CRAIGSLIST CONFESSIONAL

“I regret that she got an abortion but I’m also relieved. We wouldn’t have been very good parents to this child.”

This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Bala has been meeting people via Craigslist and documenting their stories for nearly two years. Each story is written as it was told to her. Bala says that by listening to their stories, she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. By sharing them, she hopes to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed, at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism. Read more here. Names and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity.

Henry, 60s

Ellen and I immediately hit it off. We were working together on a three-month stint in a rural community, and we were each other’s oases. She was beautiful, fun, happy, and outgoing. We had incredible chemistry, and our shared faith deepened our bond. She had several children from a previous marriage, but things between us were casual and I never asked about the father.

We went out for pizza one night and ended up back at my place. I told her I didn’t have protection, but she said something along the lines of “that’s okay; I’m alright.” We saw each other at work the next day and it was really good for a while. About a month later, she showed me a positive pregnancy test.

I asked her what she wanted to do, and she said she wasn’t sure. Deep down inside, I knew that I’d be gone in a month. I didn’t know where work would take me — where I’d be a year later, or even a month later. I knew I’d be working crazy hours and not making very much money, certainly not enough to afford a kid. But if she’d said she wanted to keep the baby, I would have figured out a way to make it happen.

Two weeks later, she came up to me at work. I’ll never forget the look on her face. She told me she’d prayed and prayed, but had decided she was going to get an abortion. “I can’t take care of another child,” she said. I asked her if she was sure. She said she didn’t want to, but she had to do it.

We went to the clinic together. I paid for the procedure and the lady at the front desk handed me her prescriptions and an instruction sheet. They wouldn’t let me go back with Ellen. The clerk said it would take about an hour and suggested I go across the street to the pharmacy to pick up the medications in the meantime. So I left her there, on her own. I came back about twenty minutes later, and Ellen was already sitting in the waiting room. She was crying, and she was in a lot of pain. The bastards lied to me. I wasn’t even there when she came out.

I hugged her and drove her to my house. She told me how awful the experience was — the sucking noises and the smell. She told me how rushed the whole thing had felt. We were both emotionally exhausted; she wanted to go home, so I took her home. We hardly said a word on the way. She seemed heartbroken, and things between us were never the same again.

I regret that she made the decision to get an abortion but if I’m honest, I’m also relieved. I’m not sure we would have been very good parents to this child — I’m not sure we would have been able to live up to the responsibility. I also didn’t want to impart my feelings on her for fear of leaving her alone with a child she didn’t want. I wasn’t going to be around, and I couldn’t afford to support them financially. There wouldn’t have been any time to see her and the baby. I didn’t want to force these circumstances on her; it would have been worse heartbreak.

I left a month later. I asked for her address so that I could keep in touch, but she said no. She said she wanted to remember me, but not the experience of having an abortion. I haven’t seen or spoken to her since. It’s been decades, but I think about her a lot. I went on to have three children and I love fatherhood. I’m a good dad. I wonder about her life — what happened to her? Was she able to move on?

Read more Craigslist Confessionals here. To share your story with Helena, email her at craigslistconfessionalqz@gmail.com. Learn how to write for Quartz Ideas. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

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