Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are joke, leverage and remedy.

Clipped

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).
I’m clipped.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
The vasectomy.
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.
Clipped.
Over dinner – roast chicken, garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli - she brought it up.
Adoption.
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.
(And nevermore).
“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).
Clipped.
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.”
“Sure, buddy.”
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.

33 comments:

gautami tripathy said...

Ray-Bans Wayfarers do hide the tears. In more ways than one.

tumbled thoughts in a silver tumbler

anthonynorth said...

Great ending to this - although I read some of it cross-legged ;-)

Michael Solender said...

ouch, yes I felt the pain. Hard to read without ppgs . maybe i'm old.

Joshua McGee said...

Oh, good grief. This is fantastic. Thank you.

Nimue said...

one of the best i have read in last few days ! touching and so much .. life like !

Timothy P. Remp said...

Great story Thom. The 'v' parts hurt each time I came upon them. I was happy I didn't have peas for lunch ;)

-Tim

lissa said...

I feel sad for him -- all that pain - but he still have his siblings and nephews and nieces

sounds like a confession, almost, quite a story

Thomma Lyn said...

Oh my goodness, Thom -- this is brilliant, and it gave me the shivers and put tears in my eyes. This "yes, I see -- yes, I feel" is what fiction is all about.

Nara Malone said...

Great job and characterization. You hooked me right at the start and held me through to end.

Stan Ski said...

Love is... not forcing him to have a vasectomy...
Great post.

Megan G.O. said...

Many sympathy pangs from me, in more ways than one. They teach you about peer pressure in high school, but never about what the people you love can persuade to to do "for us." Great story.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

And this, Gentle Reader, is why the one who doesn't want kids should be the one to have the surgery. There is such a thing as asking too much.

Nicely done, Thom.

pegjet said...

I felt for your protagonist. Glad he remembered family, and glad he bought the shades.

Leo said...

oooff!

he forced himself to have the vasectomy? love certainly didn't...

if it did, then it was his for her, not hers for him..!

K said...

Beautifully written and poignant. I loved this...so full of real emotions...spilled over to me.

Pblacksaw said...

this is really good.. I'd choke her..
Thanks for stopping by mu blog..
Patsy

Scribbler said...

The unique timeline of this story made it very interesting and engaging to read, and my attention was completely captured from the very beginning. This was a brilliant story, and was full of incredibly real emotion. Fantastic!

Sulci Collective said...

Whipped, clipped & then schtupped

This was really well drawn. I read it with my jaw clamping harder and harder for the indignities heaped upon him.

marc nash

Carrie said...

This was perfectly paced. The situations and the passing of time. A childless father. I felt his pain. Nice work Thom. I'll be back.

afullnessinbrevity said...

There is such a loneliness and isolation in this character. Well told.
Adam B @revhappiness

Deanna Schrayer said...

I've never felt so glad to be a woman in all my life. :)

This is so well told Thom. What strikes me the most is the irony of the word "clipped" and the fact that most of the sentences here are clipped. That's difficult to do well, and you've done it. Great work!

Gracie said...

Bravo! Lovely, painful piece. He should have run screaming the first time she said the V word. I hope he can get it reversed.

"Don't want to ruin my figure." Evil and narcissistic.

Great story, Thom.

Julie Jordan Scott said...

This is intense. And I so appreciate the man's perspective which... I admit I don't think about too much even though I have one brother who would have LOVED to have had children... and never the right scenario... and in my current relationship a man who laments never having children..

Bodie was so tangible. I could almost hear his voice.

J. M. Strother said...

Excellent bit of writing here, so real, so full of loss and longing. Great job.
~jon

vandamir said...

Great story with a lot of emotion. I really feel for the guy, though he could have done what my ex-brother-in-law did: have his ex-wife pay for part of the procedure to have the vasectomy reversed as part of the divorce settlement.

Christian Bell said...

Well done, Thom. The narrator's voice here is compelling. You do a great job expressing the sense of loss and pain he feels.

Dee Martin said...

we read so much about woman unable to have children and the lengths they go to for remedies. It's rare to hear it from a male perspective and you did a great job of making him completely masculine in his grieving. I did get a chuckle from the male comments about the "ouch" factor.

VL Sheridan said...

So sad. I agree, he should have had her pay for the reversal surgery. Don't want to lose my figure, indeed. Loved the voice in this. Well done T

Tony Noland said...

High-octane pain rating, here. Very well written.

ms. pie said...

whining pure whining... yes, it is a an easy procedure just a snip there and all over.. but then there's a whole lot more going on then it's easier for you than for me...

Toi said...

this is quite touching Thom.
the detail in this piece is
utterly complete and delicious.
I admire you ability to create
beliveable dialogue in your
flash fiction.

Cathy Olliffe said...

To me, this is the best story you've ever written. Wow. So full of emotion and regret and substance. An ovation to you, Thom, a standing ovation.

MichaelO said...

Thom, great story! Started out with your usual gonzo grit with pisswater coffee and fondled donuts. But the ending was truly moving in its sadness. Really good stuff.

ps: good luck with the move! Maybe we can meet up for a beer in some NYC corner bar someday! Cheers.