I wake up before 7:00 on the morning of Tuesday, June 4, 1996 and know three things instantly: I’m in labor, I have to return the car to that awful man, and I have to go buy another car. If I don’t, I won’t have any way to get myself to the hospital. I am twenty years old.

The pain in my belly and lower back is intense and I flop over onto my knees and bounce up and down, which wakes up my roommate Tim, who sort of doubles as my boyfriend.

“I’m in labor,” I tell him.

“Are you sure?” he asks, having just spent the last week listening to me declare the same concern regularly. Tim’s on standby, as is my sister, Kim, who has a flight arranged from Kansas City. The moment she hears word that I’m at the hospital delivering she will grab her packed luggage and the diaper bag she’s had waiting, probably since the moment I agreed to let her, and her new husband, adopt my child.

“Yes, I’m sure,” I tell Tim. “I’m going to go buy a car.”

He considers me through half opened eyes for a moment, says, “Okay,” then rolls back over and goes back to sleep.

The first order of business is to return the used car that I picked up the day before.

My contractions are about ten minutes apart.

I discovered that I’d contracted an acute case of pregnancy within two weeks of moving to Albuquerque from Dallas, where I’d lived for the last five months. I made the decision to place the baby up for adoption not long after, having found myself homeless and broke and with no one to turn to. I told my family that I wouldn’t be keeping him and within a week, my sister Kim called and asked if she and her husband could adopt him. She was 22 and had been married for three weeks. “Of course,” I said, relieved.

Seven months later, I am no longer broke or homeless. On Christmas day, I walked into a fast food restaurant and told them I needed a job. They hired me on the spot. I met Tim there and he and I found an apartment together soon after. Neither of us had a car.

A week ago, I received a large portion of a $50,000 insurance settlement in the mail, my in-pocket amount from a lawsuit that has been ongoing since I was seventeen. I had to sue multiple insurance companies – including the one belonging to the drunk with the .28 blood alcohol level who had crashed into my foster family’s van nearly three years before. Three people died in the accident, which mangled the rest of us.

I’ve also had to sue my foster dad who had collected an upfront check for $25,000, which was supposed to go for my medical care. He kicked me out a week later, despite the fact that I was on a walker and had nowhere to go. We settled and he had to pay back $15,000 of the money he’d taken. The money came out of his personal account. When his check eventually arrived, the memo said “Gloria’s Blood Money.”

I received my money a week ago and I still haven’t bought a car. All of the grown ups in my life have an opinion about what kind of car I should drive and I’m scared and not confident in my ability to make a decision. And I actually really don’t care, I just want mobility. Last night, at the behest of Tim’s stepdad, I went to a car lot that sells used rental cars. The slimy salesman delivered his spiel to Tim, not me, even though  I made it clear  that I was the one with the money. Still, he barely looked at me and, instead, locked eyes with Tim while he explained the great benefits of buying this great car with low miles at this unbelievable price.

I am not interested in this car, and I told the salesman that.

“Tell you what,” he said derisively, finally looking at me, “You just drive it home tonight – free of charge – and think about it.”

Now I have this burdensome car to deal with before I can buy my Nissan, which is what I have wanted from the start. Tim’s stepdad was pushy and insistent about not buying a car new off the lot. And though I’m normally incapable of standing up for myself against aggressive men, I’m now currently in labor and I feel a strength and self-composure I’ve never felt before. I don’t want this fucking rental car and I don’t care who knows it.

I drive the car over to the lot, which is conveniently located on the same boulevard  as most of the car lots in town. I walk into the office, find the swaggering salesman, hand him the keys, and tell him I changed my mind. His mouth drops open and, incredulous, he frantically begins negotiating with me all over again. He stands too close and speaks too loudly. The contractions are coming more frequently now – perhaps seven minutes apart – and the urgency to take care of the business at hand fills me with confidence. I tell him I have to go – I’m going down the street to the Nissan dealership to buy the car I wanted in the first place.

I begin walking off the lot and he shouts after me, “That car will lose $5,000 in value the second you drive it off the lot!” My back is to him and I can’t see his face, but I swear he spits on the ground when he’s done shouting.

By 9:00 I’m walking the two blocks to Melloy Nissan, telling myself that walking is good for labor. I enter the building and look around. I see a customer service window, walk up to it, and ask the representative, “Do you have a female salesperson?”

A few minutes later, Carolyn walks up. I can tell right away that she’s a nice lady. She makes eye contact with me, shakes my hand, and introduces herself. “Looks like you’re due pretty soon, huh?” she says, gesturing toward my massive midsection.

“Yes, today, actually,” I tell her stretching the truth by a few weeks. “I’m in labor.”

Next thing I know, Carolyn is showing me my options. I know that I want a Sentra and I don’t want any bells and whistles, just the basic package. This makes the decision easy. There are only two cars that meet my desires, and I just have to decide between teal and black. I’m leaning toward black, but Carolyn explains that black cars are harder to keep clean, since dirt shows up on them so easily. While we have this discussion, I’m pacing in circles, holding my lower back and choo-chooing every few minutes.

“Can I test drive it?” I ask.

Carolyn looks at me, startled and uneasy. “Sure,” she says, and within three minutes she has the keys and we’re on our way in the teal car.

We don’t drive far and, to be honest, I’m not even sure why I want to test drive the car, other than, like always, I’m preemptively explaining myself to the overlords in my head. Test driving is something I understand as a necessary step in the car-buying process. I know I’m buying this car and I know that I would buy it even if Carolyn had said no to taking it for a spin. Carolyn tries to chat me up while we’re driving, asking me about my pregnancy and the father.

