Tara’s fingers fumbled for the pen and paper she kept by the sink. She heard the truck pull up and ran to the kitchen window with hopes of writing down the licence plate number but it was too dark. They always waited until night fall to dump their garbage on the road behind her house.
She couldn’t understand it. The city dump was a five minute drive away. They accepted all garbage for free yet people continued to treat the road behind her Newfoundland Housing unit like a dumping ground.
It irritated her to no end. What really made her mad was it happened on a weekly basis. One day it was an old dishwasher. Another a box spring and mattress. Then a discarded TV.
Did they think they could throw their garbage in her back yard because she too was garbage?
She wasn’t having it. She pulled on her old sneakers and walked through the dewy grassy yard to where it met the road. It was an old couch this time. She lifted the end and dragged it down towards a ditch. The legs of the couch were digging into the gravel next to the road making it harder to pull. She became more determined and tugged so hard it felt like her fingers would break. A tear snuck from her eye and slid down her cheek. She lifted her face to the cool wind to dry it.
Tara had made the decision a long time ago not to cry. She ran out of tears when her daughter was born. As she struggled to drag the couch toward the ditch a memory from the morning her mother found out came flooding back to her.
The urge to throw up came upon her so quickly that morning she barely made it to the toilet. One second she was fixing her hair with the new straightening iron she received for her 15th birthday. The next she was on her knees holding on to the toilet seat throwing up her breakfast. Her mother heard her choking up the vomit and came running in the bathroom. “Are you ok?” Her concern turned to disgust when Tara lifted her head. “For fuck sake Tara you’re pregnant aren’t you?”
Tara didn’t know what she was talking about. Her mother always thought the worst of her even though she was on the honour roll and excelled at everything she was in. A while ago she had gone a little too far with her boyfriend but when she refused to do it again the next night he broke up with her. Tara was relieved really because she wanted to break up with him but didn’t know how. Surely she couldn’t get pregnant the first time.
Her mother stormed back in the bathroom as she was wiping the puke from her face. “Get dressed. We’re going to the doctor.”
Two hours later the doctor confirmed she was six weeks pregnant. When she got home her mother slapped her across the face. It was the first time in her life she had been hit. Tara began to cry uncontrollable while her mother went into a tirade of name calling from “Whore” to “disgrace to your family.” Soon her father came barging through the door. Screams and shouts were heard from the kitchen while Tara lay on the bed in her room curled up in a ball. She heard her father’s footsteps on the stairs. She was sure he would fix everything. He would protect his little baby girl as he always said he would. Her bedroom door flung open.
“You fucking little slut! What if the other lawyers in my office find out about this? I’ve worked my whole goddamn life to put this roof over your head and you thank me by laying on your back for some punk, ass boy.”
She sat up in shock. Her mother came running in the room behind him. “You’re getting an abortion. I have already called the doctor’s office to arrange it. We’ll say it was a rape.” She looked Tara square in the eye. “It was a rape wasn’t it?”
“No.” Was all Tara could get out. The appointment was made for the abortion and that morning Tara’s mother came into her room asking if she was ready like they were going to the dentist. Her father went back to work immediately so no one in his office would suspect he had family issues. It was very important to keep up the family façade in order for him to make partner.
She refused to go. At first her mother stared at her in disbelieve. Then she tried pleading her case. She went through the whole “You’re ruining your life. You won’t finish school. Your friends will make fun of you.”
Tara refused the abortion. Her parents refused to accept their 15 year daughter being pregnant. It came to a head one night when her father grabbed clothes from her dresser, angrily stuffing them into a garbage bag and throwing it in to the back of his Mercedes. “You want to be a whore. You go live with the whores!” He drove her to the welfare office and parked the car in front. He grabbed the garbage bag and threw it on the sidewalk. He opened the passenger door and dragged a hysterical Tara out of the car. “This is what you want. This is what you got.” She watched him drive away waiting for her father to come back for his baby girl. He never did.
The next morning a social worker found her crying and shivering on the doorstep. They found her a boarding house first. After the baby was born she moved to a townhouse. She called home the day her daughter was born hoping her mother’s heart had softened. Her mother’s only words were “You made your bed. Now lay in it.” Then hung up the phone. No one came to visit. The social worker drove her and the baby to their new house. Before she left, the worker pulled a package wrapped in pink paper from her briefcase and gave it to Tara. It was a tiny pair of pink pajamas. She used the paper to line the bottom in the second hand dresser in her daughter’s room. It was still there.
She pushed the couch over the edge watching it roll down the embankment and disappear in the dark. Tomorrow when her daughter went out to play she would not see garbage in her back yard. She would not know that she had grandparents who considered themselves too respectable to acknowledge her.
That day started out with so much hope. Her high school diploma came in the mail. She had finished by correspondence and graduated with honours. It was the last document she needed to apply for a university grant. She was working on the application when she heard the truck. “I made my bed. Now I’ll lay in it” she said as she closed her backdoor and locked it. “But at least it’s my bed mom. At least its mine.”