WHEN ANNIE FELL OFF THE MOUNTAIN
With the bills in a fat bundle with rubber band around it we drove to the address, a grimy highway motel near Jersey City. The sky was as grimy as the setting; even the air seemed smudged. It was the kind of place that makes you feel like washing up after you touch anything. He was coming at four, and we waited. Neither of us had been to a motel without our parents. The television was a treat, and we watched a stream of soap operas, news shows, and sitcoms, all of which seemed beamed from another planet. Annie cuddled, putting her jacket down so she wouldn't touch the pillow. I considered initiating something sexual, only because the motel blinked ILLICIT SEX in purple neon. Of course we didn't do anything, especially with Annie jumping up every time a tractor-trailer blasted into the parking lot. She spent a lot of time holding up the dusty, once-white curtain, hunching up her shoulders and staring at the highway. It was amazing how much activity there was in a crummy Jersey City motel on a Tuesday afternoon. All of it appeared to be of a sexual nature. We were probably the only people there just watching TV.
No one came to our room. At six I called, saying "Nixon" with dread. I was told, "There was a problem, wait till nine, and you can have your appointment."
We waited until nine, starving. I wanted to get food, but Annie was terrified of being alone, not for her safety, but in case the doctor, or whatever he was, showed up and I wasn't there.
He didn't come at nine. Or ten. I called at eleven and there was no answer. At midnight we started to leave, then stayed another hour. At one we went home, though we had paid for the whole night.
Our next step was a group that met in a legendary left-wing church on Long Island to discuss abortion rights, the kind of place, we had learned, to make useful connections. We walked in after it started (Annie was always late, and it caused one of those tense fights in the car) to a man describing the trials of seeking an abortion. He looked nervous and depressed. In fact, everyone in the room looked nervous and depressed, so we felt immediately at home. It was a glimmer of hope, of what I would now call "community." I was surprised how emotional the conversation was. Everyone spoke passionately about a personal crisis "unless the situation changes." After two hours, during which Annie raised her hand twice and lost her nerve, someone started leading the group in prayer.
It wasn't the meeting we thought it was.
As soon as coffee was served we slipped out and discovered that the abortion-rights group had met in a different room, and that the meeting was over. We never figured out what the meeting we attended was about. I thought it might have been Alcoholics Anonymous, but it didn't seem as how I imagined one to be. Annie theorized it was a group organizing to keep abortion illegal, since a Supreme Court ruling was rumored to be on the horizon.