“I’m putting it up for adoption,” I tell her. Carolyn talks to me about this for the duration of the drive and when I answer, my voice rises an octave each time I have a contraction.

Next thing I know, Carolyn and I are in her office, and there is paperwork in front of me. I have a checkbook to an account that holds nearly enough money to buy the car outright, but Carolyn is trying to finance the whole amount. She explains that if they take a personal check, they have to hold it for a week until it clears and I won’t get my car today. My contractions are now about six minutes apart and I know I have to get to the hospital.

Banks are called; documents are faxed. A man comes in and tries to discuss floor mat options with me. I am highly agitated and I stand up every few minutes to pace and pant. The frenzy of activity around me is intense – suddenly all of the sales associates are in the room, each trying desperately to help the pregnant girl get the car bought before a head emerges from her vagina in the middle of the showroom floor.

Finally, my brain kicks into action and I announce how it’s going to be. I don’t want to finance the whole amount. Even in my less-than right mind, I know that 22% interest is a lot and I just want to pay for as much as I can right there. I tell them all that I know it’s against their policy to take a personal check, but I need to get to the hospital. And if the check bounces, which it won’t, they know where to find me. If they can’t agree to this, then I’m just going to call a cab and come back another time. I tell the floor mat guy that I don’t give a rip about my options, I’ll just take whichever mats come stock with the car – and if I change my mind, I’ll come back and upgrade later.

Within twenty minutes, Carolyn has her manager’s approval to take my check and my car is waiting in the front lot.

Carolyn hands me my keys and tells me this is the quickest she’s ever seen the car-buying process happen in all of her time in sales.

“One last thing,” she says. “You have to go get insurance. I’ve already called a local agent, whose office is located two blocks away. She is waiting for you and has your paperwork ready to sign.”

I thank Carolyn and she wishes me good luck and I’m off.

I drive to the insurance agent’s office, only vaguely aware that I am driving my first new car ever. My manic obsession to buy a car – to buy this car – is now overtaken by my manic obsession to get to the hospital. I’m not aware of it, but I need something tangible in place after I’ve had this baby that is fighting his way out of my body. I’m not yet aware that after he leaves, I’ll transfer all of my maternal love onto this car. That this car will literally help me run away from all of the shit I’ve been through and am going through. I don’t know it yet, but the freedom this car will bring me will help put 130,000 miles of distance between the me that I’ve been and the me that I will become.

I don’t know it yet, but tomorrow the nurse will bring newborn Dillon into my hospital room right after Kim calls to announce that her flight has landed and she is on her way to the hospital. Dillon will come in and I will look down at him and I will cry. I will tell him I’m so very sorry that I couldn’t keep him, but that I’m positive that I’ve found a surrogate who’s just-right and that I know he’ll be loved. I will tell him that I love him, that I will always love him. I also don’t know yet that I will stare at him so long that my nipples will start tingling. I will have an almost crippling need to pick him up and place him to my breast and let him nurse. “Just for a second,” I will tell myself. But the moment I start to reach out, the exact moment, my sister will come walking in and instead of picking Dillon up to breastfeed him, I will pick him up and hand him to his mom.

And then, then I will begin driving.

TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , ,

GLORIA HARRISON is a writer whose work has been featured on The Nervous Breakdown, Fictionaut, and This American Life. Gloria was the lead editor for The Portland Red Guide: Sites & Stories of Our Radical Past by Michael Munk, which was published through Ooligan Press in 2007. She was also a contributing editor to Pete Anthony's book, Immaculate, for which she received a high five and a ten dollar gift card to Stumptown Coffee. Gloria graduated from Portland State University with her B.A. in English in 2006 and now focuses on her own writing. She had a work of flash fiction published in The Bear Deluxe Magazine (No. 26). You can follow her on Twitter here.

Gloria lives in Portland, Oregon with her school-age twin boys. She is currently working on both a memoir and her first novel. You can contact Gloria via her Facebook page.

153 responses to “Let’s See How Fast This Baby Will Go”

  1. Richard Cox says:

    Wow. I wish I knew how to impart this kind of emotion and tenderness into the written word. Intense and amazing.

    Also, I hate buying cars. I love looking at them and wishing about them but I hate buying them because I’ve only ever had a good experience once. Even then I think I might have gotten ripped off. The thing I hate the worst is how much research I do these days and they still look me straight in the eye and lie.

    P.S. “haggling over floor mats” has to be a top 10 all time tag.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      Thanks, Richard.

      You know, I never did go back and renegotiate the floor mat thing. Oddly, I never really sat there and thought, “You know, I really like this car, but man! the floor mats need to go.”

  2. Irene Zion says:

    God, Gloria,

    My heart is beating out of my chest after reading this.
    I feel as though I have been punched in the gut.
    Please keep writing.

  3. Amanda says:

    2 thoughts for you, dear:

    I LOVE: “…like always, I’m preemptively explaining myself to the overlords in my head.”

    And i also love that this piece brought tears to my eyes the second time i read it, as well as the first. Nicely done.

    (OK, ok, third thing… i am so with James about the “haggling” tag! Brilliant, TNB.)

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      I love that I don’t explain myself to the overlords in my head as much anymore – that I left most of that behind in my interminable twenties.

      If by “James” you mean “Richard” then I’m right there with you! 😉

      Thanks for reading my dear, lovely friend.

