.
Did the soul arise as the result of earthly living, a collection of one’s experiences in the world? Perhaps the soul preceded earthly living, from the moment of conception. Or maybe the soul came when the fetus “quickened,” when the mother felt its movements, a belief commonly held in this country 250 years ago. I wondered if the soul survived after the body’s biological death. I thought that, even if the soul were immortal and appeared sometime during the embryonic or fetal stage, it wouldn’t be too badly upset at having to go directly to the soul world and not having the opportunity to exist in the earthly world.
Even if there were such a soul (what is a soul?) and it would be upset by an abortion, no guilt plagued my conscience. War and abortion. Some people may say both are forms of murder. But how easily they’re accepted by society as natural phenomena, despite the sorrow each may bring. And since the spiritual questions couldn’t be empirically proven, rather requiring some degree of faith, of which I have very little, I put aside that question. I decided to get on with more pragmatic matters, such as the cost of having the child, or how long Kelly would wait before an abortion would become quite expensive. Maybe my thoughts and words qualify me as a perfectly horrible and evil person. Some right-to-life proponents, in fact, may want to stone me, which wouldn’t be very forgiving or Christian of them.
I much prefer those right-to-lifers who would choose to pray for me. Kelly probably wondered what the hell was wrong with me. Regardless of my feelings about abortion, she questioned why I couldn’t at least give her more emotional support and be more patient, since she wasn’t positive, but was pretty sure that if she had the abortion, a murder of some sort would be committed. And there was something else. She felt guilty that she could entertain thoughts of disavowing motherhood.
“Part of me embraced the pregnancy,” Kelly wrote in her journal in the first days after she learned she was pregnant. “Yet now I had a living entity who in nine months would erupt from my body and start a chain of demands, beginning with feeding and changing, etc., and never ending until the day I died, asking for money, cars, etc. I disliked myself for the hesitation and anxiety. After all, my mother had four children by the time she was 27 (my age) and I couldn’t even caress one.” But as Kelly had been with her friends who had undergone abortions — giving them her compassion mainly out of duty — I didn’t know how guilty a woman could feel or how hard the decision could be for her.
I drove from Los Angeles to Cardiff on the 11th, which was a Sunday, and I planned to stay until the 14th, a Wednesday. Kelly that day wore a cowboy shirt that had become very tight and accentuated her breasts. I liked the shirt on her; she looked sexy in it. But she said she felt embarrassed that people might know she was pregnant. On the couch she insisted I sit close to her. The tension between us lifted. “What do you want me to do?” she said.