Everyone saw Emily go home with that guy at the party, and now everyone would know.
And after ten days of waiting, she realized that not only was she late, she was beginning to become really, desperately, frighteningly late.
Everyone saw her make out with him; neat, tidy Emily made out with him and then went home with him.
But instead of moping around her apartment watching rerun after rerun, she got dolled up and went to Karen’s just because party. Perhaps because she was feeling lonely or perhaps because she felt it was empowering — or perhaps because she had just finished consuming an inordinate quantity of alcohol — she accepted the guy’s (What was his name? Kevin? Mark? Christian? Yes, it was Christian) equally drunken suggestion that they go back to his apartment. A kiss here, a compliment there; she was naked and headachey beside a stranger in his bed at 9:00 in the morning.
After gingerly waking him and asking him if they. . . and did they use. . . she went on her way and decided to put the entire incident behind her. After all, it was nobody’s business but hers and Christian’s.
Except everyone saw her.
Half an hour later, when she had escaped the horrible knowing of Christian’s apartment, her phone chirped.
Karen: You slut!
She sighed as she willed the bile to stop rising in her esophagus.
Karen: I never knew you had it in you.
Emily: What are you talking about?
This was foolish. Emily knew damn well what. But she hadn’t been willing to show that side of herself.
Karen: You went home with Christian. Nice choice. He’s a babe.
Emily: I am never letting you talk me into tequila shots again.
Karen: Oh come on! You had fun. I’ve never seen that side of you, all sexy and flirty.
The bile was there again because everyone knew.
Emily: This never happened.
But of course, it happened. And everyone knew.
And now here she was in the family planning aisle of the local pharmacy, hurriedly trying to pick the test that looked the least likely to be a complete pain in the ass.
Pure Emily was buying a pregnancy test.
She found one that looked simple enough. “Pregnant” or “Not Pregnant” would appear in cute, small type. She purchased the test and cloistered herself in the pharmacy bathroom.
After ten minutes, the dreaded word “Pregnant” chirped sweetly at her.
She felt dizzy but righted herself. As she did, the mirror reflected only half her face, the rest cut off.
Everyone knew the rest of it was there, though.
She considered crying, but she forced herself to remain composed until she made it to her car.
The pharmacist said goodbye to her, but the pharmacist also knew.
Once she made it to her car, she sat in the driver’s seat, and after twenty seconds, she felt she’d be okay. She put the car in reverse, pulled out of the spot, put it in drive, and motored off.
But then she realized there was something coming from deep within her gut, forcing her to pull over and relieve.
She vomited in the grass on the side of the road, heaving wails behind retches. Somehow, she made it to the coffee shop she frequented with Karen, where she sat with the knowledge of knowing.
She was frightfully unsure of how to approach this situation. She certainly couldn’t care for a child (she could barely care for herself), and she couldn’t expect her parents to care for it either. As it was obviously too late for emergency contraception, she decided that her only option was to visit a women’s clinic.
Several days later, she parked her car in front of the clinic. Protesters from the local Catholic church greeted her. One tried to force a flyer in her hand.
They knew just like everyone did.
She did her best to swerve around them, but they were persistent.
They were persistent because they knew.
They stood in front of her, pled with her, thrust mutilated pictures at her. One held a mirror up to her face and asked her if she could live with herself.
She hated that they knew.
Another waved a rosary in her face, calling upon the Virgin Mary for her intercession.
Virginal Emily knew that they knew, but did not have divinity as an option.
She finally walked in and sat down and filled out the paperwork. Her name was called, and she walked into the examination room.
“Emily? How are you doing today?” asked the nurse.
“I’m not really sure. I’m pregnant, and it wasn’t planned.”
“Okay. Let’s examine you, run some tests, and make sure.”
The nurse measured her weight, blood pressure, and pulse. She determined that, at least physically, Emily was probably fine.
About a half hour later, the doctor walked in.
The doctor knew.
“You are, in fact, pregnant. Do you want to talk about some options?”
Emily’s felt the familiar sensation of bile rising yet again in her esophagus. She already knew most likely what the doctor would say, but his confirmation of her fears was terrible.
The doctor and the nurse knew.
“Oh God,” she said. “Yes, I’ll have to talk about. . .” She thought she might cry again, but she took a couple of deep breaths.
The doctor sat down and looked at her.
“Whatever you decide to do will be perfectly okay.” He attempted as much of a smile as he could.
Emily closed her eyes. There was no feasible way. She wouldn’t be able to hide it for the entire time, and nobody would be able to afford another child. She could give it up for adoption, but that would mean carrying it and revealing her irresponsibility.
Of course, everyone already knew because they’d seen her make out with him and go home with him.
She thought about the woeful Catholic and her mirror.
They knew. Catholics always knew. She knew since elementary school that Catholics always knew, which is why she hid, but everyone could always find her.
She had only briefly glanced at the Catholic person’s mirror. She saw the same slash of face that she saw in the pharmacy — only one side.
Everyone knew the rest of it was there.
There would be only one way to handle it and no way to hide it.
That night, she began to think of the possibilities. Ultimately, she was irresponsible.
Everyone already knew she was irresponsible.
But once her parents got over the initial shock, they’d be thrilled. Probably. She was an only child, and she knew it would bring utter joy to her parents.
But then she’d have to get Christian involved. There would be arguments. Money would be involved.
He would make sure that everyone knew, meaning everyone would see what she hid.
She fell into an uneasy sleep.
The next morning in class, her professor lectured on a segment from The Feminine Mystique. As her professor talked, Emily couldn’t help but see the parallels to her life.
In Betty Friedan’s world, women literally gave birth to their worst anxieties. At least, they gave birth to the cause of them.
But ironically, the “solution” to this was no less fraught with its own problems and anxieties. The thing that Gloria Steinem worked towards a generation later had been tainted with the ugly reality of the opinions and judgements of others.
But sometimes, it was the only option.
Either way, everyone knew, but nobody seemed to like it. Two sides of the same coin, neither particularly shiny.
The women of Betty Friedan’s world knew, but so did those of Gloria Steinem’s.
At the hospital, when they moved her into the special room, Emily couldn’t help but be frightened. But this wasn’t uncommon. Women did it all the time, she thought, as she wrung her hands over her abdomen.
There was a mirror in the special room, but it was cracked. Emily could see her face briefly, but there was a jagged cut through it. She could almost make out a glimpse of two complete faces. But she lost sight of it as her head was guided down.
Finally the doctor came in.
All of them together would create their own world of knowing, one that everyone already knew.
Emily lay still. Her vision tunneled but her mind remained clear. A screaming came from her body. She wept.
Everyone knew, but right then, nobody told.
Sometime later as Emily was lost in thought, she turned her head, rested it to the side, looked over, and smiled.
Of course she had known what she would do. She had seen it reflected back in her bathroom mirror as she washed her face the evening prior. Her whole face, unhidden, teemed with the pink freshness of exfoliation and cleansing. She managed half a smile, and then a full one, but without any teeth. She needn’t be afraid of the whole of her face.
It was then that she no longer cared if everyone knew.