    • Muriel Shepard says:

      Thanks for posting this on FB, Manda. Excellent writing! Way! MS

  4. Sarah says:

    I really want to comment on the car buying experience, since I just went through it a few months ago and also was treated like a less than human, know nothing chick. And I want to comment about how I was absolutely amazed and how I laughed thinking about your journey that day, all the while in labor. My back and baby hole were hurting with you while I read it.

    But I can’t comment on those things. I can only comment that the last two paragraphs hit my heart hard and made me cry. Not sad for you, not happy for the turn your life took after that day, but just the whole bundle of emotions that you must have been feeling.

    You’re the strongest woman I know and we’ve never met. I hope that last part changes some day.

  5. Becky says:

    Gloria, you’re such a badass.

    You just are.

    And the title is genius.

  6. Jennifer says:

    I so very love you and Kimmie. Do you know how fortunate I am to have you two in my life?

    And you should have gone back and kicked the slime guy in the jimmy.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      I’d like to think that the Used Car Salesman was already caught in the ninth level of hell by profession. Really, what more could I do to the guy?

  7. Wow, Gloria.
    There’s so much written here that made me so sorry that you had to deal
    with what you did – and I have the utmost of respect for you – you’re wise, smart,
    a survivor and I know you’re a kick ass mom.

    I also love the title – gave me chills.

    Can I share something that made me laugh a little?
    I got all swept into you being in labor as I was reading (actually had sympathy pains as well as
    what I thought was tingly sympathy lactation at the end) but when you wrote how you went to the second dealership…

    “Next thing I know, Cathy is showing me my options. I know that I want a Sentra and I don’t want any bells and whistles, just the basic package, and this makes the decision easy.”
    – it took me a minute to remember you were shopping for a car. I thought for a moment you were in the hospital and they were giving you the option for the Sentra basic package for giving birth.
    I kept thinking – wow – things have changed since then – i don’t remember being offered a basic package. Duh.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      @Stephanie – ha ha ha ha ha. That would be awesome(ly horrifiying.) “Excuse me, Ms. Olear, your insurance only covers the broom closet/intern delivery. Would you like to upgrade to the pain killer/trained professional package?”

      Thanks for cracking me up.

  8. Mary says:

    Holy shit. You are incredible. Beautiful writing, too. Jeeeeeze.

  9. Laura says:

    I fought my way to the computer just to read this. It was more than worth it. All I can say is…
    Wow, G. You are a strong woman. Amazing at 20, a sage at (well I won’t reveal your age)…now.
    Love reading you. More, please, more.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      Ha ha. Thanks for protecting my age, Laura, but it’s okay. Anyone who can keep track and do math can figure it out. Besides, I’m not ashamed. I love my thirties. I paid my dues in my twenties.

      Thanks for reading.

  10. Jen Violi says:

    Just lovely, Gloria! And the title IS genius–totally agreed. I forgot all about it, though, because the piece pulled me in so closely that I practically climbed up onto my computer (which no one would have wanted to see) to arrive more quickly at each next word. Thank you for the honesty and wisdom and bravery in this . . .

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      Wow, Jen. That’s a helluva compliment, especially coming from you. Thank you for reading, beautiful lady.

    • New Orleans Lady says:

      “I practically climbed up onto my computer (which no one would have wanted to see) to arrive more quickly at each next word.” ~wow, what a great way to describe it. that is exactly how you feel reading it.

  11. Matt says:

    The next time I go to buy a car, I am taking a woman in labor with me. So gonna work that angle! And if her water actually breaks right there on the dealership floor, that’d really seal the deal!

    Seriously though, this is a very good, very moving post, even though I was aware of the details. The ending especially is just a heartbreaker.

    Keep it up.

  12. “I don’t know it yet, but the freedom this car will bring to me will help me put 130,000 miles of distance between the me that I’ve been and the me that I will become.”

    This floored me, really and truly floored me… really flat out emotional high test naked as hell raw freaking life. The glories of life are often aligned with the miseries, aren’t they?

    btw – 6/4 happens to be my birthday…

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      “The glories of life are often aligned with the miseries, aren’t they?”

      Amen, sister.

      My friend David has this bit of wisdom in the little box under his picture on his Facebook page: Joy is the bastard child of anxiety and hope. Peace is the goal.

      I get closer and closer to peace the less I try to hold glory with a deathgrip and fight off misery.

      I will never, ever forget your birthday. 🙂

  13. Jake Thomas says:

    Astounding. I linked to this on Facebook. Everyone should read this. I got a knot in my stomach and was actually holding my breath at one point. I’m going to put on a hat just to tip it in your general direction. Awesome.

    • Gloria says:

      Jake! I’m so stoked that you read and commented. We’ve finally crossed over from the MySpace days.

      Thank you for your comment, my friend.

      • Dillon Rodgers says:

        its funny how him and i have the same first name spelling and all. i wish i could meet him to see what he knows

        • Gloria says:

          Well, looky look, everyone. Dillon has discovered his Aunt Gloria’s Nervous Breakdown page.

          Welcome, Dillon. Thanks for reading. 🙂

          And if you ever meet him, let me know, okay? Also, go to bed – you have school tomorrow.

  14. Amber says:

    Nathaniel and I are both in tears now. I love you.

    By the way, I remember that car. I loved it, too. But I’m not sorry I refused to drive it in San Fransisco.

    • Gloria says:

      Amber – you were an integral part to those 130,000 miles. And if I never thanked you properly, then thank you. Thank you, thank you endlessly.

  15. tz says:

    Wow! I’m crying.

  16. Greg Olear says:

    Good for you for insisting that they take your check. Like a local check takes seven days to clear.

    In my experience, nothing makes care dealership people move with urgency — not even two cute little kids running around slapping their sweaty palms on the shiny floor models. So it’s no surprise that some dipshit would try and talk to you about floormats.

