She shifts to her side. On her thighs are tiny marks, the size of pinpricks, her battle scars. Faded but still visible are the blue Xs on her ass that her husband Steve draws with a blue marker he uses as a guide for the hypodermic he uses to give her the injection with. According to schedule, he fills her with the cocktail and afterward, full of medication that is supposed to make her ovulate, it begins. That night like all the others these days, with the invading chemicals swimming in her, she suffers psychedelic Clomid dreams.
They keep her up most nights, twisting, tossing and turning. After four hours, she doesn’t know if it’s better to sleep and fight through them or resist them by staying up. Her thighs are sore. Her butt is sore. She shifts and twists in the sheets and ends up lying with a pillow propped under her stomach, her legs sticking out of the turquoise-colored duvet cover.
She lies awake between fits of slumber and cycles—autumn, winter, spring, summer, menstrual, ovulation, lupron, pergonal, clomid, soak, wash, rinse, spin and repeat.
They come in layers like the tissue in a gift box, only when she unravels them, no precious gift awaits. She struggles to find comfort when she has lost control of her body. It runs on a medical schedule, created by hospitals, the men and women at laboratories and clinics, who now have colonized her sleep. She feels like a sad hamster waiting for the next jab, poke, injection, incision, invasion, running on a little wheel that never moves ahead only in circles, a wheel she feels compelled to keep moving.
Her dreams always begin the same way.
At the clinic, she waits and waits and waits. She checks the big clock on the wall with its clean black sans-serif numbers; its hands never move. The doctor’s Ivy League diplomas adorn his wall. When he finally appears, he looks like an ex-jock, a lacrosse player maybe, she smells his lime scented cologne and freshly laundered optical white lab coat. In his confident and slightly smug voice, he enunciates as he casually tells her he’s going to inject her husband’s sperm into her.
He asks if she feels a pinch and in the tone of a chocolate salesman who’s just given her a sample to taste, "How was that?"
As she puts on her cotton underpants, the doctor snickers and then lets out a diabolical laugh, "You fool. That was my sperm."
She slams and punches his chest and face. The doctor guffaws. She yells at the highest volume she can muster,
"You fucking bastard!"
"Help me, somebody!" but her vocal cords have abandoned her and her desperate cries are inaudible to anyone but herself. She screams until she is hoarse, until no sounds come from her parched lips. She collapses, slumping into a pile at the doctor’s feet, utterly humiliated and defeated, sobbing helplessly, silently.
She wakes up momentarily and still slightly groggy and touches her husband whose body lies next to her. She reaches over to stroke him and finds his skin cold, hard, inhuman to her touch and hairier than she remembered.
She opens her eyes, still sticky with sleep, gropes around on the nightstand, knocking over the tissue box, feeling a bottle and finally, picks up a hypodermic needle filled with a warm greenish viscous substance. She’s poised to take revenge against her tormentor. He’s always done the injections and now her thighs, soft and tender, are defaced with ink and holes. Her chance is now. No. No. No.
It’s just another dream.
It’s spring and she is pregnant. She has carried full term, but she doesn’t show. She wears a black dress with a design of red and yellow poppies. And a wide brimmed straw hat that shades her from the sunlight. She carries a basket of fresh fruit, cheese and bread as she walks along a canal to get home, a villa that overlooks the harbor. She drops her bag and dashes upstairs to her bedroom, which is white with blue trim and she lies down on the bed. She gives birth, moaning, hissing, howling, screeching, bawling, growling, grunting, making sounds that are animal, horrifying and sexual and satisfying. After what seems like an endless day, her ordeal ends and from her mouth comes a baby. She places her hand to her lips and in it is a warm pink baby of indeterminate sex. She tenderly caresses her baby then puts her baby away for safekeeping in a heart shaped gold pillbox with a mosaic Venetian glass lid.
Her friends have come to see her. There’s Janet from her office and she’s brought Patty who’s obnoxiously competitive, her best friend Eileen from seventh grade who she hasn’t seen in twenty years, and Marlena and Betsy, friends from college, now a corporate lawyer and a secretary, respectively. None of them have children.
They make up an odd collection, but she is so proud of her tiny baby that she’s baked scone, made homemade raspberry Preserve, sand Devon cream, and pots of freshly brewed Earl Grey and Darjeeling for the girls. She saves her baby for last. Then she takes the baby out of its pillbox to show them, cradling baby in her palm. Instead of compliments, no one says a word. They sit in utter silence, at once stunned and appalled; they cannot comprehend and fail to share her joy.
She firmly requests, "Please leave."
Betsy and Marlena murmur platitudes as they walk out the door. She slams it shut. "Just leave. Go! Right now! Don’t say a thing!"
She awakens when her husband caresses the back of her neck and whispers, "Temperature." She groans.
The ritual begins again.