Dead Souls

A new year. January 2001. I went alone to the next IVF appointment in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, menstruating. Everything was mathematically planned out. I had been on the Pill for a month to regulate my ovaries, and now I’d stopped taking them. The doctor did an ultrasound in my bloody kootch. The nurse who took my blood to check for hormone levels said, “Hopefully it’s the last period you’ll have for a long time.”

“Thanks,” I said.

Though later, before I left, she said, “Everyone’s nervous the first time.” What did that mean? Was I doomed to failure? Yet she also said, “The lining of your uterus is thin. Everything looks good.”

The first set of injections would stimulate my follicles to produce more eggs than normal, and I would be monitored on an ultrasound, like any normal pregnant person, the follicles looking like the underside of a psychedelic mushroom, open to new life.

At home, though, Sam and I got in another fight. “If I get a shit job I’ll be too depressed,” Sam said.

“What should I do, just write you a check for ten grand and be done with it? Our marriage?”

He was working on a moth painting for a friend. “I’ve been busting my ass to get it done. I want to get adult illustration work and you’re telling me to get a shitty day job.”

“It’s not fair I have to work all day on projects I don’t care about, that I’ve done a million times, and I only have time to write fiction on the weekends.”

“Did you marry me just so I’d buy you a house?”

“Why don’t you go to school so you can teach art?”

“Fuck you. I don’t have to listen to your pressure.” He walked outside.

I’d woken to my landlady yelling at her mother. Through two sets of windows, iron grates, and the space of an alley, I heard her slap her. She screamed at her mother that she’d soiled her bed and wouldn’t get up.

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