    But there’s more to the piece, of course, than the car story. The backstory really packs a wallop.

    Well done.


    • Gloria says:

      Thanks, Greg. And yes, Cathy, though sweet and respectful, was still a salesperson. And when I said, “I’ll just take a cab,” what she heard was, “I’ll just take your commission.” Also, I was clearly not bluffing.

  17. Cara in "Burque" says:

    I, too, am a birth mother. I gave up my son Danny nearly 20 years ago and totally relate to holding your son, crying, telling him how sorry you are but hope that that new mom you picked out for him will love him just as much as you do. You are such an incredible writer, Gloria, of course your wickedly creative mind and wit were always evident to me. I want to be you when I grow up.

    I love you.

    • Gloria says:

      Wow, Cara. Has it really been 20 years? Wow.

      You were there for me in so many ways during that pregnancy. You bought me supplies from the student store for Christmas and you made me the only gift I got at the little baby shower you threw me – a knitted blanket, which I still own and keep with my other treasures. You were a friend to a lonely, scared girl – and a tremendous one at that. I truly love you.

    • New Orleans Lady says:

      …and, now I’m crying again. Thanks Cara.

  18. New Orleans Lady says:

    Gloria, as I said earlier, this is one of the best things you’ve ever written (as far as I know). Filled with more emotion than words should be able to hold. I laughed while picturing you with that salesman, and even when the guy was bothering you about floor mats. I mean, who the fuck cares about floor mats, especially when they’re about to spit a child out of their CBD?! What a jackass!

    And like the other readers I cried at the end. This is the third time I have read this and I cried every time. Your story gives new meaning to the word strength.

    I look forward to your next piece.

    CBD means Central Business District here in New Orleans. My family and I always say that when referring to our nether regions. It’s yours for the taking now, if you so wish.

    • Gloria says:

      Oh my gosh. In this one post, I’ve walked away with not only “baby hole” but also “Central Business District.” The euphamism dictionary for my vagina just keeps growing and growing.

      Yeah, floor mat guy. I kept thinking, “I’m in fucking labor here! I do not care about floor mats!”

      • Jules says:

        Typical dude thinking – “If I just give her floor mats that will keep her from getting her baby juice all over the place!” Maybe not typical – but it seems like something my dad would have said when packing the car to go to the hospital for my last delivery. “Don’t forget the floor mats okay!”

        I loved reading this Gloria! You never cease to amaze me by the fire you have walked through and your ability and genuineness in sharing your experiences.
        “… the freedom this car will bring to me will help me put 130,000 miles of distance between the me that I’ve been and the me that I will become.”

        You are a true Shadow Stabber!

        Keep posting!

  19. New Orleans Lady says:

    PS-The title is genius.

  20. New Orleans Lady says:

    yeah, everyone should say CBD.

    My aunt got a tattoo one time in florida and when they asked where she wanted it she said, “Umm, I don’t really want people to see it so I was thinking in my CBD.” The guy was like, “In your WHAT?!”

    It was fun listening to her explaiin.

  21. “suddenly all of the sales associates are in the room, each trying desperately to help the pregnant girl get the car bought before a head emerges from her vagina in the middle of the showroom floor.”

    I’m buying you a drink.

  22. D.R. Haney says:

    Gripping from beginning to end, Gloria, and stirring evidence to be presented to anyone who believes in the sophomore curse.

    One thing that particularly struck me as I read was the treatment you received from the first salesman. The sexism is odious, of course, but it can apply, in a strange way, to men also. For example, I remember when I bought my first car after years of living in NYC, where I never had to think about cars, except for the yellow kind, driven by other people, that could be hailed on the street. Then, when I went car shopping within days of moving to L.A., it was clear, in my exchanges with salesmen, that I was expected to perfectly speak the language of cars, when I obviously had a thick dialect. I tried to fake it, caving to convention, and naturally ended up with a lemon. I trust you had a better outcome with the Sentra.

    • Gloria says:

      Sorry to hear about your experience, Duke. I do think there’s a sexism there, for sure. (I also think that car salesmen specifically are predators and don’t really discriminate between the sexes as far as who they will prey on.)

      The unrealistic expectations (and sometimes prejudice) put on men is a lot of pressure; I can only imagine. My friend Aaron has an eight year old daughter, whom he recently took clothes shopping at the Gap. He said he was surrounded by a bunch of suburban moms who kept giving him sideways glances – to that point that he really started feeling uncomfortable. Sexism in any from makes me a bit frothy at the mouth.

      My Sentra was a great car. I beat the shit out of that car (ran over parking spot stoppers, drove it down stairs, drove it hard, etc.) and it never once left me stranded. I got in it and felt at home.

      Did you finally get yourself a different car?

      • The best advice I’ve ever heard about buying cars is that you should always bring someone who knows about cars with you; as a guy, there’s an assumption that I know something about cars, which I don’t. I have no clue. And yet, I’m curiously reticent about admitting my ignorance.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          That’s what I was trying to say above, Simon, with “caving to convention.”

          The car I bought, Gloria, was a 1966 Mustang. I’d always wanted to own an old Mustang, though my new friends in L.A. warned me against it. Any old car is bound to bring trouble, but I might have at least gotten a better model if I’d known more about cars overall. Eventually, after it broke down for the thousandth time, I did for a fact replace it. Then that car got replaced, and then it was replaced by another, and so on. Cars are a pain in the ass, and I’m currently without one, which is murder, living in L.A. But the Mustang ended up as a “character” in Banned for Life, which very nearly amounts, in that case, to compensation.

