We were halfway down PCH when I told him. I looked right at him when I said it. I think I even smiled.
My right foot was lounging on the dash, my seat slightly reclined. The passenger window was down, framing the stunning blue of a September ocean as it rolled through the background. If I hadn’t just told my married lover I was knocked-up, you might think we were in a sweet, romantic film. Cut to the part where they play a cutesy pop song overtop aerial shots of our Mini Cooper winding down the breathtaking cliffs of California’s coastal highway. Picture the montage of us laughing, my well-styled hair blowing conveniently not in my face, the sun illuminating Steven’s green eyes and impossible smile. Maybe we pull over and intertwine our bodies, marveling at the beauty of the Pacific and the coinciding good fortune of our lives.
“Are you kidding?” His face scrunched in disbelief.
I laughed out loud. Why would I be kidding? I let myself bleed for two weeks before I went to Planned Parenthood to check my IUD. I knew something was wrong, but remained stubbornly unwilling to accept the burden of resolution. It wasn’t until I ruined my sixth pair of underwear in four days that I was confronted with the evidence: my denial had blurred into destruction.
I wasn’t kidding.
I almost barfed when she told me. The nurse with the round face and pink scrubs. Actually, I almost barfed and passed out simultaneously - which I’m not sure is medically possible, but getting pregnant with the IUD wasn’t supposed to be possible. I didn’t put much faith in the word possible.
The floor fell out from under me when she said it. Like I was in one of those anti-gravity carnival rides. Sound evaporated and all I could see was that short nurse’s pudgy face floating out from a background I could no longer bring into focus. And she was smiling at me. This terrible, pitying, “I’m sorry your life is fucked up” smile. The smile I knew she’d given to hundreds of other girls sitting in that stupid plastic chair. I felt nauseous every time I thought about it.
Steven and I had been riding in silence for twenty minutes when he said he needed to take a break. I was pretty sure he meant from driving, but actually, I wasn’t sure of that at all. The car tires crunched over thick roadside gravel as he pulled to a stop. Under different circumstance I would have jumped out and taken a shot of the plunging ocean cliffs for my Instagram feed. But the thought of having a photo memorializing anything from the last week made me squirm. In fact, I never took pictures when I was with Steven. Our relationship resisted permanence.
A week earlier we’d been lying in my bed, blanketed by the early morning haze of post-sex happiness, when I talked him into going. A romantic drive up the Coast, a few stops in Santa Barbara, then two nights in Monterey - it sounded like a fairytale. We’d never spent so many hours together. His wife was gone, back to New York for the weekend, presenting the rare opportunity for us to play make-believe. I knew I was pregnant before we left, but I didn’t know I was going to tell Steven. The initial plan was to go on vacation and return feeling loved, refreshed, and empowered. Then take myself for the abortion - head held high, independent and in control. No need to bring the mess of feelings and disappointment into a relationship already saturated with both those things. My stomach flitted with excitement that whole day, thinking about our escape. We were so damn good at escaping.
And yet, somehow, we weren’t. As soon as we entered the salt-tainted Monterey motel room there was an unspoken sense of impossibility closing in on us. He was collecting guilt and I was collecting sadness and we were both pretending too hard to be happy. For a day and a half, everything we did was underscored by the awkward, silent realization that we were only meant to exist in fantasy. Now, winding back down the Pacific Coast Highway, there was something so cosmically honest about the fact that we were driving towards the end of a road. “Pregnant” simply fell from my mouth. As necessary as a period on a sentence.
Steven exited the car, standing in silence. I moved beside him, looking at his eyes while he stared at the foam capped waves crashing below us. Everything was gentle and unsettled at once.
“You know I can’t be the dad.” Steven meant this in a very specific way. Biologically, he absolutely could be the dad. We’d been having reckless sex for three months. He meant he couldn’t be the dad. Couldn’t tell his wife he’d been cheating. Couldn’t tell his wife he was leaving. Couldn’t let his carefully stacked life collapse into the pile of lies he’d built it on.
And, I understood.
I squeezed Steven around the waist and kissed his shoulder through his shirt. His lips touched my forehead and for a second I felt that spark of love and comfort and passion that had gotten us here. And then I said I wanted to go home.
Hours later the sun was gone and I was bored and exhausted from riding in the car’s dark silence. Somewhere around Pismo Beach Steven stopped speaking to me unless he needed directions, and we were close enough to LA that directions were unnecessary. I leaned my head against the window, letting the cool glass rattle along my temple in tandem with the car’s careless bounce. I stayed like this, drained, until I saw a sign for the 405 awaken in the harsh freeway light. Relief moved through me. We were almost there. We were almost done.
About the Author: Jacqueline Logan grew up in Delaware County, Pennsylvania and now (proudly) resides in Nashville, Tennessee. When not writing, Jacqueline works in non-profit fundraising and event planning. She earned her Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the University of Southern California and her bachelor's degree from Davidson College.