I skulk into the lab, quickly turning my groin area away from any of the dozens of eyes that might suspect I am there due to a potential defect. I have seen movies that portray “whack-off” rooms complete with abundant pornographic selections, a large-screen TV, and mood music to promote maximum sperm excitement. My reality is green vinyl flooring with chips in the corners, and 1970s lime green furniture with some brownish shapes on them that at some point were probably flowers before the multiplicity of diseased asses wiped off their original images.
I walk up to the lab tech and pray to God she will just ask my name and not why I’m here. The greasy-haired Rosie O’Donnell lookalike scans for my information and promptly hands me a paper bag. She points me toward the bathroom where I will perform my task. The community bathroom.
“You don’t have anything more private?”
Rosie looks me up and down and smiles.
“Just lock the door and take your time.”
There is an oxymoron in there somewhere.
I have never really been much of a masturbator, as my hope has always been that I would have a woman to entertain my genitalia. I figured if I saved up all that sexual tension, it would result in the ultimate orgasm on my wedding night. Sure, when puberty hit, there were those occasional mornings when I explored my woodlands, but they were quickly turned to limp noodle lands when my mom or dad would walk down the hall. I was terrified they’d walk in and find splooge all over my sheets.
There is a construction crew doing some sheetrock work in the lobby right next to the bathroom. The pop-pop-pop of the nail guns is really distracting. I watch the biker-looking foreman with a set of keys in his tattooed hands opening doors throughout the lab, and say a silent prayer that the bathroom key is not hanging on his Harley-Davidson key chain.
Okay. How the hell do I do this? There is no comfy bed to lie on. Ugly green tile, a metal washbasin, antibacterial soap, and a toilet with no cover. Sitting on the open seat will probably be more conducive to thoughts of crapping, not cumming. The tiny knives tap down my neck, and my heart rate accelerates. I will have to masturbate standing up.
I drop my pants and try to visualize anyplace else, when I am startled by the very close sound of one of the construction workers.
“Yo, Vinny! You want McDonald’s or Burger King?”
The order taker continues down the hallway, and for the first time I notice a five-by-twelve-inch vent in the bottom of the door that amplifies the sound coming into the bathroom. I will have to be incredibly silent. Slapping noises will be audible through the lobby.
I am finally managing to work myself to arousal when the doorknob starts to turn.
“There’s someone in here!” I scream in a high-pitched voice, accidentally squeezing myself too hard in the stress of the moment. Though the door is locked, I am paranoid that the potential intruder was a construction worker looking for the Harley foreman to get a key to come in. I maneuver myself with one arm holding the door shut, while my other hand gets the sample going again. I will have to risk another break-in once things are ready to blow, but this is as good as it gets.
Thankfully fifteen minutes of imagining Lisa in the white bikini she wore so many times I went to visit her by the pool at her parents’ apartment complex when we first met helps me achieve liftoff. I panic as I try to aim the ejaculation into the small eight-ounce cup; how the hell do I know how this thing is going to fire? For the most part it goes in, except for a small initial dollop that flies onto the floor next to the toilet.
Whoa, shit! I’m dizzy…going to pass out. I’ve never ejaculated standing up, and am not prepared for how lightheaded I feel as all the blood is at this moment rushing to my balls. Thank God the freaking bathroom is so small that the nearby walls break my fall, and I just lean there until some blood begins to flow back to my northern head. I close the cap, jam the cup into the paper bag, and walk past some irritated-looking women waiting outside the door. I scurry to the lab tech area and search for Rosie.
I’m looking at a chart of exploded female genitalia on the wall of a fertility doctor’s office. The familiar scent of rubber condoms fills my nostrils as the nurse eases it over the six-inch white dildo next to Lisa. Lisa is naked from the waist down except for the paper dress she keeps trying to pull down so she is not exposed.
Her desire for modesty puzzles me considering that momentarily a man alleging to be a medical professional is going to insert that lubed-up dildo into her. I know the sensors will transmit information to the screens and provide proof that this is a medical procedure and not some kinky sex scene from a hidden camera porn show.
No matter how I try to rationalize it, for the first time in our married life, I will be present while another man inserts something into my wife’s vagina. I can’t help feeling territorial. That is my vagina. This is unnatural. It goes against my most primal instincts to subject myself to this. But my inability to impregnate Lisa is now attributed to my feeble sperm count, so any argument I might have to keep trying “naturally” is severely handicapped.
The fertility doctor bounces into the room, and my first take is he’s a Mel Brooks lookalike. I can never remember his real name, so I just dub him Dr. Mel. Dr. Mel gives us a big smile. His four-inch-diameter, green-letters-against-white-background pin tells us he is a “Licensed Egg Hunter.”
I watch the shadows of Lisa’s uterus magnified on the screen. I can’t make out what he is measuring, but Dr. Mel is gleefully calling out the measurements to his nurse while drawing lines and odd geometric shapes that apparently represent the baby landing pad potential of Lisa’s uterus, the width of her ovaries, and other acronyms
I don’t really understand.
“Wow, your lining is really triple-layered and fluffy. That’s a beautiful uterus!”
I stifle a chuckle as my immature mind produces a vision of frosting and birthday candles protruding from Lisa’s genitalia. I guess it’s my defense mechanism for how uncomfortable I am at hearing my wife’s sexual organs described in pastry terminology.
Everything that Lisa and I have ever wanted, we worked for hand in hand, side by side. In New York City we worked odd jobs so Lisa could model, and I could audition for shows on Broadway. When I was in college trying to finish my degree, Lisa worked odd shifts at a drug rehab clinic so I could take extra classes to finish my degree earlier. Yet I’ve spent much of my time recently pissing and moaning about having to pay the medical bills and whack off into a cup.
What kind of man have I become? As a kid in junior high I’d spent many days in detention after defending the honor of some girl who’d had her hair spit in by some jackass. Now as an alleged man, I am letting fertility bullies beat the hell out of my wife. A shot here in the stomach, a shot in the butt, and then the emotional knockout punch of “sorry it didn’t work, try again next month,” while I’m brooding at Lisa for “forcing” me to try to make a child from our own biology.
No one has ever said the only words I think Lisa really wants to hear to validate her loss: “I’m sorry your babies died.”
Lisa is the Joan of Arc of our parenthood quest. The least I can do is be the faithful soldier shielding her from the onslaught of enemies that threaten to destroy her emotional energy.
My shield must be ready to fend off the insensitive spears hurled in the form of statements like “If you adopt, you’ll get pregnant,” or “You just need to take the focus off of it.” I will do battle with the rude, overworked nurses who are shocked about being questioned about anything. Insurance people will feel the point of my verbal spears if they choose to argue with me over what our insurance policy will and won’t cover. I will boldly attack the accounting offices of the fertility clinics that seem to purposefully double bill in the hopes that in our sorrow over our failures, they can get us to cut the same check for items we’ve already fully paid for. I will raise my sword and be prepared to cut down any participation in events that cause Lisa undue pain like children’s birthday parties, holiday get-togethers, and baby showers.
I will learn the language of battle, the acronyms and protocols so that Lisa can focus on what she has to do emotionally and physically to prepare for each coming battle.
I will not let Lisa fight for our fertility alone anymore.