We were using birth control. I say we, because every morning while she was in the bathroom getting ready for work, I reminded her to take her pill. I told her I didn’t give a damn if it got annoying, because birth control was our responsibility.
And we usually used condoms. You know, except when we didn’t want the sensation of having sex with a sack of warm meat (or a hot dog still in the wrapper, respectively). But usually. Perhaps I was naive, but I though that the pill was enough, so I didn’t see the need, but it was a decision we had to make jointly. Some days, I think her need to be near me was greater than her fear of getting pregnant.
We would have used spermicides, too, but she was allergic to all of the ones we tried, and frankly, I’m a little reluctant to smear a deadly jelly on my or anyone else’s genitals.
Perhaps it was one of those moments where we opted for true intimacy, to feel the warmth and moistness of one another. Perhaps there was an imperfection or a break in the condom. Perhaps I didn’t remind her one morning, and she forgot; or perhaps she chose not to take it.
It doesn’t really matter. She got pregnant. I wish I could have said we. I really do. But I didn’t know. Weeks went by, and we barely spoke. Finally, I trapped her one day. She cried, and told me she’d missed her period. I told her it would be okay, that if she was pregnant, we would deal with it. I told her that I would be happy with her if she decided to keep it or not. I stayed with her until she calmed down, then drove to the store and picked her up a pregnancy test.
My friend Tony to this day says I should have shaken up a bottle of Coke and poured it inside her; but Tony’s wife gets 4 or 5 yeast infections a year, and he’s had a cornucopia of different smelling and hued discharges, so yeah.
As the pregnancy progressed, she swelled. I don’t know if it was hormones, or stress, or if these things just bring out who we are, but we fought. Constantly. About everything. About nothing. She threw me out. She said it was just until the baby came, that I was more use to her gone.
She had used the court, and a lawyer, to have me removed from my own home. So I tried to use the court to reassert some of my own reproductive rights. I didn’t want to disown the child, or claim it wasn’t mine. But I knew I couldn’t be obligated to it. I could see the direction our relationship was headed, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to be a good father. I could barely care for myself, could barely afford to feed and clothe myself. And I knew I would never be cold enough not to love it, no matter what happened, I just...
The judge told me birth control was my responsibility, too, that I should have stepped up. I could have had a vasectomy. I tried to argue that male birth controls wasn't on the market, and that a vasectomy was tantamount to sterilization, but the judge wouldn’t hear it. Men have no reproductive right save the right to abstain.
After that, she stopped talking to me, and for that I can’t blame her. We didn’t speak again until our daughter was born.
Our daughter was beautiful. I fell in love with her the moment I first held her. And absence seemed to heal the rift that had grown between me and her mother. For several months, we were actually happy.
It didn’t last. This time, the fights became real, the insults barbed, and the hatred burning. I wanted us to see a counselor. I read self-help books like they were Tic Tacs. And she divorced me. I shouldn’t have been shocked. Among college-educated couples, women file for 90% of divorces. Or at least that's what I hear.
I didn’t fight her when she asked for the house, the cars, the checking and the savings accounts. I agreed to take on the credit card debt, and the mortgage. I argued when she wanted all the stocks, and all the furniture. I fought like a bastard when she tried to take 2/3 of my pension, get alimony, and force me to pay her insurance premiums. And I sighed when she got it all anyway.
But the one thing I truly wanted, I saved- I didn’t even mention it when our lawyers were arbitrating. I told the judge the one thing I wanted more than anything else, my daughter. Ideally, I said, I wanted custody, and she could have visitations whenever she liked. I worked from home, and when her maternity leave had expired, I had always planned to do the majority of the rearing. If she received custody, our daughter would spend most of her time in day care. Alternatively, joint custody would be acceptable.
She surprised me. She had been vindictive and awful and mean. But she surprised me. She told the judge that she caught me diddling our daughter. I had never imagined her capable of such cruelty. I denied it, but the judge snarled at me, and spat out religious-sounding rhetoric of fire and damnation. I was granted periodic, supervised visits with my daughter, so long as I was not delinquent in alimony, child support, or any other financial term of the divorce, and regularly saw an expensive specialist in dealing with child molesters.
These days, I barely bring in enough money to cover the rent each month, and work a second job just to afford my therapist. I eat ramen when I can afford it. I miss being full. My ex has managed to convince my daughter I did molest her. She only comes to visitation every once in a while, and is usually too afraid of me to let me hug her. My therapist keeps using hypnosis to try and convince me I molested her, but even through that droning monotone I know it’s a lie. Oh, and I miss my penis. She got that in the settlement, too.
I wonder, some nights, if she sold it to someone who was in a horrible accident, or donated it to a child who suffered some gross misfortune, or if she burned it from spite, or keeps it in a jar on the mantle, where she can taunt it for my myriad failings. I suppose, however, that she had it encased in plastic shaped like a dildo, and that she pleasures herself with it while drinking, because there are nights when she calls me, stinking so much of liquor I smell it through the phone, just to tell me how small it is, and how much that always mattered.