A couple of years ago, I started writing both of you letters. Slowly at first, as my health took a gentle downward dive; and then more fervently, at NPO midnights and early surgical mornings.
Based on a series of tarot readings, I cancel: a show at the Portland ICA, where I would have curated something having to do with Valerie Solanas; and mini-tour of the west coast I would have done with Tali, both of us promoting our new books, making a stop at Portland’s Wordstock festival; a reading at the Anarchist Book Fair in Baltimore and then a reading in New York City around the new edition of The S.C.U.M. Manifesto, which I wrote an introduction for.
There is no way of knowing what state I’ll be in come October, when all these trips were scheduled for, but it is awfully close to me and Dashiell’s wedding, and I’m trying to live this new life where I stick around more. It’s hard.
Not only am I used to running all over the country all year long, I really love it. For so long, when writing didn’t pay off financially, it did pay off in these travel opportunities, and so for the past decades traveling around and doing readings seemed as much as what I "do" as writing itself. And as my moon and Mars are both in Sagittarius, I love to travel. I think it’s the number one best and most noble way anyone can spend their time.
But realistically, these trips pay off less and less. I’m not living a wild single life, where a visit to a new town holds the possibility of an affair or a cigarette bender. I’m in love and trying to get pregs, and these things make the work-related travel that once felt like a gift now feel like a hectic hassle that pulls me away from my love. I don’t feel too bad about canceling the trips.
An email comes in from the finance lady at the clinic, the one with the homophobic preacher and Margaret Thatcher quotes as the stamps at the end of her messages. This missive reads:
Your nurse informed me you are anticipating an IVF cycle using known egg and sperm donor. Please understand the estimate is based on the protocol established by your MD and is subject to change.
I type back to her:
Hello! Thank you for the information. The "known egg donor" is actually my partner. Is there a way to better word these / address them to us as a couple? Thank you!
It is hard to refrain from asking her to please omit the optimistic quotes from fascists from the tail of her emails, but I do, because I am keeping things PROFESSIONAL. It’s important to have dignity.
It can feel really great to spin off and scream at a person –- and I do –- but I am often haunted by a certain feeling in the wake of it, a particular emotional hangover that signals I surrendered my dignity. So I’m trying to not freak out on people for, like, attacking me on my Facebook page for my interest in Valerie Solanas. So far I’ve failed. These emails with the clinic are a new training ground for me.
All this falls away, however, when I open the attachment that came with the email: the bill for our test tube baby. I’m getting hot flashes and crazy rushes before I even open it. It’s going to be more money than I’ve ever spent on anything.
And even though Dashiell is quite gainfully employed and has worked her ass off to be able to purchase a test tube baby, even though she has heroically offered to take on most if not all the baby payment, I’m all a-tremble. We haven’t technically merged our finances, but we have in essence. Her money is my money and my money is her money and all of it is our money and I’m scared of the great big gummy chomp our unborn baby is about to take out of it all.
The grand total is, $14,000, plus another $700. My heart plummets, but it’s in relief! I’d thought it was going to be $25,000! And $4k of that amount is already racking up interest on my credit card, so that’s psychologically cool, too!
I’m almost gleeful, as if we’ve actually won money. Dashiell is even more in this delusional state, having thought the bill was going to be for something like 30 or 40,000.
We’re flushed and grinning, our hearts racing like we just dodged a bullet. This is all so ridiculous. Nothing good has happened here. We’ve been delivered a rather large bill. But we’ve psyched ourselves into a state of crazed gratitude. $14,000 is, like, nothing when you thought you’d be hit with $40,000!
Plus, I just sold my very first book to a mainstream publisher, earning my very first mainstream paycheck in two decades of publishing! The cash could not be coming at a better time.
We show up at the clinic for a meeting with Dr. Waller, who we haven’t seen for almost a year. I can’t believe how long it’s taken to clean my uterus up! Two surgeries later, it’s ready for a tenant! Dr. Waller inquires about the surgeries while looking at his computer and typing around.
I feel a little sheepish that we made such a big deal about Dr. Waller –- how he’s this superstar doctor and how we’re, like, totally his favorite patients. He’s really not giving us very much personality today, mostly impatience and distraction. Then he starts talking to us about egg quality and marathons.
“We’re looking for the best, highest quality embryo, that’s what we’ll transfer. And some of the eggs will look good when we harvest them, but they won’t make it to implantation. You know, I run 10 miles a day, and I tried to run a marathon and I just couldn’t do it. Some eggs are like that. Lots of great, functional people can’t run a marathon. And some great eggs won’t make that three-to-five-day wait.”
That’s how long they let the embryos develop once they’ve been taken out of Dashiell and doused with Quentin’s sperm. Three to five days. We want them to go for five, because five day embryos have a better record of implanting. But if some die off early, they might choose to implant the embryo at three days, rather than risk it dying off in the petri dish.
“We’re going to implant one single embryo because what you want is a healthy singleton. And that first implantation has a 58-88% success rate.”
Whoa. Those odds are GOOD. Chances are, we’ll have a baby! I’m giddy like someone just handed me a $14,000 bill all over again!
“Is the sperm source here?” Dr. Waller asks his computer, typing and frowning. Something about his face makes me think of a fish. He has oddly-shaped, small eyeglasses on his big eyes. I also notice he’s wearing one of those silicon bracelets that track how many steps you take. Dashiell is watching him frown.
“Is everything OK?” Dashiell asks.
“Oh yeah,” Dr. Waller says. “Just making sure you’re listed here as the partner.”
Me and Dashiell exchange can-you-believe-this-god-damn-place looks, and then Dr. Waller turns back to us and lets us go. We’re done. For that five minute check-in we’re charged $111 back at reception.
“What are we even paying for?” Dashiell hisses, outraged.
“Who knows,” I shrug. I hand my debit card to the fuscia-haired lady behind the counter, and Dashiell makes a fuss.
“I wanted to get it,” he protests.
“Don’t worry,” I say. “There will be LOTS of opportunities for you to pay.” The fuscia-haired lady laughs along with us.
“Let me ask you,” she begins. “Did those tattoos hurt?”
“Yes,” I said. “Yes they did. Every single one of them.”
They hurt so bad that every time I get one I wonder what the fuck am I doing. Why am I doing this to myself. What the fuck. But I am now too heavily tattooed not to continue to tattoo myself heavily.
To be perfectly honest, every mother’s warning has proven to be true, although it took about an extra decade to develop. I did not regret my tattoos at 30, as many an elderly woman had predicted I would, but at 40. At 40, I would like to have non of my tattoos save the hearts I have on my knuckles and the heart-shaped lock I got as a pair with Dashiell’s skeleton key.
Maybe there’s a rogue pokey heart I would keep, maybe the word "Ocho" in script on my ankle, gotten in Tulum with some witchy girls I was staying with there in an oceanfront condo, #8, where we all began sharing the same dreams. That’s about it. No daggers and skulls and shabby burlesque dancers on my arms and legs.
But there’s no turning back. That’s the thing about tattoos. They’re permanent. So, seeing as I can’t go back to being a girl with fingers full of tattoos and nothing more, I have to heave myself into an ever more tattooed future, cursing myself for outing myself under the burning, buzzing needle every time.
“I want to get one on my foot,” the fuscia-haired lady, who’s name is Roya, tells me.
“You should do it,” I tell her.
“Not if it hurts,” she winces.
“It just hurts in the moment,” I tell her. “And then you have it forever.”