        • Gloria says:

          I’ve always wanted an old Baracuda. See also: an old Fairlaine. I’ve always told myself that if I ever have the ridiculous amount of money I plan to have one day, I will buy one of those old cars, convert it to biodiesel, and have it redone from fender to fender. Right after the boob job.

          I have a car and I hate the fucking thing. If not for the boys, I’d do without. As a matter of fact, my co-parent and I have recently switched to week on/week off and last week was my first week off. I drove exactly 40 miles in 7 days. Normally I drive about 200 in the same amount of time. Cars are useful for the long haul, but Portland boasts a fantastic public transportation system and I get an obscene discount for an annual pass through my work, so there’s not a lot of need to drive unless you need to get somewhere quickly – which is why I have to drive during the days I have the boys. You never know when there will be an emergency and you will have to leave in a hurry. Also, it’s so expensive to drive! I have to pay to park at work. Yes, it’s stupid. And, to be honest, it’s almost a deal-breaker. It costs me $6-10 a day to park at work. And parking enforcement officers will ticket you if you go one second over your limit – which is another $25-50. Then you factor in insurance, gas, car repairs, maintenance… It’s a nightmare. My Nissan was fantastic because it was brand new – and brand new cars have zero problems. I drove that thing for ten years and took it to the shop once. It got 34 miles to the gallon (as opposed to the 17-20 my current car gets) and could endure anything – including accidentally being driven down two flights of stairs. But used cars – where you’re not the only owner – nightmare.

  23. Zara Potts says:

    Thanks for writing this, Gloria. It must have been hard. Both the experience and the writing of it. Thanks for sharing it. Brave and vulnerable all at once, it’s a powerful combination.

    • Gloria says:

      Thanks for reading, Zara!

      It was actually really easy to write. This is just one of those stories that’s been spinning around in the rock tumbler in my head for so long now that all of the rough edges have been smoothed down and polished. I did get a little choked up writing the end part, but in an odd sort of way it was nice to be able to experience that connection to Dillon again. I have the extreme pleasure of still having him in my life – as my nephew. And he and I have, over years, been able to establish a relationship (as aunt and nephew) – which I know is something a lot of birth mothers don’t get to enjoy, and I am endlessly thankful.

      My sister and brother-in-law told him he was adopted on his tenth birthday. (My suspicion is that he had an inkling all along, just from discerning whispers and glances among family and the way everyone has always said, “God! He’s just like Gloria!”) It was pretty funny when they told them. He looked at Kim and said, “But how will aunt Gloria feel when she finds out she’s my geological mom?” Kim said, “Honey, I’m pretty sure she knows.” 🙂

      • Cheryl says:

        Oh God, G. Your post made tears come to my eyes, but I managed to hold it together through the comments until… You know what sent the tears spilling over? “geological mom”.

        I love you. Keep this up. This is good.

        “I don’t know it yet, but the freedom this car will bring to me will help me put 130,000 miles of distance between the me that I’ve been and the me that I will become.” Gave me chills, sister.

  24. Erica says:

    Now, is this the same car that you fixed by driving down the stairs at the college? Hahaha. You’re such a great writer, Gloria. I’m really looking forward to reading all of the stories you have to tell. I love you, lady.

    • Gloria says:

      Yes, Erica. Same car. And for the record – it did fix the alignment! Man…I’d forgotten all about that. What a horrible, hilarious experience that was. My life is like a movie directed by David Lynch by starring Chevy Chase.

      I love you too my favorite cousin. (Don’t tell Mike.)

  25. James D. Irwin says:

    I forgot to leave a comment last night… and apparently my body has given up on such triviliaties as ‘the morning’ now…

    I love reading your writing, and it would be almost impossible to quote my favourite lines without typing out the whole damn piece…

    Looking forward to number three!

  26. Tawni says:

    Reading this reminded me of what an amazingly strong person you are. And I am quite certain that at the age of twenty I wouldn’t have had the balls to tell pushy car salespeople (or pushy any people, really) how it’s “going to be.” Fucking awesome. It sounds like Cathy really helped you out, getting the insurance sorted, and it makes me happy there are people like that in the world.

    The first car salesman not looking you in the eye struck a chord with me. I have rarely been acknowledged when looking at cars with a boyfriend/husband. It infuriates me. Shake my fucking hand too. Look me in the eyes. In addition to being blatantly sexist and rude, it is also really stupid of them. Haven’t you car salesmen ever been in a relationship? If momma doesn’t like the car, we’re not getting the car. You are kissing the wrong ass, dummy.

    I wish you’d chosen the black one, however. Teal cars make me irrationally angry.

    Great story, great writing. I think you’re brilliant, my friend. xoxo.

    • Gloria says:

      I kind of wish I’d chosen the black one, too. But the teal did hide the dirt fairly well and I think washing your car is a ridiculous endeavor. It just gets dirty again! It’s not like you eat off of it!

      And, yes, I’d rather not ever have to deal with a car salesman again and if I do, I’m asking for a lady!

    • Cheryl says:

      “Teal cars make me irrationally angry.” Heh. My first car that I owned for real was a teal toyota tercel hatchback. It was new, I could afford it, and it was mine. I, too, was vacillating between teal and black and was talked into the teal based on the dust/dirt factor. Man, I hate salespeople.

  27. Angela Tung says:

    holy shit, i was positively teary-eyed at the end.

    my favorite line: “. . .before a head emerges from her vagina in the middle of the showroom floor.” what an image.

    • Gloria says:

      Thanks for reading, Angela.

