written by Katy Shay | illustrated by Chrissy Curtin
When I was sixteen, she asked me to go with her, to the free clinic in the county building, to sit on a hard plastic chair with her and wait and wait. Her chair would be orange and mine would be green, and we would wait for as long as it took. The sun was setting on the latter half of the nineties. It was starting to get late.
When we were six we had sleepovers, camped out in bags on her living room floor. Her mom had two angels crafted out of plastic beads and wire. There was a blue angel and a red angel. I liked the red angel; the beads hard crystals that refracted light.
I wanted to crush them between my teeth but could not.
When it was time to go to sleep I put the red angel by my side. Then I tossed and turned on top of the angel crushing it with the tiny cavity of my six-year-old chest. The angel popped and beads scattered.
I picked one up and stuck it in my mouth.
The next day her mom hollered at the both of us. Me for breaking it, her for letting me do it.
In the lobby of the free clinic in the county building on the absolute edge of our midwestern town, we sat in those two hard chairs. Somehow she was old enough to drive, somehow she had a car, somehow she’d lost her virginity before me and neither of us knew what to do so we just sat there, waiting for her to be seen.
I think she was happy about it, if not freaked out in the way that you might be when you engage in consensual vaginal penetration for the first and you look at your partner and think, “You’ve been inside of me.”
There are so many other ways that this can go down.
It was the nineties and her favorite band was The Smashing Pumpkins and mine was Nirvana. She loved Nirvana, too, but I never wanted to hear her say it because I was so weird and possessive.
We weren’t as close as we had been as kids. We didn’t lie to strangers any more and say we are sisters and refer to each other as “Sis” or “Sissy.” We didn’t talk in our made up language. We didn’t stay up until three am together anymore laughing hysterically over the word piss. We no longer planned to marry twins and live in mansions right next door to one another.
She was quiet sitting on that hard chair in the clinic in the county building on the edge of the town, the hard edge of the millennium. They finally gave her some forms to fill out. Family history, sexual history, emotional history, a questionnaire of what she’d experienced thus far?
Had she been hit/yelled at/told where and when to go/ told that he’ll kill himself if you leave, he’ll really fucking do it? Has he ever: grabbed your tit in the harsh light of the halls of your suburban high school/ vaginally penetrated you when you said no, no, no,/ locked you in the laundry room with him and made you watch while he jerked himself off?
How could I sit there with her and not know the answer to those questions?
She had no idea what to do with her hair back then.
It was getting dark. The millennium was about to turn over and under the shadow of the second Bush administration the clinic would be shut down. We sat, waited for her name to be called, for her to be taken into the back to sit on that crinkly paper, scratching at her thighs.
I hope our hands dangled, like when we were little girls. While she checked off boxes, I hope my hand found hers. I hope I laced my fingers in and held on.
Katy Shay is finishing up her MFA at the University of Miami-Ohio and has a sixteen year old cat. Her work has previously been published in Word Riot and The Huron River Review.
Chrissy Curtin is a professional Illustrator and Portrait Artist. She is also Irish. Her main focus is editorial work but loves making all types of illustration. She works from her home studio in Ireland with her two dogs, Lady & Moose!