“That ain't no Etch-a-Sketch. This is one doodle that can't be undid, Homeskillet.”
- Rollo, Juno (2007)
When I was twenty, I was first made to watch Juno, the 2007 teen romance/drama starring Elliot Page and Michael Cera. Of course, I had heard of the film. Of course, I knew what it was about. My most distinctive public memory of the movie had been the poster; two awkward teenagers, Page and Cera, and Page’s baby bump conspicuously drawing attention. I had never bothered to watch the film though. It had stayed somewhere in the recesses of my mind where all the other ‘I’ll-watch-these-someday’ movies stayed. That was until I fell head over heels for a guy who was head over heels in love with Juno. He praised the movie every chance He got, snuck in lines from the movie into our conversations, and even had Rainn Wilson’s dialogue from the beginning of the film printed on His college club t-shirt. You get the idea.
Juno (2007); Mandate Pictures, Mr. Mudd
I was young and in love, and following His every word and pop culture suggestion, I sat down for the movie one weekend night at my hostel. As the night progressed and turned into morning, the ink blue skies turning to azure, I went from being just a girl to a girl in love with Juno. It was pure, heart-breaking, funny, and so beautiful. The aches that Juno felt – being a pregnant teen, giving up her baby, not knowing love, and then knowing love – felt real to me. I started feeling like Juno, empathising with her. Backing her when she messed up, cheering her on when she set out to do something. Over the next year, even as my relationship with Him abruptly ended, my love for Juno remained unwavering. When my romantic life was particularly empty, I found myself going back to the film for comfort, seeking solace in the warmth of the bright orange tones.
A few months later, He walked back into my life, as surreptitiously as he had walked out, and I held Juno even closer, like a secret between the two of us. It was now sacred for the both of us. It bound us together in a way that teen romcoms can bind two teens in love (we were both twenty-one, but you get the drift). We found ourselves going back to the film every now and then, and when I walked into His hostel room one cold January night, the first time two of us would actually be together physically, alone, who else would it be but Juno and Paulie looking down at us from the poster on his wall, approving of the union? If we were any crazier, this would be a cult and the poster our deity.
Elliot Page and Michael Cera in Juno (2007); Mandate Pictures, Mr. Mudd
For two people like us who had found an unparalleled snug comfort in the film, it was only fitting that like Juno and Paulie, we found ourselves at the receiving end of the same unpleasant situation as they had. When, after a week of debaucherously frolicking around at the end of the college semester, I came back home to a missed period cycle, I thought, Okay, maybe it’s just the PCOD. And then the month after that came and went with no periods. And the month after that. All while both of us, in different parts of the country, were contemplating a hundred different outcomes of the situation, one of which also involved running away with the potential baby.
Juno and Paulie didn’t have to do that. At that point exactly was where our lives started playing out differently, because the very fundamental fact of our relationship was that we were in a far more conservative country where I couldn’t really carry the baby to term and give it up for adoption to a good-looking couple. I wasn’t a disdainful high schooler whose parents sat in big armchairs and let me decide what to do with a growing foetus inside me. I might have been a few years older than Juno was, but this was still an unmarried, unplanned, and socially unacceptable pregnancy.
Of course, having the baby wasn’t our number one choice either. Through the three months that I did not get my period, we both spent frantic amounts of time looking up abortion laws in the country, which, unsurprisingly, aren’t part of normal, everyday conversation. Things seemed so ambiguous, so unknown, that in the beginning, I wasn’t even sure if it was legal (News alert: It is). I texted all my friends in med school, or friends who led risky sex lives, or friends who had friends who led risky sex lives. I tried to extract whatever information I could about an abortion that I was sure had to happen. This led me down a wholly different path of shady abortion clinics in Kolkata, the closest metropolitan to my college.
JK Simmons and Elliot Page in Juno (2007); Mandate Pictures, Mr. Mudd
He started saving up money – I was still in college, and He had just begun working, so things were as bad for us as they could be. On top of it all, I was unable to procure pregnancy tests to determine what was actually happening inside me, and whenever I did manage to get hold of any, they inexplicably never showed a definite result. I tried various ways to ‘end’ the embryo – by jumping up and down, eating papaya, laying on my stomach, doing excessive workouts. Tension was mounting with no clear way out of the rather unsavoury pickle we had landed up ourselves in, and both of us had started fraying around the edges. The warm orange of our relationship was officially under strain. We were snappy, detached, squabbling, twenty-one-year-olds unsure of what the immediate future held if they would have to become parents anytime soon. Somehow, Juno found its way into these tiffs as well.
‘You wanted to do it on the sofa like Juno and see where we are now.’
‘But we didn’t do it on the sofa! Don’t blame Juno!’
Around this time, my mother was growing concerned about my missed period and decided, to my horror that I should get an ultrasound done to check up on the cysts. Who cared about the cysts at this stage? What if the foetus showed up? I told Him about my mother’s plan, and we decided it would be best to come clean; to tell our parents everything. There was little use in hiding when my mother would soon see a grandkid, if there was one, in the black and white display ultrasound report. So, I waited outside the ultrasound lab filling up my bladder, like Juno in the departmental store, and He braced himself to call His mother and tell her about how He had managed to mess up in the worst possible way a mother would want her twenty-one-year-old son to mess up. I could feel life moving in slow motion in the lab as I walked in, lay down on the bed, and had the ticklishly cool gel rubbed over my abdomen. And while the doctor examined my insides on the screen, I even turned religious for possibly the first time in my life and started praying for there to be nothing except cysts inside. Not the healthiest thing to wish for but a better alternative than a growing foetus.
Nothing of note happened. The doctor printed up a report and my gynae prescribed some medicines; all would apparently be fine. Now that should have been a blessing for us, but we went a step further – what if the foetus was too small to be noticed? Of course, until I actually got my period, we weren’t going to quit testing out our theories.
He continued saving for the Emergency Abortion Fund, I continued jumping up and down, and when three months after my last cycle had passed, I got my periods again, I breathed a sigh of relief so huge that I didn’t know was possible, a heave so heavy. We felt like we had been transported back to where we belonged, college-going kids whose biggest worries were just grades, not babies. The frayed edges of the relationship began to smoothen out. We were okay again. Apart from the fact that I had a pretty bad case of PCOD, life was good.
Elliot Page and Michael Cera in Juno (2007); Mandate Pictures, Mr. Mudd
But good things don’t really last all that long, right? Around a year later, we faced much bigger problems; this time they were real. Distance, jobs, future, dreams – our paths had begun to diverge and we put an end to the warm orange world we had created for ourselves. I had seen Him as Paulie – awkward, adorable, gentle, and oddly comfortable. When I had told Him that, He had confided, sheepishly, that He too saw me as Juno – brash, outspoken, rigid, and audacious. And that had cemented our convictions of love for each other. What better way to convey it, without really saying it? We, of course, will never know if Paulie and Juno make it to college or after. We don’t even know if they survived high school. They go through a lot together, they discover themselves and each other, and in the process, found in each other a pure, innocent love. And maybe that’s just what our story was to be as well. We went through it together, we had each other, and we had the blessings of Juno.