      Since my last post was about my boobs, I promised a few friends that I’d mention my vagina in this one. 🙂 Bait and switch… Just like car salespeople.

  28. Meredith says:

    I have known Gloria for half our lifetime and she is the one of the most brillantly funny people I have ever met.Kim and Gloria are like family to me and Dillion is an awesome child,I see so much of Gloria in him it is unreal.I am so proud of you G and I can’t wait for the day when I get my autographed copy of your first book, I know it’s coming soon!Love ya, Mere

  29. Alison Aucoin says:

    I am an adoptive mom. I know absolutely nothing about my daughter’s birth mother or the circumstances of her birth. It’s much more of a void for me than I expected. What a lucky boy to have such a focused, single-minded, eloquent, funny birth mother!

    • Gloria says:

      Hi Alison.

      You know, Dillon and I are both really lucky to have each other in our lives – and to have my sister be who she is. Our situation is unique and special.

      He doesn’t know everything about his birth. Ever since he’s found out for sure that I am his birth mother, I’ve had to navigate the questions about his sire like tiptoeing through landmines. One day though…

      How old is your daughter?

      • Alison Aucoin says:

        She’s two and half. I don’t ever want her to be able to answer the question, ‘How old were you when you found out you were adopted?’ In other words, I just want it to always be a part of her reality. I’m starting very simply. A friend of mine is about to give birth so we’ve started talking about how some mommies are tummy mommies, some are arm mommies, and some are both. So far she’s accepting what I’m saying & not asking questions but she’s smart as a whip. It won’t be long.

        I simply loathe the idea of having to answer so many questions with ‘I don’t know.’ One thing I do know for darn sure is that she has always been deeply loved and cherished. It was abundantly clear in the first pictures of her from the orphanage. Sadly, many kids in those first pics are really checked out. She was just as bright and sparkly as she is today. I don’t know any facts but I do know a loved child when I see one. That helps, mostly…

        • Gloria says:

          I agree 100%. I encouraged my sister to take the same tack with answering Dillon’s questions, but it was not up to me. Luckily, he’s no worse for the wear. The kid is a champ. 🙂

          Aw, your description of your daughter being sparkly – both in real life and in photos – is just great. Happy, happy.

        • We adopted my daughters from China when they were 9 months old, and I, too, took the tact of always talking about the adoption openly, and having some of their early storybooks focus on adoption, including a book my best friend and I collaborated on and wrote for them, with him illustrating the text I’d written. Their adoption was a “visible” fact because my husband and I are not Chinese, so I wanted them to be aware and prepared by the time they could understand the comments we often got (well-intentioned questions that were often intrusive or ill-informed) constantly out in public. I relate to the feeling of wishing that I had the ability to help them fill in gaps about their birth family, and Dillon is indeed a fortunate kid to have both his biological mother and the mother who is raising him as part of the same family/story. That’s a beautiful thing, and I applaud your bravery and strength, and your sister’s, in making this happen. I’m grateful for my daughters every single day and I wish I could just say thank you to their birth mother–and the older they get (they’re 9 now), the more I realize what a beautiful, intelligent and special woman she must be, too, and how one of the greatest gifts of my life is a direct result of something that may have been the biggest tragedy of hers. If she has half the soul or heart my daughters do, I know she must think of them and miss them everyday, and I wish I could put her mind at ease about what “happened” to them, since that is such an uncertain thing for women who give up their babies in China.
          I loved this story–it made me cry, and made me very happy.

        • Gloria says:

          Hi Gena.

          So, daughters plural? Are they twins, then?

          I have twin boys who will be 8 on Valentine’s Day. Aren’t twins FUN?? **chugs coffee to wake up** 😉

          Yes, Dillon is quite fortunate. So am I really. My sister is amazing.

          Thank you for reading and for your kind words and commiseration.


      • Kim says:

        He doesn’t ask as many questions as I thought he would when he found out. He knows you’re his ‘geological’ (that’s what he called you :)) mother and that he has a biological father out there somewhere. Right now he doesn’t seem concerned with the details. I know the day will come soon…

        • Gloria says:

          Well. You and I were never worse for the wear not knowing much about our biological fathers. We’re proof people can overcome while lacking this information.

          And, if pressed, I’ll give him the same lame answer that I give everyone else when i don’t want to answer a question: You’ll have to wait for the book. Wait… What do you mean that won’t suffice? *Sigh*

  30. Reno J. Romero says:


    this is an amazing piece. so much going on here. some funny bits, some sad stuff. like, tawni said: you are a strong person. i can’t sit here and say i know how you feel/felt. because i don’t. i can’t. but it seems to me that it takes a lot to do what you had to do. thanks, gloria. you got it right on this one. we carry on.

    reno romero

  31. Kim says:

    I love you.

    • Gloria says:

      I love you, too, my beautiful sister.

