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A vasectomy story


Briana Ladwig/Little Village

Or, Taking Thunderfuck Mountain by Strategy: Enter the Wyrm King

One.

I am prone on the table, awake, naked and aware. The light is open and white, as are the gypsum ceiling tiles and what bit of the upper walls I can make out. I am not restrained, but I don’t think to move. My eyes scan for a fixed point to hold, over and over, to occupy my mind, but only find more gleaming light fixtures, some direct and others diffused. I opt instead to close my eyes and bask in the heat they throw off. Because I am naked, and strangers are in the room. I am thrilled.

When I first inquire about receiving a vasectomy, my general physician asks where a 13-year-old boy learned that word and, even more damning, why it should interest me. Unmasked as a child slut, I explain with all the grace and nuance of fawn first finding its legs that I never want children or to be the cause of them; he agrees and says, “Of course children don’t want children.” A few days later I am brought to a cold, brightly spray-painted church basement with other child sluts and for several Sundays we are shown crudely animated videos about God’s thoughts on sex — represented on screen as a cartoon duck, who, among the group, is unanimously mocked. We, kids of this quivering new flesh, laugh in the face of the god-duck.

The strangers, assistants of indiscernible ranking, bring in steel trays topped with unseen instruments and sealed with saran wrap. Others drape me in sheets of ciel cloth or paper, I’m not sure. They talk to each other as though I’m not there, so I imagine that I am dead. They tent the cloth around my face at the shoulders and cut the paper below my navel to my knee, exposing my penis and testicles to the room and its attendants, but not to me. But we’re already acquainted.

Around the eon of god-duck, girls I know will begin to receive the wheel of pills. Their parents are concerned with angry clusters of acne pearls, or the clouds of hormonal spells manifesting in slammed doors, sullen family dinners and eruptions of tears with unforeseen origins, or the dark portents of a treasured stuffed animal or armrest of the living room sofa worn threadbare in a matter of months. This is the only choice, the parents tell each other. They tell the daughters about the responsibility of the pill wheel and the promise of adulthood it implies. Looming larger is the expanding spectre of stranger danger. The pill spiral is a weak but necessary talisman to protect against the wolves of men and the amount of damage they can do to the new woman. “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this,” their parents whisper.

The boys are told that they will always be boys. Nothing doing.

Two.

An assistant briskly sterilizes my exposed testicles with the cold sting of disinfectant. I cannot see her face, but I know that she is angry with me. There is no kindness in her labor. The sharp chill of the cleanser is piercingly reminiscent of growing up in a Dr. Bronner liquid peppermint shower soap household with parents that, for all moral ABCs provided, never made it to the bottle’s chapter on dilution. Once gifted with patience and literacy, I pointed this subsection of instruction out for the avoidance of chemical burn-like cleanliness, and my father remarked that I shouldn’t waste so much hot water reading. So early in my development he gravely underestimated the amount of suffering I’d willingly endure for pleasure. As the good bottle says, ALL-ONE OR NONE!

“If you’d done any worse a job at this, we could’ve canceled the procedure and all gone home,” the assistant says somewhere past my paper veil, now shaving the hair I failed to adequately remove myself the night prior as instructed. “Of course then you’d probably have bled to death.” I try to keep my body hair in order, but never to skin, not even on my face. Naked, my body hair topography most resembles a satyr. Beyond the limitations of sight, there was an issue of balance and lack of proper tools to contend with, leaving my scrotum looking like half-chewed gum that had fallen behind a pet owner’s couch, then been stabbed, repeatedly.

The second time I ask a GP to give me a vasectomy, I am 22 and self-serious and too cool for school and my parent’s insurance. “No way, come on man, you’re still young!” says the doctor sitting splay-legged on a swivel stool at eye level. The nonchalance of his tone and posture for this pep talk incorrectly assumes that I did not grow up watching Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper every Friday night as a preteen. “I’m telling you, kids are a blast, man; I thought I’d be young and wild, probably like you’re thinking right now.”

