She gives the door handle a tug, and it doesn’t budge. She looks up from under her curtain of black hair, sees the buzzer by the door, presses it. She rocks back on her heels, and waits, sneaking glances across the street.
The building she’s in front of is squat, gray, made of cinderblocks. You’d drive past it a hundred times, and if someone asked you what was on that corner, you couldn’t tell them. Even if you looked at it, really looked at it, you still might not figure it out. A very small sign, it’s gold-burnished raised lettering long ago faded, says “Women’s Health Options”. But it’s clear from the lack of life in the girl’s eyes, that if she thought she had “options”, she wouldn’t be here.
Across the street, there’s another building, showy where this one’s quiet, ingratiating where this one’s indifferent. It’s bright cream siding is nearly blinding against the grime of the street. Loud, turquoise signs with white lettering scream “Let Us Show You What Your Baby Would Look Like Now!”, “Pre- and Post-Abortion Counselling”. One with folksy lettering invites you to sit on “The Back Porch”. This building wants you to see it; it wants you to not be able to avoid seeing it.
Two women stand on the sidewalk, a discreet distance from “The Back Porch”, having a smoke. Despite the cold, they’re not wearing toques – hair that has been teased and curled and sprayed into place can’t survive under a woolen hat. They talk quietly, darting the occasional pointed stare at the girl across the street, who in turn peeks out from under her hair back at them.
The girl pushes the buzzer once more, then twice. Impatient, willing someone to open the door. The coiffed women finish their cigarettes, stubbing out the butts with the toes of their pointed boots, in unison. They kick the butts into the street. But they don’t return to their building, just yet. They wait, to stare some more.
Finally, finally, the buzzer is heard and someone answers the girl’s prayers. The women wait till the last possible second, then yell something to her. The content is lost among the sounds of the traffic in the street between them, but the intent carries, barbed and hard. The girl hesitates, for just a portion of a second. She absorbs the blow, then slips into the clinic.
The women shake their heads, turn slowly, and climb the stairs back into their building. It gets dark early, this time of year. As they close their door, spotlights illuminate the turquoise signs. They’ve got nothing to hide.