    • Hari says:

      Hi Darcie! I just read Kent’s review of the SnooZZy OrthoAir Inflatable Dog Beds. I laehugd so hard when I read Oliver likes to claw at his bed so the cover ends up next to the bed. He then digs at the bed itself. My dog does the same thing. She really gets into this routine and sometimes snorts. Then she lays down with the most contented sigh. It’s hilarious. Any insight into why some dogs do this and others twirl a few circles and plunk down? Great to know my dog isn’t the only one who does this before she sleeps! Amy[Dear Amy, I don’t know why some dogs do the circle and make the bed thing. There is some speculation and of course some will tell you that it’s a instinctual thing. My Dancer loved to make her bed before going to bed. Tilli just lays down and calls it a day. Frankie sometimes makes her bed but mostly she’s on the lookout for a reason to get up again, Black Lab Border Collie, high energy. Oliver does make his bed most of the time. There have been a few times I’ve seen him lay down and go to sleep with no making at all, usually that’s right after a good day play session. I think it’s probably more of a personal issue. Like us, do you sleep on the whole bed or your half, do you plump your pillows or let them lay, do you wiggle around to get comfortable or do you just go to sleep? I’m like my Dancer was, I usually get the bed just right, then I fall off to dreamland. Thanks, Darcie]

  32. jami says:

    I love u glory. I love dillion, too. ×jamie sighs with heartfelt emotion×
    Remind me to tell u when i first realized u were going to write one day. And! Since I am only 33, u and Mere are OLD…

    • Gloria says:

      Dude. Don’t call me glory – I’ve got a rep to protect…or something. I’m a professional here! An adult! (That said, I know that one day my mom or one of my aunts will discover I write on here and they will drop the “Glory Bee” bomb. *sigh*)

      Okay, I’ll bite. When did you first realize?

      • Greg Olear says:

        Gloria Swanson was called Glory by her parents, so Glory has major cool attached to it.

        • Gloria says:

          @Greg – Glory is a great name! For sure. It’s just one of those little-kid, familial things, you know. Like, did your grandma ever call you Greggy? Now, is there an adult or a peer in your life who currently does? See?

          Ultimately, though, I don’t give a shit. 🙂

  33. jami says:

    Sweetheat, u r full of Glory. Embrace it.

    Background: we r pushing 2 decades of friendship and I have known Gloria would one day write.

    I guess, we were about 13 or 14. At my house on springer. U snuck away from freako gaylon and we were hanging out. He showed up at the door and big moo (an enormous man of about 450 pounds who would have killed to protect us. RIP, Moo) was gonna kick his butt (teehee). We were sitting on the dirty floor of the kitchen, hiding next to the oven. U told me that leaving w him would be “paramount to death”. I knew then…this girl talks like a book!
    I also realized then, I was not alone in my absolute fear of another humans actions, the anicipation of what could happen. Thank you for being my fellow soldier in the war of childhood.

    • Gloria says:

      “Thank you for being my fellow soldier in the war of childhood.”

      Ah, James. How sad that this is true. Childhood isn’t supposed to be a war! Thank god we’ve both figured that out.

      I love you.

  34. jami says:

    Um…that’s sweetheart. ..not heat…

  35. Greg Olear says:

    99 drives me nuts…here’s comment #100.

  36. Ducky Wilson says:

    Really wonderful. Perfect pacing. My legs started jittering.

    • Gloria says:

      Thanks Ducky. Those are tremendous compliments – especially coming from as fine a writer as yourself. Thanks for reading.

  37. sheree says:

    Excellent writing. I almost gave birth to my second son in the front seat of a 1962 chevy impala super sport with hydro’s installed. The car bottomed out 2 blocks from the hospital on a dip in the road. I shoved my knees together and told the auld man to floor it! Fifteen minutes later I was holding my new born son.

    Look forward to reading your next post.

  38. Dana says:

    This was wonderful Gloria! Sorry so late to the comment party, but your title is awesome and the tale compelling. Perfect!

  39. Stuart Ralston says:

    Wow. I feel as though I just rode the roller coaster at Great America; you know the one, where your legs dangle freely and it looks as though you’re going to have your feet sheared off by the ground, and you’re experiencing sheer delight and sheer terror at the same time? I loved your use of tense to put us in the Now, and even in the Past as you look forward in the hospital, “…I will pick him up and hand him to his mom.”

    A most perfect piece, Gloria. Perfect.

    @Jami – You got off easy. She bit my head off on her last post after I called her “Glo”. (Did I just get away with calling you that, Gloria, after you threatened me not to, ever again…?)

    One last thing: I had a car saleslady help me once, very competently…her name was Carma. Really.

    One last last thing: I have to admit, I’ve never cried from a real roller coaster ride…

    • Gloria says:

      Stuart, I am very sorry for biting your head off in my last post. 🙂

      You’ve never cried on a roller coaster ride? Man, I have. They scare the crap out of me. PTSD much?

  40. 100% great story. Your writing style’s totally transparent, it’s as though you’re telling it verbally. That’s a compliment, by the way – it’s what I aim for (and usually miss).

    • Gloria says:

      Thank you, Steve. Sorry for my late reply – somehow this comment got lost in my Inbox. I appreciate your feedback very much.

    • Gloria says:

      You know, I was just talking to my friend about this tonight – about the economy of language. I saw Mos Def in an interview once (I’m secretly quite in love with that dude) and, as you may know, he hosts (hosted?) the Def Poetry show. His comment related to how he felt the most compelling writing uses only the most important words and leaves the rest out. That stuck with me. It really affected me. I don’t think I’m there yet by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s what I aspire to.

  41. rachel schinderman says:

    This was really beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story.

  42. kristen says:

    Holy shit this is amazing. Such feeling! So glad you’ve joined the TNB crew…

    Like other commenters, I had gooseflesh by the end. Your closing words are exquisite, Gloria.

    And this–suddenly all of the sales associates are in the room, each trying desperately to help the pregnant girl get the car bought before a head emerges from her vagina in the middle of the showroom floor–is hilarious.

