The Final Decision
My quivering hands held a stick. It was insignificant in size. Its white smooth body had a small plastic window, with silk curtains that didn’t allow visitors to look through. Ridges surrounded this window as a fence and the long driveway was wrapped in soft white cotton. The precious outwardly appearance masked the red witch that lived inside as she patiently waited for her next victim near her window. She was now looking at me, her tiny fingers parting the silk curtains. Her red eyes burned through my sanity and whispered lies into my mind. My eyes began to water, desperately trying to sever this gaze. My breath was short, frantically gasping for air. I was suddenly inside the witch’s white hut, our gaze still as strong as before. Her red body floated towards me, her claws outreached. My paralyzed body refused to move, my eyes began to bulge out of its sockets, my dry mouth unable to scream. Unexpectedly, the white stick slipped from my sweaty palms and I returned to the old bathroom.
Time stood still. Stale and pungent as the urine in the white toilet that I was sitting on. The dull white tiles stared back at me. A malignant stain manifested itself on one of the tiles. The only sense of time came from the rusty showerhead above me on my right. The heavy, icy cold water was bulging from the shower’s bottom lip, refusing to let go. Yet, she slipped and began to cascade down into the metal drain that awaited her. My eyes witnessed her clear circular body as it fell, gracefully and slowly. She fell without a single ripple of fear or panic. Her deep, cool calm eyes captured my gaze at the last second before she disappeared into the vast white bathtub below. My bare legs against the cold porcelain toilet began to tingle and tremble, their hairs standing on end. The coarse toilet paper caressed my thigh, trying to comfort me. Yet, the sound of the water became muted; the tiles vanished from their walls, the toilet paper disintegrated. The only thing I was able to perceive was the stick that now rested on the cold hard white floor, and the screaming voice in my head,
It is lying, it is lying, is it lying, it is lying, it is lying, it is lying!
The tinted white ceramic tiles were replaced with a cluster of certificates and diplomas on a nonexistent white wall that would occasionally peep through between each encased piece of paper. The hard toilet became a white cushioned arm chair which swallowed me. A mahogany desk rested between me and the lifeless green hibiscus in the corner. The red flowers made it their duty to collect dust as they slowly faded away. A black Dell desktop sat promptly on the right hand corner, its face turned away from me like a bashful young man. He couldn’t bring himself to look at me. Instead, he hummed a soft tune whose words were long forgotten. Five days have passed since that incident in the bathroom. Or was it three days? Three hours? Or possibly a week that went by? How long has it been? I didn’t remember. I couldn’t remember.
My mind was trapped in a frozen space time continuum, drifting through the endless blackness that was around me. A sound wave ricocheted through the room. The reluctant creaky door was forced open by a young woman. She was short and petite, coarse dirty blonde hair rested on her shoulders, gray hairs appearing at her roots. She parted her pink lips, almost blinding me with her perfect pearly whites that almost matched the coat she was wearing. I sank further into the soft mouth of the chair. She slowly approached her wooden box and calmly sat down in her black swivel chair that she procured from beneath the box. Her ID badge on her chest displayed the same wide grin with Stony Brook Medicine above her name in black letters.
She introduced herself as Mrs. Smith and proceeded to hurl question after question before I could even open my mouth. Yet, her high pitched voice became a quiet murmur in the distant background, my attention transfixed on her slightly skewed ID badge. It was at a strange angle that was forty-five degrees off center, causing a glare to strike her picture. The corner of the ID pointed towards a slight yellow stain on her white collar which might have come from her morning coffee. My mind was once again drifting on this endless journey across the room, but something was telling me to go back. I quickly regained my composure exactly when Mrs. Smith stated,
“The results came back positive. You don’t want to keep it right?”
I stood still. My tense palms clenching the soft armrests of the chair, drilling holes into the fabric. Deep down I knew this question was coming, and I knew what my answer was going to be.
No, don’t do it. This isn’t what you want.
I swallowed the dense lump that was lodged in my throat.
Don’t fall to peer-pressure! You know you can do better than this!
My back erected into a straight posture, my shoulders back, and I looked straight into Mrs. Smith’s eyes.
No, you can’t! No! Stop! What do you think you are doing! Don’t do it! Stop! No! Stop!
