The words over at Three Word Wednesday are joke, leverage and remedy.
Christ, it feels like I should wear one of those nametags they give you at some 12 Step meeting, along with the shitty cup of lukewarm coffee in Styrofoam cups and the day-old donuts, the cake ones, with fingerprints tattooed into the icing.
“Hi, My Name Is” with a baby-blue border and you scrawled your name in colored ink and tried not to be self-conscious. Because share time is here, and you’ll stand up and point at the fucking tag when you introduce yourself and blurt out your whole sordid life story:
Hi, my name is Bodie.
I’m 45 years old.
And I’m sterile (such a chilling medical term).
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Mid-30s, beautiful woman. We’d met at the gym, where I sullenly tried the elliptical machine as a remedy to the loss of a budding career as an adventure racer – blow out the ACL and MCL in your knee and have it replaced with tendons from a corpse (cadaver, whatever) and see where your mood goes – and she half-heartedly stepped through a workout on the Stair Master. Mostly, she looked to see who might be looking at her.
Tight black yoga pants, white Lycra top (built-in bra) that accentuated the unlimited tanning package and freckles (which she thought were ugly and I found sensual and erotic) across her back. Rich blond hair pulled into a carefully drawn pony. Full makeup. Manicure, French I think they call the style.
The courtship was whirlwind. The plans for our future bright.
I come from a large family; three boys, four girls (I am fourth of seven). Each of my siblings have three children. Various degrees of age, some about to leave college, some who will enter kindergarten.
They all teased and joked; they made it painfully obvious that it was high time I start breeding, pop out a family.
I had never found the time. Too many workouts and plane trips and races and exotic locals. Now, wrecked knee and a slowed pace, I had the time.
It stretched, unending.
She had two children from a live-in relationship when she was 18; a boy and a girl who were very much part of this package deal.
I thought about it. The family stuff. Have a child of our own. One, big happy family.
She had thought about it, too.
She talked about a vasectomy.
After the civil ceremony that proclaimed us man and wife, she brought it up, constantly. Over dinner. Along with a glass of wine at our favorite café.
After making love, when her leverage was at its apex.
“I never had my 20s,” she said. “I never got to travel, like you did. I was too busy raising children. It’s so much an easier surgery for you.”
Two small incisions into my nutsack, something the doctors do now in their suburban offices, under nothing more than a couple of Valium and male bravado. Two snips of the vasa deferentia, and two pieces of white tubing come out – shit, they looked a helluva lot bigger in the jaws of the forceps - a stitch, then a cauterizer.
I stepped gingerly to the car an hour after I walked in.
Two weeks, no sex. Plenty of bags of frozen peas melting into my crotch. Tremendous bruising they don’t show you in the brochures. Your nuts swell.
The basic caveman in you asks, “What the fuck did you just do?”
Then she winked and said the doctor needed a sample to do a sperm count, see if I have any more boys swimming down there. And she planned a quickie at lunch; hot, sweaty carnal sex in the kitchen, scattering refrigerator art and magnets. And in the end, I came in a little plastic cup, screwed on the lid, put it in the brown paper lunch bag Dr. Davidson provided and I drove to his office to drop it off. The nurse put a little nametag on it...
“Hi My Name Is…”
And the call came, two days later.
No more need for her to be on The Pill; no more remembering to buy condoms to restock the leatherette box under the nightstand where we stashed an assortment of pleasurable things.
No more swimmers. I was sterile.
Over dinner – roast chicken, garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli - she brought it up.
We’d settled into lives and careers, jobs and companies – and family for me, losing myself in brown-bag lunches and bickering and homework - but there was something lacking between us. A detachment.
Perhaps a child would close the gap, she reasoned.
So why did I get clipped?
Wouldn’t a biological child make more sense?
“I don’t want to carry another child, silly,” she said. “I don’t want to ruin my figure. But you’d be such a good father.”
This is not the first time I have heard this.
Alone on Easter – another conference for her, the children off with friends – I was invited to a friend’s ranch for his family gathering. And I’m on a hay bale eating chocolate chip cookies – with pecans instead of walnuts – when a toddler toddled over and sat. Face covered in chocolate smears, his diaper loaded. He was one happy kid.
“I like the cookies,” he says. “Is it good, you like?”
“I love them,” I respond. “Can’t get enough of them. What do you think, a couple more? I can go get them.”
And he shrieked and clapped.
“He’s usually so shy around men,” his mother said. “And you’re so good with him. Do you have kids?”
Yes. And no.
No. Not anymore.
“I know I’ll never find another man who loves me more than you do, but I’m not emotionally connected to you,” she reasoned on the night it was over. “It just happened. We started hanging out and texting.
I know I’ve hurt you, and you’re very angry with me.”
And she packed our life up into cardboard boxes and left. The children never did get to say their proper goodbyes.
My home is empty. Devoid of the chaos and noise of the past three years. The past life (a half-life, like radiation, where memories slowly dissipate into the air).
She left for another man. Younger, more disposable income, more shiny, flashy toys.
The divorce is final in two weeks.
I have accepted what has happened, and I am philosophical. No 12 Steps, but plenty of teary sessions with a therapist.
“Go live your life,” she advised.
I move through new circles of friends, I’ve purchased a sea kayak and road bike, and my knee no longer takes several painkillers to get it to behave.
I date. I smile more. Again.
Until I think about my nuts. About the vasectomy.
About being sterile (such a cold medical term).
My sister visited recently. She and her three boys, age 6 to 9, drove up to check on their favorite brother, their favorite uncle. They created a chaos the house hasn’t known in months.
The screen door slammed for the umteenth time and sis warned the boys again not to bang the damn door. I looked at her and reminded her about our childhood, and kidded that she sounded just like our mother on steamy August afternoons where you couldn’t decide to be in or out.
She laughed and asked if I needed another beer.
“Hell, yes,” I said as a cool Delta breeze kicked up the scent of honeysuckle on the back patio.
Jack, the oldest, passed his mother at the door with a slam. She looked back, stern-faced and I laughed.
Jack, his skin as dark as mahogany, his hair bleached blond from so much time out-of-doors, stood next to my Adirondack chair and began to twist the hairs on my arm.
“Uncle Bodie, can I bring Whiskey out to play?” he asked about my Lab. “I’m going to teach him to fetch.”
And the screen door slammed, Whiskey howled with joy of a dog that had boys at his beckon call.
And for an instant, there’s an odd absence of sound. Of sensation.
And it hits, like a rogue wave over rocky escarpments.
I wear Ray-Ban Wayfarers, thick, black plastic frames, polarized lenses.
Better to hide the tears.