  43. […] once bought a car while she was in labor, giving new meaning to the term hysterical […]

  44. Dillon says:

    According to this storie, Dillons birthday is tomorrow

    • Gloria says:

      Well, that depends on the timezone you’re in. If you’re in Oklahoma, then right this moment it’s just after midnight on the 3rd (and I assume Dillon should be in bed). But if you’re on the west coast, it’s still the 2nd, and Dillon’s birthday isn’t for two more days. I hope he doesn’t mind that I completely forgot to send him anything for his birthday…

  45. Dillon says:

    This story tells alot. tells how one (pops) up where they do. for him he is fortunate to have a wonderful family and supports one another when they can. From what a little birdy tells me is that dillon is doing ok and is satisfied with the decision that was made. were all family and thats good enough. i hope dillon is ok. oh wait, i am. lol

    • Gloria says:

      I’m glad you’re okay, Dillon. Except for the part where you regularly refer to yourself in the third person. 🙂

      Of course I didn’t forget your birthday, goofball. Your card and millions and millions in cash have been mailed.

      Why don’t you email me off the board. I’d like to hear more of your thoughts. Please email me privately. (My email address should appear in this response, which should appear in your email inbox.)

      Aunt Gloria

      • Jayne says:

        I just heard this in the TAL archives and found you on here. And this is THE Dillon of the story! So happy the little baby and auntie developed a great relationship. 🙂 I feel all punched up, sad, full of hope and then some. Wish I could get my hands on your memoir. I must know more!

  46. Dillon says:

    text it to me. no email here. and i thought id like to refer myself into third person.

  47. Cyndula says:

    I just heard this performed on This American Life – it is one of the loveliest essays I have ever heard – congrats.

  48. Kendall Swenson says:

    Just heard your story read over the radio and was so moved by it, I had to look you up. Wonderful writing and thank you for sharing something so personal.

    • Gloria says:

      Kendall, I apologize for the delay in responding to your very sweet note. Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts. I really appreciate it.

  49. rebecca says:

    Incredible! I heard your essay over the weekend while driving home. It was one of those “I’m home, but refuse to exit my car” until I hear the ending moments. I admire your strength. Rebecca

    • Gloria says:


      “It was one of those ‘I’m home, but refuse to exit my car’ until I hear the ending moments” is just about the greatest compliment ever. Thank you. 🙂

  50. Chris says:

    This is a beautiful story. When I was listening to it on TAL, I imagined you returning the used car on 82nd Avenue and then Ira said that you were from Portland. I am glad to hear that the Sentra took you to better places.

    • Gloria says:

      Hi, Chris. Yeah, the car blocks were more like the car blocks in Beaverton and less like the ones on 82nd (less sketchy.) Thanks so much for the note. 🙂

  51. GaryB says:

    This American Life is my Sabbath sermon … and again it delivers (well, literally in this case).

    Being male, I outsourced my childbearing, but I can count 5 decisive turning points in my life and they all involved a physical as well as mental/spiritual journey to a new place. This really brought back the feeling of being lost/off course/trapped at those points and how even as the struggle peaked back then, that while I didn’t know it at the time, I had already prepared the means by which to move on.

    I’m now starting to move into that phase of life called “getting old”. Having lived through all the previous journeys, and virtually lived through many more through stories like this, it makes it a lot easier to know it’s just another part of a longer journey. Thanks for driving by on your way out west.

    • Gloria says:

      Hi, Gary. Thank you for the note! “I had already prepared the means by which to move on” is beautiful and spot on. Also, “outsourcing childbearing” is both hilarious and kind of disturbing. But maybe I just read too much sci-fi. 🙂 To journeys!

  52. Kerrie says:

    I just heard your story on This American Life. I’m not usually a teary person, as a hardened adult but the ending was wrenching enough to do it for me. I probably came here to see if you had disclosed more about the shocking backstory you alluded to. From what you described in the piece, i don’t how how you made it to that point in your life where you gave birth – seems you were staying strong when you had every cause to crumble. Have you written about your earlier years publicly?

    • Gloria says:

      Hi, Kerry. Oh…the backstory… No, I haven’t really shared most of it publicly, but I have written many pages of it for the memoir that I may or may not finish (but hope to!) The Forward story is way better. My life is pretty good and I have known much love and, especially, peace. You can read a little of the forward story (which is also sort of back story) here: http://fictionaut.com/stories/gloria-harrison/epilogue

    • Gloria says:

      Gah. Sorry. Kerrie. Not Kerry. 🙂 Oh, and thanks for the note.

  53. Catherine says:

    Hi Gloria,

    I laughed and wept hearing your story on TAL, and again here reading it here. I’m a childbirth educator, and this is the most powerful story about the wisdom inherent in “irrational” labor behavior that I’ve ever heard. Thanks for telling your story.

  54. Britt says:


    I usually listen to TAL in podcast form when I go for a run and I was so consumed by this story that I extended my running route just to keep listening. At the end of the essay I was waiting for Ira Glass to say that it was a fictional piece and my curiosity took me here– I’m truly amazed! This is definitely one of my favorites… great humor, tons of laugh out loud moments, and there is nothing like an impending baby to get my adrenaline rushing 🙂

  55. Joyce D says:

    Heard this on TAL last night, now that it is a channel on I Heart Radio. I was moved to tears by the end. From the clever title and throughout , this is, to me, POIGNANT. I will echo others in congratulating you.

  56. […] See How Fast This Baby Will Go, based on her essay of the same title, first published by The Nervous Breakdown. It is the true story of a nineteen-year-old woman in labor, on the verge of giving away her baby, […]

  57. […] that most move me are those written by my friends. My buddy Gloria Harrison wrote a story called “Let’s See How Fast This Baby Will Go.” It was published in 2010 by The Nervous Breakdown. I love Gloria, and when I think that this […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *