I sit down again and look at the floor. It feels like I'm waiting forever. A girl no more than 16 years old walks in with her mom. The girl is carrying a baby boy, and her mom looks like she couldn't be much older than me. I look at the floor again and wonder, How did I get here? A tall man walks through the door and calls my name. I walk up to him (we'll call him Mr. H), shake his hand, and he leads me to the copy room so he can make copies of my paperwork. The copy room is also a break room, and there are fresh blueberries in a bowl nearby. The copies are done, and Mr. H takes me to his office across the hall. He closes the door and asks me to tell him about my situation. I look around for a tissue box. It feels like my initial visit to the adoption agency last summer. I despise the feeling of deja vu.
I start talking, and he asks questions periodically throughout my monologue. I tell him I hope this isn't the strangest case he's seen. He laughs out loud and tells me this is mild; he's absolutely seen more bizarre cases. I am stiff and sitting straight up in my chair. He tells me he can see that I'm on the fence about something, and asks me why. I tell him the truth: I'm terrified of what Sol's father will do when he finds out I'm here; he didn't want me to come here. Mr. H asks me why I feel like I owe Sol's father anything. I don't have an answer. Mr. H tells me I have a responsibility now, and I need to keep my daughter's best interests in mind. Does that mean I'm doing the right thing? I think back to all the people who have told me to take Sol's father to court, since he's clearly incapable of staying true to his word in any regard. However, he's paid me money every month - for 5 months. 5 months out of 18 years. I have a long way to go. The odds are against me. We have no legal agreement, and I have no way of holding him to his financial obligation. I have no choice. Choice. The word gives me chills. I think back to last summer, sitting on my couch, Sol's father screaming at me that abortion is my only choice. It's hardly a choice if you're forced into it.
Mr. H asks me more questions. Do I have a PPO against Sol's father? Am I concerned for the safety of my daughter and/or myself? I'm lost for a second. My mind goes back again to last summer, when Sol's father threatened terrible things if I didn't have an abortion. Empty threats. I think of having to sit down with HR to tell them the story. I think of Jenny Webb, and of Braxton. I think of what must have gone through Jenny's mind during her pregnancy. I tell Mr. H that I do not have a PPO against Sol's father. He asks me if Sol's father was ever abusive to me. I think for a second - no, he never hit me, but he scared me plenty of times. Mr. H says that if I have to think about it, the answer is yes. Mr. H tells me that I cannot allow this man to have any power over me.
I'm afraid of what's to come once I leave the office. Mr. H finishes his questions, and I begin signing the papers as he explains the process to me. I get the same end-of-the-diving-board feeling. I can still back out. Still seated, I look up at Mr. H before signing the last page. He tells me to think of the reasons I came here today. I think of Sol's father - the love, the lies, the betrayal, the happiness, the anger, the regret, the absolute despair, the abortion pleas (disguised as impromptu lunch dates), the months of tears, the feeling of not having a choice, the long days and longer nights of pure loneliness - and I sign my name one last time.
So that's what it feels like to dive off the diving board.
The drive back to work is silent. I feel sick to my stomach all day long. Faint nausea continues for the next few days as I await a phone call from Sol's father. The call is inevitable, once he receives his summons in the mail. He begged me not to do this.
Some days later, the call comes. I answer, expecting an angry man on the other end. But he's not angry. He's unequivocally irate. He says the most terrible things to me. I remain calm and tell him he's overreacting. He calls me the worst names imaginable, and informs me that he will not pay any money for the month of July (this is your daughter, not a credit union; you can't just skip a payment). I try to think back to what it was that I ever saw in this man... I can't remember. I tell him I hope he feels badly someday for the things he's saying to me. He tells me he will never feel badly for them, and he hates me more than he ever thought he could hate another human. I listen to his toxic rant for a few minutes and hang up on him. Shaking, I tell myself that this was the right move. I think of what Mr. H said: I cannot allow this man to have any power over me. I am not an unlovable whore. I don't deserve to die. And my family and friends do love me. I write down some of his evil words and hide the paper.
This is likely the last conversation I will ever have with this man. I feel sorry for him, since he must be living a hellish life. This last conversation is just solid proof that I'm better off without him. Is this what brave feels like?