“Yes,” I declared, “I want to keep it”.
Why? Because we decided (my husband and I) that this was for the best.
My phone began to vibrate in the arrival of a message. Six missed calls from my father, I purposely didn’t answer him for my mind was still soft and undeveloped for this new world. Yet, my father did his best to persuade me in his message,
“I don’t want you to do this, I want you to start your life over. I am willing to pay for everything if you want to change things back to the way they were. I hope you realize this will be the rest of your life,” he began, “You alone can make this decision…Only you.”
“Only you,” my father stated. He didn’t say “The both of you.”
It was abnormally warm that winter. The snow was late in its arrival to dust the land with its white crystals. The same innocent crystals that compressed and suffocated all of the precious life that mother Earth labored to bring into being.
We were now sitting together in silver armchairs among the hundreds that decorated along the sides of the white walls. In my hands my father’s words were a pile of black ash that stained my swollen fingers. It sullied my skin, my veins, my mind, my other self. It was infecting me, and that thing that was not me. It was affecting us. It was disrupting the gentle warm peace and acceptance that swathed us. It wanted to get in; my lungs caved in, my heart ceased to sing. It wanted to destroy everything that we had built, the bond, the trust, the dependence. But it was my husband’s gentle and warm touch that defeated this contagious disease. He was next to me, his large rough hands clasped over the screen of my phone. He looked at me, his dark brown eyes unwavering,
“No matter what happens, I want you to believe me. I want you to trust me that everything will be alright. But I don’t want your parents to influence your decision. This was our choice, our life. It is not their decision to make”.
Surrounding me, sitting in the same colorless chairs were those who were also affected by a sudden change in their lives. Maybe they were ready for this. Maybe they were not. A man was by himself, in the corner of the vast sea of white chairs, his gaping mouth showcased his cavity ridden teeth for the world to see. A few seats over was an elderly female, her hands occupied with the crochet project in front of her. Her fingers tangled in her canary yellow yarn. Her thick glasses resting on the tip of her crooked nose. Across from her was an obese woman, her purple blotched body stuffed into the chair, her breathing was heavy and rasps. Her oval head was missing patches of greasy black hair.
Many other individuals occupied this space. But the one across from us was a disheveled woman whose hair was styled in all directions by her infant son. He was screaming and kicking in her arms, as though she was an unknown monster trying to devour him. His face was red and sweaty, tears dripped from his eyes. His scream was that of a broken record. He didn’t understand what was going on. He was in pain. His mother, with her hazel eyes, swaddled him and caressed his face in her breasts. He squirmed even more on her lap, and shrieked over his mother’s attempt to sing to him. The entire building stared at the passing incident. Some gave sympathetic glances, while many others sneered at the scene. Hushed whispers of discontent filled the white space. But I for one could not bring myself to criticize her.
From the day in the bathroom, I was excluded from the group of anonymous free individuals who could live any life they wanted to live. Boundaries, limitations, expectations, and labels did not exist for them. From the moment my pregnancy test proved positive, a hefty shackle was placed on my ankle. I wasn’t allowed to sit in the peanut gallery anymore and condemn those around me as I pleased. I had to put my own selfish desires away as I promised another that I would fulfill theirs. Nonetheless, the family sitting in front of me vividly predicted my failures. Was I strong enough to perform what Mother Nature has performed for millenniums? It didn’t matter what decision I made at that time with Mrs. Smith, a leash and a tag would have stayed around my neck forever. People would continue to ridicule and judge me no matter which path I decided to take. But I decided to take the first step onto this path because I knew my daughters would have a good life with their father by their side. I wanted to shower my daughters with all the love, warmth, and attention I could muster. I wanted them to know and experience the wonderful and exciting world that is outside the womb. That was my decision. That was our final decision.
I looked back into my husband’s eyes, and smiled.
The white winter didn’t come that year, and I was grateful.
Michelle Jiang is a junior at Stony Brook University and she is studying to become a nurse. She is from New York, but she lived in Florida for half of her life. She enjoys cooking for others and watching the Food Network for inspiration. If she had the chance she would love to have tea with Arthur Golden discussing her favorite book, Memoirs of a Geisha.