It’s not, I tell him. I tell him about the overwhelming guilt I feel at the remote possibility of pulling a someone out of nothingness into all this — somethingness. I talk about children as a moral negative, of ancient gnostic orders like the Cathars who considered cursing a soul to the fallen vessel of man unforgivable, and most shamefully, I mention Kantian imperative. I say all of this with a fucking lip ring.

I am not smart, but I excel at appearing smart to those less clever and more trusting than me. My brilliance is in my cruelty. I smell an insecurity like an open wound, I am at the throat of the docile before they can understand my betrayal, I am Aesop’s drowning scorpion.

“Let’s give it a few years, huh, then check back? Besides, reversal can be pricey, and insurance might not cover it,” my GP says, now sitting properly with the correct amount of solemnity, accurately sizing me up as someone who is governed by impulse rather than logic, and who does not have money or insurance in his future.

The conversation ends with a firm “no” and an open prescription for a generic of Lexapro that will prove to be the closest to a male pill the world has yet to see.

Women in my life will get upsold from their doctors. The coil of pills suspended in foil, that’s kids’ stuff these days. Now there are wires and bars of hormones; they’re surgically embedded in the arm or pushed past the cervix. How much more simple will this all be? Set it and forget it. Though the physician often neglects to explain what pushing past the cervix actually feels like, the likelihood of the object perforating the uterine wall, the return of hormonal imbalance and its potential alien thoughts of rage and self-harm. Because we teach the women of our lives to mask pain and distrust their bodies from the time of their first stomach cramp; we discount and ignore their pain when they do mention it at all. Over a fucking apple.

Three.

“You don’t mind a little music, do you?”

The surgeon enters the theater in a jovial mood, and apparently ready to rock, as “Fortunate Son” by CCR’s sustained twang issues from speakers unseen.

“And we’ll have some guests.”

I hear another door to the back of the room open and sit up only briefly to see eight nursing students form two rows, like a masked choir poised at any moment to join the chorus of “It ain’t me, it ain’t me.” I try to push scenes from the film Jacob’s Ladder out of my mind. It’s a teaching hospital, this is normal, it ain’t me.

The last time I request the procedure I am 34, married, without any piercings but with insurance. I say that it’s ridiculous that my partner has to endure long, difficult menstruations, that she is at battle with hormones and forced to second guess her own mind. The doctor stops me, “You had me at ‘I don’t want children’; besides, we can always undo it if you do.”

Shortly after, she schedules an appointment with the jolly surgeon who will be performing the lifelong-sought deed. He urges me several times to go to their sperm bank to freeze a potential heir. It is overly emphasized how excellent the pornography they keep there is. Though I will never go, since it is contrary to my initial goal, I will be occasionally haunted by the prospect of medicinal smut.

Women in my life will go again to the doctor, this time with tubal ligation on the tongue, well shot of the hormone tempest and the magic brass rings and the less-than-magic removals. Some of their doctors will ask if their husbands know that they’re inquiring. Even women with wives. Some of their doctors will lean in and say, “but you’re so pretty.”

By the time we’re to the climax of “Brain Damage” by Pink Floyd, I can smell the slight acrid burning of my vas deferens being cauterized. In the distance, I am aware of a slight tug on an ancient seam, some hidden stitching that dates to my first being.

“Well, that ought to keep the pigment from mixing with the paint!” the surgeon exclaims to titters from the masked choir. “Though I wouldn’t go using the paint brush for a week or so.”

It’s the first time I feel any pain during the procedure.

Chris Wiersema lives in Iowa and is hard(ly) working on his first novel set in a militant Christian reform/conversion school for wayward American children in the Dominican Republic, loosely based on personal experience, the autobiography of Gene Genet and the disgraced graphic novelist Grant Morrison’s ‘Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth.’ If you see him in public, please send him home; he ought to be working. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 290.


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