Author: Sonsyrea Tate
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Streber Books
An Abortion of Faith
Ronald had been in and out of juvenile detention centers and jail since he was
fourteen. The last time he was in, charged with attempted robbery and attempted murder,
he converted to Islam and changed his name to Dawud. Of course I didn’t know the
extent of his lawlessness, nor did I know about the twenty-years-to-life sentence hanging
over him when I embraced him.
Ronald considered himself my life coach or street teacher in some ways. Yes, he
was my first sex partner. His stepfather told him I looked like an uptight little girl and he
needed to turn me out. He did that promptly, and I made him marry me shortly after by
guilt-tripping him. That wasn’t hard to do. He had been in and out of prison already, in
and out of court. It’s not hard to manipulate the guilt of a man who already feels guilty.
I felt guilty, too, for having sex outside the honored institution of marriage. I
knew I wasn’t going to stop sneaking around to be with him, screwing him in his
mother’s car or in their basement because after I got used to it, it got kinda good. I
insisted we get married to make the sex legal.
Funny how the guilt from the back of your mind springs forth into actions to
punish you and whoever is involved. Ronald didn’t even have a job when I insisted we
get married. Sure, I knew he felt bad about not having a job, not having money to buy me
things. I knew because he got teary-eyed up and ended up yelling at me when I
complained about the cheap card and plastic rose he brought me for our first Valentine’s
Day. That was the February before we got married in May. We were sitting in the back of
his mother’s car, him presenting his cheap-ass present to me, and I couldn’t hide my
“This is all?” I said. No yelling or screaming on my part, but my words seemed to
cut into him just the same.
“You think I don’t want to be able to get you something nice?”
He shoved the back of the car seat, snarled at me, and moved away.
“What ya’ll back there fussing about?” his mother said, looking up in her rear
view mirror. “Ya’ll always fussing, like two old married people. Ya’ll might as well go
on and get married the way ya’ll act.”
All I can say is stupid mothers have stupid children – and stupid children-in-law.
“I’m just saying, you knew Valentine’s Day was coming up. You could’ve saved
up for something,” I said, still feeling mousy-like, not realizing the bite in my soft-spoken
We rode the rest of the way home in silence and when his mother pulled into her parking
space in the lot between our houses and I hopped out and headed for my door.
“Ray-Ray. You just gon’ leave?” he said.
“Yeah. I’m tired,” I said. What I meant was, your ass is tired.
“You’re not even gon’ take your card?”
“Oh. I forgot.”
His mother shook her head.
“Ya’ll gon’ end up married,” she said.
“Sonsyrea! You need to get in here in a hurry,” my mother yelled from where she
was standing at the back door.
I figured I was in for lecture number 999 because she had already complained
about me spending too much time with that young man next door and what was I doing in
his mother’s car and if he wanted to make proper intentions on me then he needed to have
a talk with my father. I was in no mood for Ma’s fantasy world right about now.
“I’m coming,” I yelled back to her. “I’ll get my folder from you tomorrow,” I said
to Ronald, loud enough for him to know I was speaking for my mother’s ears and so he
wouldn’t hand me his Valentine’s gift, which I would have to explain.
The next time his mother picked both of us up from school, she asked me why I
was keeping our relationship a secret from my mother.
“If you’re ashamed of my son, then he needs to find somebody else to be with,”
she said. “My son is a good man, and he’s gon’ take real good care of you one day.”
“I’m not supposed to have a boyfriend. So, I can’t tell my mother,” I explained,
slumping in the backseat, Ronald sitting up front.
“What you mean you can’t have a boyfriend? Shit. Ain’t this ‘bout your second or
third year in college? I heard of being strict, but goddamn. They gotta let you grow up at
some time,” she said.
“Ma, she don’t need to hear all that. She don’t like talking about it,” Ronald said.
“Well shit, ya’ll better do something. What you think, you just gon’ keep
sneaking around? You know they say whatever is done in the dark gon’ come out in the
That’s what I liked about Ms. Bates. She was real. She knew I was sexually active
and wasn’t nothing wrong with it. I was just a girl growing into my womanhood.
“That’s that Mooslem stuff, ain’t it?” she continued. “That’s why I couldn’t be no
Mooslem. I mean, some of that stuff is all right, but people got to be who they are. What
you ‘posed to do, stay a virgin all your life?”
“Until you’re married,” I mumbled.
“Well, god damn. What if ya’ll ain’t ready to get married? My son don’t need to
be trying to get married right now. Let him finish school and get a job. Shit. You ain’t
but, what? How old are you, Ray-Ray?”
“Well, shit, you too young to be thinking ‘bout getting married.”
She just went on and on and most of what she said danced around my head
without me even hearing it. Her daughters were unwed teenage mothers. So much for her
logic. But she sort of made sense in a way. Why should I get married just to have sex
when neither one of us really could afford to live up to the roles of husband and wife.
Neither one of us could take care of a baby if we had one. My Muslim community
insisted young people get married to avoid the sin of sex. Just get married and Allah
would make a way. Birth control also was prohibited. So, just get married to avoid the
hell fire your raging hormones could cause, and go on and have the babies, having faith
that Allah would provide.
None of this shit made any sense, but guilt is a powerful motivator. Guilt and sex
together can lead you right into a hell of your own making.
“We’re going to have to get married because I ain’t goin’ to hell for you or
nobody,” I told Ronald one afternoon when we were riding the bus home from campus
“That’s what you really want to do?” he said. “You know I can’t even buy you a
ring right now.”
“I think we should. Just do it so we won’t be sinnin’. If it doesn’t work out, we
can always get a divorce.”
“So, you want to tell your moms and pops we getting’ married?”
“Yeah. I guess I better figure out the best way, though. I don’t want to go through
all that stuff my mother wants to do, bringing the families together and all that La-La
It was a Friday, so I decided to call my grandparents and tell them I was spending
the night at my parents’ house so they wouldn’t expect me home at a decent hour. I told
my mother I was spending the night at my girlfriend’s. Instead, I creeped around to
Ronald’s house and tapped on the back door to his basement and we made serious love –
until we were rudely interrupted.
“Ronald, Ma said….Oh! Aw! Ray-Ray?!”
We had started dancing and ended up grinding against the wall until my blouse
was up and his panties were down and, whoa, we were making serious love against the
wall when his sister rudely interrupted us. I ran to hide under the covers on his bed.
“Won’t you knock!” Ronald yelled. “Didn’t you see my door closed?!”
“Ma told me to come ask you if you was getting up to wash her car in the
“Tell Ma I’ll be up there in a little while.”
I knew it was only a matter of time before his big-mouth sister began spreading
my business around the neighborhood. Innocent little Ray-Ray wasn’t so innocent after
all and she had seen me screwing her brother with her own eyes. Weeks passed and the
wild girls from down the street rolled their eyes at me like, “I know she can’t do him like
April came and I ended up with a secret only two of my friends would know, a
secret Ronald’s mother suspected.
“Ray-Ray, you pregnant?” she blurted out one evening when I was sitting on her
porch talking to Ronald. “My son’s been sleeping a lot. I told him he must’ve gotten you
pregnant. You know men get symptoms, too,” she said.
“Ma, she would know if she was pregnant. You don’t have to be asking her that,”
“No, I ain’t pregnant,” I said.
“You been sleeping a lot?” he asked.
I think that was the first lie between us. I had been very tired. Come to think of it,
my period was late. When I got home, I checked the small calendar I kept in my drawer
with my period days marked. I had not been on since the last part of February and it was
now April 5. I didn’t even feel like I was about to come on, but my breasts felt a little
tender to the touch.
That weekend I would but a home pregnancy test from People’s Drug store, and
that Monday morning I would call a clinic from a phone booth at school and make an
appointment to take an official pregnancy test and get an abortion if necessary. I was
thinking fast now.
I didn’t feel like seeing Ronald this Friday evening, so I went straight home to my
grandparents after class. I ate the baked chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans left for
me on the stove then headed straight up to my room to hibernate for the rest of the
evening. I kept looking in the mirror. I couldn’t help it. My face looked the same. I sat on
the edge of my bed facing the mirror, just looking at my face. Then the phone rang.
“Did you come on your period yet?” Shawn asked. She was the only one I’d told.
“No,” I said. “Not even a spot.”
“What are you gon’ do?”
“If I’m pregnant, I won’t be for long,” I said. “My appointment is week after
“You would get an abortion?” she asked, shocked.
“I can’t stay pregnant,” I said.
She offered to go with me, but I told her I wanted to go alone and not make it a
big deal. In my mind, I would keep it a small detail. I slipped up and got pregnant, okay.
It didn’t have to be the end of the world. I’d slipped up several times and had sex with
this guy. Were they really slip-ups though? I’d thought he was “taking me,” but I kept
going back for more, so I must’ve wanted it. It was all so confusing, the guilt, the
pleasure, the shame, and the pleasure. So confusing. No way was I going to bring a baby
into this kind of madness.
“You really shouldn’t go through that alone, Ray-Ray,” Shawn said
sympathetically. “That’s what friends are for. You don’t think Ronald will go with you
since you don’t want me to go?”
“I’m not telling him,” I said. “This is my body, my life. I’m just gon’ do what I
need to do.”
“What time is the appointment? I can meet you there and make sure you get a cab
“Really. It’s no big deal. They said the procedure only takes about ten minutes.
You rest for about fifteen minutes, then they send you home. I’m sure I can call a cab
from there,” I said.
“Let me know if you change your mind,” she said.
“I’ll be all right,” I assured her. “Let me call you later. I’m sleepy.”
When I hung up the phone I stood and turned sideways in the mirror, smoothing
my blouse down over my stomach.
“If I’m pregnant now, I won’t be next week,” I thought. The home test said
positive, but I wanted the doctors to say for sure.
I was glad I had money in the bank thanks to Uncle Hussein, who had told me to
put away a little something every time I got paid. I had enough for the abortion if needed.
The next week couldn’t pass quickly enough, but before I knew it, I was at the clinic.
Stupid people out front carried signs against abortions. Signs showing a dead baby in a
jar or a mother pointing a gun at her pregnant womb. Stupid people. They were fools, all
of them. Crazy, religious nuts blowing stuff way out of proportion.
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