WHEN ANNIE FELL OFF THE MOUNTAIN
Our choice was clear, and we plunged into the network that existed to find an illegal abortion.
I made a discovery: I could buy any manner of illicit drugs on street corners, enjoy any bizarre sexual activity if I had the cash and the guts. With enough money and nerve I could purchase anything in New York City. But an abortion? After asking everyone we knew, we learned the name of a church in Greenwich Village that acted as a clearinghouse for abortion information, a kind of underground referral service.
It felt like a date, one of the few formal dates we had. We sipped espresso at a West Fourth Street café and strolled down Bleecker examining pottery in narrow shops where incense burned. We even made out a little in Washington Square Park, as long-haired women caressed guitars and sang of broken hearts, and long-haired men climbed on benches to rail about the coming revolution.
Then we hurried to the church where the precious information was to be had.
According to our instructions, Annie had to go in alone. I waited, sitting on a brownstone stoop and studying every cop, or anyone who looked like an undercover cop, which, by definition, everyone does. When Annie came out she stopped in front of me, lifted her shoulders high and dropped them, like a sigh. It was the gesture she used to have, and it expressed hope. She had been given the name of a doctor, or at least someone who performed abortions, and a password: "Nixon is a friend of mine, and I need a checkup." We were told it would cost six hundred dollars, cash.
Six hundred dollars wasn't a lot of money for us back then. It was a fortune. And a new dilemma, in that age of sexual revolution. Who pays? It's not as simple as it sounds, if you consider factors of personal responsibility, guilt, sixties mores, antiquated applications of chivalry, women's independence, and equal distribution of the wealth. I had little money, but Annie was always in a financial pinch.
Her girlfriend Cheryl told her, anachronistically I thought, that I should pay all of it, because I was the one "who got you pregnant." Another view had it that she should pay it all, that even telling me she was pregnant was "manipulative." The logical view was to split it, which we did. How much else of the experience was split, and how evenly and at what cost, is a question whose complexity I wouldn't understand until years later.
I took six hundred from the bank (I had the excellent saving habits that have allowed me to put aside money for my daughters' college) with Annie supposed to pay me back after her latest financial crisis was over.