By Anna Chiaradonna | Staff Writer
As a little girl, I had debilitating anxiety that, many times, could only be soothed through reading. As I have grown up, literature, while still helping my anxiety, has evolved into an avenue for my self-expression and an opportunity to connect with the world around me. Literature brings me into a mind separate from my own, into an experience that I might never taste if not for the words printed before me. Many times, I find myself or the people I love in the stories of people I do not know. I am reminded of the everlasting ties that bind humanity together and how, in every story, you can find them.
During the falling sun of a November evening, I sat down in my unfamiliar, white-walled dorm room to read Annie Ernaux’s Happening for Professor Kabi Hartman’s Women Writers course. The memoir launches into the tremendously polarized subject of abortion and the tolls of an unwanted pregnancy. While the entirety of this narrative sparks a light inside of me, urging me to question the female experience, there is one climatic passage that burns brighter than the rest. After Ernaux gets her abortion and delivers the fetus in her dorm, she describes herself and her roommate “both crying in silence” with “life and death in the same breath. A sacrificial scene.” The juxtaposition of life and death is representative of Ernaux’s life coming back to her with the passing of the fetus. While reading this scene, I drifted back to June of 2022 when Roe V. Wade was overturned, when I cried with one of my relatives, with those who have survived due to an abortion, and with those who have died from the absence of one.
I learned of the Supreme Court’s decision while sitting outside at a family member’s house. When I saw The New York Times notification pop up on my phone, I told the female family member sitting next to me. The shock and sadness on her face bounced off of my own, and she began to cry, inconsolably, before taking my hand to tell me a story. Behind grayish-blue eyes lay a labyrinth of pain, one that I knew nothing about until 18 and one that she had carried in silence for nearly sixty years. During her first year of college, she fell into a deeply abusive relationship in which she ended up pregnant. Fearing she would be trapped in a lifetime of abuse, she sought an abortion. Due to the legal limitations, she had to go to a doctor’s office in the safety of the night. Days following her late-night doctor visit, her roommate found her bleeding out next to a half-developed fetus on the floor of their dorm room. The president of her university drove her to the hospital. On that November evening, reading through Ernaux’s haunting prose, I could feel the June sunshine on my face, and I could see the pain in my relative’s eyes bursting through the text, a time in my own family when death accompanied life.
When you think your story is too hard to tell or too dark for others to hear, that is when you know it needs to be shared. There is someone out there waiting to hear it, and when they finally do, they will find solace in the bed of shared experiences you have laid before them, realizing that in their suffering or joy, there has always been someone alongside them.
Anna Chiaradonna ‘26 is a Staff Writer for The College Reporter. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org