8 comments

Contemporary Fiction

Fourteen months, but if you do the math, we have only really tried for eleven. Twice I was away for work right in the middle of my fertile window. One month we both had COVID, so your sperm was probably shot anyway, which maybe actually means that three months from then, maybe that was when the sperm was no good. I don’t know. I just know it’s not working. The doctor says that by now it should’ve happened and maybe it’s time to look into alternatives. You take my hand and say this will make us stronger. You say this is just an obstacle on the path. A bump in the road. 


My desperation is getting thicker and thicker, like the funk of a high school freshman’s gym shorts. I can’t get rid of it. Bleach isn’t good for fertility. This year, I tell you, I am going to make more friends, get out of the house more. You say that’d be great, a distraction from all of this is just what we need. A good way to reconnect with myself. I can’t see the trees for the woods, you say. Too obsessed. It will happen when we least expect it. We need to lessen our stress. We need to relax. You say we, but you mean me. You go and play soccer with the guys. Grass-stained socks pile up in the laundry basket. You wash them on Saturdays. You keep riding your bike to work, and drink a beer most nights, like you know better than the doctor. We see a toddler hiding behind a curtain in Ikea and I have to leave. You come after me, frying pan in hand. We almost forget to pay. No vegan hotdogs or horse meatballs for either of us. 


Last year’s new year’s resolution - become a mother. This year’s - go to the movies more. Something I can control and something that forces me to sign off from work on time and put on pants that have a zipper. 


I join the movie club at the indie theater. Every Thursday a qualified professional gives a little chat before the movie and leads a debate after. Their qualifications are varied and unimpressive. One guy made a Coke commercial in the 80s and has a red, alcoholic nose. One woman teaches film studies classes at the art school and wears gauzy scarves as a top. 


During the movie club meetings, I feel like I’m in college again, except my body is trying to do that thing it was forced to avoid for so long. My brain still likes the movies, sitting in the darkness and crying, silently and alone in a room full of strangers. The debates after are embarrassing. Everyone is looking for secret messages where there are none. People conflate lighting with intent and songs with turning points. Very few of the selected titles would pass the Bechdel test. Men always talk the most.


You come with me the first time and I quietly weep. I’m jealous of the woman who got pregnant by mistake and decides to get an abortion. I am a shitty feminist. You think the debate is lively and entertaining. You give your opinion twice. I find it derivative both times but smile. I am ovulating. 


The second time, you have to work late. I am happy to not have to share popcorn or to feel like I need to look and see if you’re having fun. I am relieved you can’t share your thoughts. I cry at the alcoholic mother making peace with her young adult son. The guy next to me hands me a tissue and smiles.


The third time, I tell you not to come and watch a depressed father try to love his young daughter and sob. The guy from last week gets up and crosses the aisle to sit with me. He offers me some Swedish Fish. I really want some but say no. Red 40 is not good for fertility. 


His name is Sten. He dresses like a retired skateboarder and smells like pine trees and weed and American Spirits. He used to live in Thailand teaching English and now he’s back, writing poetry, making chapbooks and editing skateboarding videos. He studied film at college. He hates the debates. We roll our eyes together. 


We are too old to become filmmakers, he tells me, but we can still enjoy the art of it all. And the popcorn. 


I don’t think he works, or plays sports with friends, or holds his girlfriend’s hand. I am sure he has more than a beer a night and has fallen hard on his testicles while skateboarding. Probably more than once. 


The fourth time we watch an orchestra conductor behave very badly. I sniffle at her struggles. Sten is starting to bald at the crown of his head. He’s taller than I am. Usually I only see his dark wavy hair. Up close his crows feet are deeper. Freckles have turned to sunspots. His hands are not soft. 


The fifth time we watch two Spanish brothers kill a French man, wrangling him to the frozen ground like a wild horse. I silently wail and ovulate. Sten and I are almost the exact same age. Scorpios separated by three days. That means he is in his prime. I am geriatric in certain circles. 


The sixth time he and I watch rich people puke on a yacht and I can’t focus enough to cry. He is surprised. I guess you just needed a comedy for a change, he says. My nipples feel like they are bleeding when touched. 


The seventh time I don’t go. The thought of popcorn makes me sick.


I decide I will never listen to another stupid debate again.


When I tell you I am going to quit movie club, you say ok, and ask me if I am sure, it seems like a great hobby and you love hearing my recap of the silly debates. I say yes, yes, I never want to cry in a movie theater again. You say, right, well, this will give us more time to get ready for what’s coming. It happened when we least expected it, just like we knew it would. You say we, but it’s just you.

March 11, 2023 09:59

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

8 comments

11:20 Mar 19, 2023

Great story, 2nd POV can be hard to pull off well but your writing is so smooth. The details in this were so real and filled with unique tidbits. A lot of bitter irony in what's left unsaid at the ending. I'm guessing that baby is going to be a future movie lover? I especially liked the paragraph where film fans try to find deep meaning in things, that were probably just spur of the moment decisions by very busy film crews.. "Everyone is looking for secret messages where there are none. People conflate lighting with intent and songs with tu...

Reply

Sarah S.
17:05 Mar 20, 2023

Thanks a lot, Scott! Really kind words. I was hoping the bitter irony would shine through, glad to hear it did :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Amanda Lieser
17:30 Apr 08, 2023

Hi Sarah, Oh my gosh! What an outstanding first piece. Welcome to the community. I thought you did a beautiful job of creating the deep themes of this piece while also finding humor in it all. I think we have all felt derailed at one point or another, but my hope is more writers will continue to explore those themes of fertility and family so that the issues get talked about. I loved the way this character find light in darkness. Wonderful job!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Duane Porter
04:04 Mar 25, 2023

I think this is brilliant. What really hooked me is when I had to Google Bechdel test, I appreciate the education! There are so many nuances that you blend in flawlessly, all the while keeping the storyline cutting Gs like a rollercoaster. Her guy remains blissfully unaware of the conflict throughout, while expressing compassion and concern as guys do. The gulf between men and women remains as wide as ever at the end, but you tantalizingly leave us unsure of which perspective is preferable. Depending on who is reading it. :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
David B Fraser
00:59 Mar 22, 2023

I'm telling my wife about this story two days later, so, yes, it really drew me in.

Reply

Sarah S.
11:41 Mar 22, 2023

Wow, what an amazing compliment! Thank you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Adri Bruckner
18:11 Mar 20, 2023

I love this. We are totally in her head with the first-person/second-person perspective. The present tense gives it such urgency. It's so difficult to do this well, and you've pulled it off perfectly.

Reply

Sarah S.
21:48 Mar 21, 2023

Thanks, Adri! It means a lot coming from you ❤️

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply