The Clinic Revisited

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
James returns to his flat alone having secured the outstanding rent money from his errant flatmate, Gag. Whilst settling down for the night, he finds a photo that invokes some hurtful memories....

Submitted: June 05, 2013

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Submitted: June 05, 2013

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I get back to the flat. 250 quid in my pocket, the outstanding rent. A roof over our head’s secure for another month. Great. The merry go round keeps on turning.

Gag’s not here. He’s pissed off somewhere but I quite honestly couldn’t give a fuck now that I’ve retrieved the rent from him. I head for the living room aka Gag’s den and pour myself a drink.I absorb my surroundings as well as the alcohol. Its here, in this communal space that the true character of the flat is revealed, a reflection of the uneasy alliance that exists between its inhabitants: a handcrafted vintage chess set sits upon an alcohol cabinet stuffed with everything from buckie to premium vodka the calibre of Crystal Skull; scattered across the floor are works fromDostoevksy, Jack London and Emily Bronte as well as a couple of issues of Nuts magazine; wine stains adorn the same wall as a print of Munch’s ‘Scream’.

And then I see it. Within this slagheap lies a small photo of the last person to share this flat with me, before Gag. It’s a picture of Tessa, also known as Tess or else Tessie to me.

My Tessa, our flat. That’s how it’s supposed to be. I still ask myself how the fuck could this place go from love nest to slagheap? I can definitely mind the starting point, where it all began to go oh so horribly wrong. I close my eyes and I’m back at that clinic, back with Tessa again….

We’re on our way back to the clinic, the sexual health clinic to be exact, and I ain’t looking forward to it. At least with doctors surgeries, there’s some attempt at making you feel comfortable, like maybe some magazines on a table, reasonably comfy seats, nice carpets and paintings on the wall, painted in warm colours like peach or something like that. They’ve generally got a reassuring vibe. Not this place: there’s no sign of magazines, the seats are wooden and rigid; the floor tiled, cold beneath you’re feet and the walls are plain grey. The place is as cold and foreboding as they come and I suppose it makes sense as you defo don’t want to come back. Ever.

Which is why I’m not looking forward to this. We’re on the bus, and Tessa is in my arms. Yeah, I’m the big strong man. I’m playing that role ‘cos she’s the one who had to go through what turned out to be a brutal abortion process. I remember the whole thing perfectly, primarily as I was totally excluded from proceedings: they took her away and gave her an ultrasound (Tess reported seeing a tiny bean that was our mutual creation), confirmed she was 6 weeks pregnant, then took her off to another room to watch a video on medical abortion. Next, she was given some pill called Mifeprex, a bunch of what was it, ‘Misoprostol’ tablets and a 7 day supply of anti-biotics, advised not have sex for 14 days (oh joy) and off she was sent.

Now, I had a front row seat as the pace quickened in this abortion drama: in the taxi home to Tessa’s parents, she started vomiting. Then, when we got to the house, she started complaining of cramps and needed to be alone. She retreated quickly to the bathroom. Her moans and groans of pain echoed off the walls, and quickly turned into screams, cries of agony with intermittent sounds of sobbing. Every so often she’d ask me in to keep her company, hold her hand as she sat naked arms around knees, teeth gritted in the bath. Then she’d send me away again when another wave of nausea hit or the pain returned. I was powerless, useless in terms of easing her suffering.

After what seemed like hours, the physical pain started to abate. Tessa started to take her antibiotics, and some anti nausea pills. All that was left to deal with was the emotional fallout, and I was every bit as affected as Tessa was in this respect. Feelings of loss; of what might’ve been, of the common unique bond we’d shared together, gone, gone, gone.

That being said, I look into her pretty little face, with her green eyes and her wee ‘Tessie smile’ and I still feel a connection, still see the endless possibilities that could be our life together.

We’re at the clinic now. Fuck, here we go. I hold Tessa’s hand and we walk in.

It’s as grey and foreboding as I remember, and as we approach the reception, I look at some of the people seated, waiting to be called, a curious blend to say the least: a young teenage girl, eyes wide, looking blank, sitting with what has to be her mother, all dolled up, holding her close, a source of warmth amongst the cold; an older man with an anxious, almost pleading look in his eyes with a rash of dark blotches, visible on his neck and face; a young couple not unlike ourselves, sitting hand in hand, safe with each other.

Tessa confirms her appointment. We sit and we wait. No words are spoken, she merely rests her head on my shoulder/chest and I stroke her hair, comforting her, waiting to be called in to get this bloody thing over with.

Finally a middle aged woman comes out. ‘Theresa Leigh’ she announces. Tess and I get up, walk towards her. Then she comes away with;

‘Oh hello Theresa, my name is Sister Noe, lovely to meet you.’ She’s forcing that smile. I can tell.

‘Whose this you’ve brought with you?’ there‘s an icy air surrounding that question. She’s not looking at me, she’s casually gesturing in my direction.

‘This is my partner, James, I want him with me’ says Tess in her distinctive, high pitched, almost squeaky voice, often mistaken for a child’s to strangers on the telephone. She’s still holding my hand.

Sister Noe smiles mechanically. ‘Follow me Theresa, lets see how you’ve been getting on’.

We follow her into a room that’s as cold and grey as the rest of this god-forsaken building. It’s got a couple of seats, a table, a bed and not much else. We sit down.

Sister Noe is still acting like I’m not there. ‘How’ve you been feeling Theresa, everything been ok since the termination?’

Tess has started speaking about the immediate physical effects so I switch off. No need to relive that again. My ears perk up when she says:

‘….I just want to know, does this effect my fertility in a negative way at all?’

That’s all Tess has spoken about since the termination: her anxiety that she’ll never be able to get pregnant again. She’s spoken about feelings of loss, cried about it. I’ve awoken to find her lying in bed, tears shimmering in her eyes, wide awake, unable to sleep. Most hurtfully at all she sometimes whispers to me at night ‘I wonder what our baby would’ve looked like’.

You know, I actually wanted the baby. I didn’t intend for it (and fuck me I’ll never be so stupid again as to fore sake protection after a night on the lash because it’s a ‘passion killer’ geez what a tit I am sometimes), but I was still in favour of it. All I thought about for the 2 weeks after we found out was how to overcome every obstacle, financial and social so that I could provide all the emotional and financial support that Tess and the baby when it arrived the next summer, needed.

When Tess told me she ‘didn’t want it’, I felt dead inside, like the reason for my very existence was no more. I shit you not. I’m not exaggerating, that’s how I felt. How I feel, to be quite honest.

I played the role of the good boyfriend, trotting out the clichés about it being her body, and that I respected her decision, but that’s all bullshit. I was raging. I am raging, really fucking angry. Not at Tessa, no she had a major stake in the decision making process. Obviously. Nah, what pisses me off is this notion, imposed on us by society today, that it’s all about the female in this situation. What I can’t fucking stand, is the nonchalant way that a mans feelings are disregarded with this whole thing. I mean, really. Her friends, my friends for fuck sake, not one of them have asked me if I‘m ok, they seem to have automatically assumed that I’m relieved to be ’getting rid’ as one of her pals so eloquently put it. As for this sexual health clinic who purportedly offer support and guidance to those going through ’the physical and emotional trauma of an abortion’, I can only guess I’m irrelevant, that my feelings don’t matter. Nothing that they’ve done thus far, suggests anything to the contrary.

Anyway, Sister Noe responds in her usual matter of fact way:

‘Well, abortions that are carried out safely and professionally as yours most certainly has been, won’t affect your chances of getting pregnant again in the future. Which I’m sure you won’t want just now anyways’. She chuckles a wee bit, and then there’s that fucking smile again, with a wee head tilt to give it increased emphasis. What an actual bint.

‘On that note Theresa, I have to ask you have you thought about the contraceptive methods you’re going to employ to make sure this doesn’t happen again? We could arrange an appointment for you getting the coil or an injection, whatever suits you best. I’d personally recommend the coil dear as it’s long lasting, and shouldn’t need to get it out for 5-10 years all going well’.

Is she for real? Like actually?

‘Well, em I’m glad to hear my fertility won’t be affected as I want to have kids in the future. I kind of regret having the abortion in all honesty…

Noe looks a bit agitated now. ‘Theresa you’ve just gone through what I’m sure has been a very traumatic experience for you. You could get pregnant again, and though I can’t say it’s proven, in my experience often the first pregnancy after a termination especially if it comes quickly, resorts in a miscarriage. Now, if we arrange for you to get the coil, then if you want to become pregnant a year or two down the line when you’re more settled and ready, then we can arrange for it to be removed.’

Tessa looks a little bit anxious. ‘I’m still not really sure, we were just going to use condoms, I’m not really sure I want something implanted in my body. James, what do you think?’

