Men will soon be extinct. There is a plot to rid us from the world. It involves sperm banks.
Sperm banks hold enough sperm to impregnate women for many years to come. In fact, since the average male ejaculation produces approximately two-hundred million sperm, a dozen men ejaculating only once would produce enough sperm to impregnate every woman currently living on earth.
This conspiracy theory I have heard many times before from my friend Tom. As we sit in our favourite bar, a sixties styled place called Soda Bubbles, he tells me it again. Sitting in the booth, I look over at the bar where an older man is half-turned on a stool, smiling with a red face as he listens to Tom.
“Only a matter of time before they kill us off,” Tom says. “One by one.”
“Who again?” I ask.
“Women.” Tom adjusts himself, shifting his body by pushing down on the padded vinyl. By the way he stretches his body I can tell that he, futilely, is trying to reach the floor with his stubby legs. “Single men, like me, will be the first to go. We have no companions, and therefore there is no conflict when decision day comes. Then a small group of women will take over, and in a fascist oligarchy they will convince other women to kill their husbands or lovers.”
“So if they have enough sperm right now in these sperm banks, why haven’t they done it already?”
He takes a long drink from his beer, and follows it with a quick puff from his cigarette. He folds his arms on the table and leans toward me. “You could say they’re just waiting for more men donors, to provide more genetic diversity. But what I think is, they’re just plotting in fine detail how they’re going to do it. They’re ironing out the wrinkles.”
“Alright, but when these women use this frozen sperm and become impregnated, they will have a child. This child could grow up to become a boy. I doubt a mother would be able to kill her child.”
“The technology is such that they can tell if a male or female will be produced. They’ll only choose females.”
The red-faced old man listening from his bar stool yells out, “We’re finished,” and then begins to chuckle.
Tom turns at the waist to face him. “Yep. Although, I imagine somewhere down the road they’ll get a woman to have a boy, and they’ll raise him in a cage in a lab. They’ll use him just for some new genes.”
“I’m really tired,” I say to Tom. “I’m going to dinner later with Julie. I should probably have a nap first.”
When I leave the bar the sun whites out my vision for a few seconds — until my eyes adjust — and this brief space in time is the transition from Tom’s imagination to my reality.
My house is only around the corner from Soda Bubbles, and when I walk inside, I kick off my shoes, collapse on the couch, and fall into an inebriated sleep in my living room.
I awake on a tiled floor naked; my head is next to a dog bowl labeled “Omega Boy.” As I sit up, I realize I am enclosed within a cage. I stick my face against the bars, look through and see three women in lab coats observing me, taking notes on a clipboard.
One woman wearing an exaggerated layer of makeup approaches me, unbuttoning her lab coat as she steps forward attempting to seduce me. I do not become aroused though, and I discover that this is because my body is pre-pubescent.
At this point, I know I am only dreaming. This realization should be comforting, but since my conscious thought has not immediately wakened me, I panic, feeling unable to escape from the dream. Horrified, I collapse on the floor of the cage, burrowing my knees into my chest.
A door slams, and I am relieved. Once again, reality returns. It is Julie returning from work. Her normally cascading dark hair has burrowed into the collar of her shirt.
When I lift myself from the couch, I can feel the film of sweat that for some unknown reason only forms while sleeping.
“How was work?” I ask.
“I don’t know. People say they want to buy the house, and then they say they don’t. No one can make up their mind.” After she puts down her purse and removes her shoes, she looks at me. “What’s with you? Were you sleeping?”
“Just dozed off.”
She gives me a quick kiss, moving her head in and out like a young bird snatching at a morsel of food.
“Drinking too,” she says. As she passes me her eyes stay — just long enough to show disapproval.
She walks into the living room and begins organising the newspaper that is scattered about the coffee table. When she picks up the job section, she stops for a second, and then folds it in with the rest of the paper.
“Who did you go drinking with?” she asks.
She rolls her eyes. “How was his trip? Did he meet anyone?”
“I’m not sure. Don’t think he even mentioned it.”
She lies back against the couch, puts her feet on the armrest, and flicks on the television with the remote. Looking at her I am perplexed. I notice that she cups the remote within her left hand, while she presses buttons with the index finger of her right hand. It is something she has probably always done, but this is the first time I have noticed it.
“Why are you holding the remote like that?”
“The remote.” I lower my voice. “You know, you can hold it in one hand and change the channels with your thumb.”
“I’m not in the mood. Don’t bother me,” she says.
She stops flipping, landing on a commercial. I watch the green bar shrink as she dials the volume down to where it is only faintly audible.
She sits up, looks at me, and folds her hands together on her lap. I recognize her familiar posture and I already begin dreading what I foresee will be an argument. “So did you even look for a job today?” she asks.
“Yeah, of course.”
“Because I saw the job section. Nothing was circled.”
“I called a few places. I just don’t circle. Is there a need to circle?”
“Yes. It lets you know which ones you’ve called already.”
I turn and look at the television where a commercial fades out and a boxing match fades in. It is a classic boxing match — Muhammad Ali versus Joe Fraser.
I recognize Frazier’s blue trunks as the ones he wore in his third fight against Ali in the Philippines — The Thrilla in Manilla, fifteen rounds of pummeling each other for a final decision of greatness. Though Ali won, Fraser gained as much respect.
“Are you listening?” Julie asks.