I’m about to answer when Noe, still not looking at me, cuts in with:

‘Theresa, that’s why we’re here, to offer support and advice. Remember this is your decision, it’s purely down to you what you do. Now if you don’t want the coil, the injection lasts….’

Right, that’s fucking it. I’ve been disrespected from the word go with this whole thing. No one, outside of Tess, has given a damn about how I’ve felt about it all. I’ve been given the cold shoulder from everyone in this clinic from the moment we walked through the door together. It’s time to confront. I’m going for the jugular.

‘Sister Noe, Sister Noe. Sorry to interrupt you right there, my name is James Bradley, you’ve not yet done me the courtesy of introducing yourself, indeed you haven’t even looked at me. You’ve barley acknowledged that I’m here. Tessa is here for a follow up visit and I have to say, your complete and utter lack of empathy towards her has led me to interject and to offer up to your good self, the conclusions I’ve drawn from you. Firstly, I note that you don’t have a wedding ring on the finger, second from your pinkie on that chubby left hand of yours, and after 10 minutes in your company, I can see why. Secondly, your hideous personality allied with your shoddy complexion leads me to believe you haven’t had children nor will you ever. You madam, are a fucking cunt, a walking abortion and so is everyone else who works in this shithole of a clinic.’

One look at her face lets me know I’ve hit the spot. She looks aghast, speechless, trembling slightly, her mouth open and closing, jaw working furiously but unable to find the words, the retort to make it untrue. It’s all true and now she’s suffering. Good. Fucking cow that she is.

There’s another person looking at me. I turn to Tess and she’s frowning at me, eyes narrowed. She looks appalled. She’s shaking her head in disbelief and I can pretty much hear her thinking ’where did that come from’.

I stand up. ‘Well that’s all I’ve got to say, goodbye Sister Noe’. I say pleasantly and I turn heel and I walk straight out the door and out of this monstrosity of a building.

‘James, James, wait, wait!’ I’m outside and Tessa has caught up with me.

‘What the hell was THAT?’ she’s being demanding, pretty uncharacteristic of her I have to say. But I’m ready.

‘That was me sticking the fucking boot right in tae all of the cunts that’ve disregarded me through this whole thing Tess. And they have, they have. Your friends. My friends with their shit crude jokes about lucky escapes and all the rest of it. And most especially that clinic, and everyone in there. They’re supposed to care Tessa, it’s meant to be a place where people feel reassured about what’s going on, whether it’s to do with their sexual health or an abortion in our case. Our case. We’re both going through this and I’ve been sidelined from the word-fucking-go in there, and that bint Noe was acting as though I’d infected you with some sort of fucking virus. She was being passive aggressive towards me from the start so she was, insulting me through her indifference, insinuating that I didn‘t matter. And where I’m fucking from, when someone insults you like that, you need to hit back hard, twice as hard and bring people like that to their knees, and that‘s what I did. She was given as much respect, as she fucking deserves.’

Tessa is looking at me as though she sees me for the first time. She’s wide eyed and tearful.

‘James, you’ve never let on how you feel to me. You’ve supported me and my decision and I love you but I don’t love this. I’m sorry, truly sorry that you haven’t felt as though anyone cares, but you haven’t ever shown any emotion before now, nothing that would suggest to me that I needed to do more anyways. I know what you mean now about the clinic, but you can’t act that way. I know she was being cold but she was actually giving some good contraceptive advice in spite of that…Tessa shakes her head. ‘You’ve lost the moral high ground with that behaviour, I don’t want to see that from you again because I don’t want to be with someone that seeks to hurt others mentally or emotionally. And that’s what you tried to do…all that stuff about rings and not having children, like what the fuck….’

She tails off. I know she has a point. I’m still angry though. I’m self righteous and I’m self pitying. I can’t bring myself to be diplomatic, to back down, agree and hug. Not right now.

‘I’m James Bradley and this is who I am’ I say savagely and walk away. Geez, I pretty much spat that at her. Tess isn’t following.

‘You coming or not?’

‘No, I’m going back in to get the injection to make sure I don’t get pregnant again, I’ll be back at the flat later’.

She doesn’t quite meet my eye and I realise that something’s broken between us.

She turns and walks back into the clinic. Away from me.

I open my eyes. Back to reality now…back to the den and the chaos within it. I look down at the photo of Tessa and feel a tear running down my cheek. I frown and shake my head. I pick up the photo, then tear it up. The pieces fall to the floor along with the rest of the mess.


© Copyright 2017 Mark B. All rights reserved.

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