“Yes. I’m looking for work, alright? Just give me a few more days. I’ll find something.” I stand up and walk to the kitchen. “Relax,” I add, and as I pass her, she furrows her eyebrows.
In the kitchen, I make a double-decker peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Holding my sandwich on my plate, I return to the living room where Judy is watching the local news.
When I sit on the couch across from her she says, “What the fuck are you doing?”
“We’re going to dinner in an hour.”
“Well I’m hungry. Since when has an appetite been a problem for me?” As I say this, I pat my gut with two thumping open-hand swats.
She makes a look of disgust, then returns to the television where there is a hypothetical sketch of a man suspected of rape.
“…The man who committed the assault is said to be about six-feet tall with short-brown hair, dark features, and a husky build,” the newswoman says.
“My description,” I say offhand.
“That’s not even funny. Rape is not funny. Is this what you do all day? Crack jokes at the television by yourself? How old are you?”
I put my half-eaten sandwich on the coffee table, lean back on the couch and close my eyes. I almost fall asleep but then I remember the dream from earlier, and I fear becoming trapped within it again.
“You better not be sleeping again,” Judy says.
“You have to get ready soon.”
“There’s lots of time.”
“I want you to wax between your eyebrows before we go,” she says.
I sit up. “What for?”
“Because your eyebrows — eyebrow, I should say — looks ridiculous. I figure you can look nice for one night.”
With one finger, I rub the bristles that connect my eyebrows. “It doesn’t feel that bad. So, why are we going tonight?”
“Because, like I’ve told you, we need to talk about things.”
“And we can’t talk here?”
“No. You think I can have a conversation with you in this mess?”
I stand up, walk around the coffee table, and sit beside her. “Just tell me what this is about.”
“Later.” She brushes my hair back with her hand, and the delicacy of it reminds me of her tender caresses before we were married. And I think, for a moment, that she is going to kiss me. It is a kiss not like the peck when she walked in the front door earlier, but one more sensual — one that I think may lead to something else.
When she parts her lips, though, I can tell she is inspecting my brow line. Her hand moves down from my hair and her thumb feels the hairs. “I’ll do it for you,” she says.
She smiles, jumps to her feet, and runs to the bathroom upstairs.
I lay with my head back on the armrest of the couch. When she removes the wax, I cry out in mock-pain.
“Don’t be such a baby.”
“I was kidding.”
“I bet.” She again gets an excited look. “I should put some makeup on you.”
She reminds me of my older sisters who used to chase me around the house holding bags filled with cover-up and nail polish. I am also reminded of Tom’s other theory, that heterosexual men will soon be wearing makeup too. “It starts with the eyes,” he would say.
“You can see some guys now that have just a faint shadow on the top eye-lid.”
I sit up and feel the smooth, hairless skin above my nose. “No make-up.” I say.
“Just some eye shadow.”
“No.” I walk to the front hallway and look in the mirror. “I don’t like it. It’s too neat; it’s too symmetrical.”
“It’s supposed to be.”
“And it shines. You can tell it’s been waxed.”
She stands behind me as I look in the mirror, then she wraps her arms around my chest, constricting me.
“Lots of guys do it now,” she says.
“That’s my point.”
“What? What’s your point?”
I unclamp her arms, walk back into the living room and lay on the couch. “I’m not going.”
“Why? You look good. Don’t be so silly.”
“I’ve changed my mind now.”
Her hands become fists and affix themselves to her hips. “I have something important I want to discuss.”
“Then tell me now.”
There is a long pause, and even though I have my eyes shut, I can sense the tension in her face. “Fine. I want to talk about kids, alright?”
“We’ve talked about that before.”
Her voice becomes soft. “Not in awhile. My mind has changed about things. I don’t think I can go any longer without one.”
“I can. Look, I just don’t think I would make a good father right now.”
“When will you then?”
“Maybe never.” She does not respond. I open my eyes and crane my neck around. Her eyes well. “I’m sorry,” I say. “But if we have kids I think that will just be it for you and me. The end. I’ll be no use as a father. I can’t even find a job to support us right now.”
Her eyes widen and become placid. “So that’s it? It’s all about you and your selfishness?”
“Kids only need mothers. They don’t need fathers. I didn’t.”
“I know it bothers you that you didn’t have a father around. I’m sorry. But you have to get over that.”
I sit up. “No. I don’t think you understand. I’m glad I didn’t have one around. What would we have done? Play catch or something? Unless you want a future athlete, there isn’t much use for me.”
“I want to talk about this over dinner. I’m getting ready, and I’ll sit in the car and wait for you to come if I have to.”
As she walks upstairs to the bathroom I ask, “What do fathers really do?”
There is no response.
When she walks downstairs, her eyes ignore me. In the hallway, she puts on her shoes, grabs the car keys, and goes outside.
I walk to the window and see her sitting in the driver’s seat, waiting with her arms crossed against her chest.
In a marriage there is no man or woman. If I am a good husband I should get dressed, get in the car, and let my wife drive me to the restaurant, where I will sit and listen with my neatly spaced eyebrows, and eventually agree to have a child with her.
But something makes me resist this institution and all the conventions that go along with it. Instead of getting dressed, I recline my body on the couch and close my eyes. And as I become heavy, and begin to drift back into a sleep, I no longer worry about the dream from before. I no longer fear becoming trapped.
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