As if it never happened
“Are you ovulating?!” a familiar voice echoed from the hall.
Good evening to you too, I thought, chuckled, and rolled my eyes, leaving the chopping board and my fingers unprotected, which led to spoiling the vegetarian dinner with a few drops of my blood. The injury was in no way a result of my fiancé’s blunt question; my inefficiency was enough of a reason.
“Damn it!” I cursed and put my hand under running water.
“What is it?!” Hal called on his way to the kitchen. “Did we miss the window?”
“No, we’re good to go,” I assured him to alleviate the inseminator’s responsibilities anxiety he struggled with every month. “Did you sharpen the knives?”
“Yes, they were edgeless. Don’t tell me you cut yourself again.”
“Okay, I won’t...” I obliged, but he appeared in a few seconds with the first aid kit anyway, shook his head, and unpacked one bandage.
“It’s fine,” I stressed that he was exaggerating, but he insisted, “gimme that finger,” and plastered the tiny cut, “there.”
“As if it never happened,” I thanked him with a kiss.
“How come you’re able to stitch a cornea, but with a knife, you always end up hurting yourself?”
“’Cause after a procedure like that, I find all the mundane chores utterly irrelevant.”
He cleaned up all the leftover sanitary material and removed the hood from the pot that just started to seethe. “What are we having?”
“Risotto,” I announced, “overboiled as always.”
Hal wiped the spilled white liquid from the stovetop while I took two plates, marking, “It’s a good thing I said yes to you. No one else would marry such a terrible cook as me.”
He turned off the heat and brought the meal to the table. “Who would want an al dente rice when they can have a woman who is expected to become a senior doctor in her thirties.”
“As long as the upcoming holiday doesn’t end up being a professional suicide,” I added.
“Did Novak bitch about it again?”
“He always does,” I answered and took a bite. “Doesn’t miss any opportunity. But Sarah from HR told me that I could have gotten up to thirty days had I asked for them, so they don’t have to transfer my untaken holiday to the next contract.”
“I can’t be away for a whole month,” Hal said in the middle of gobbling the substance on his plate, regardless of its quality. If this isn’t love, I don’t know what is, I thought.
“I know, me neither,” I agreed, standing up from the table, thinking that a cup of coffee will perhaps make the dinner edible. “I wouldn’t leave Prague for longer than a weekend at this busy time, hadn’t John asked me to do it for him as a part of a wedding gift. He even used the you don’t visit your nephew often enough card.”
The coffee machine was making all the beeps and rattles, and Hal filled them with, “Why does he want us to join him for his honeymoon, anyway? It’s super odd...”
“I think he wants to prove to himself that he’s still young and fun and spontaneous.”
“Why would anyone want that?” Hal wrinkled his nose and shuddered.
“John always cared deeply for the group; trained the leadership skills on us.” I smiled, thinking about it. “The hiking trips he invented were his masterstroke.”
“When did it end?”
“After Philip had a son,” I explained and took a sip of my espresso, “and I left for college.”
Hal knew the story; not specifics, but he had the picture of my teen years. I thought that he was going to query further, put together the timing, but instead, he relocated his attention to the cup in my hands. “How many of them have you had today?”
I was aware of his attitude towards my overindulging in caffeine and that it wasn’t an appreciative one. But I wasn’t an easy target to patronize or lecture, either.
“I don’t want to discuss this now.” It wasn’t his first remark on the topic, certainly not the last, and I was too tired to over-rehearse our favorite matter of discord.
“It’s really unhealthy, you know? If you drank three a day, I would have said nothing, but as I know you, I bet you passed that number before noon.”
“It keeps me going,” I grumbled, and having lost the appetite, poured the rest of the beverage in the sink, ready to leave the kitchen.
“It’s an addiction just like any other,” Hal went on, but I didn’t care and proceeded to the bathroom. I knew this speech by heart.
He followed me, continuing with it anyway, giving me time to brush my teeth halfway until getting to the phase, “at least try to tame it down until...”
“Until what, Hal?” I blurted with my mouth full, not being able to listen to it anymore, choked on foaming toothpaste, coughed, and spat it out. That’s where this useless conversation ended every single time - how to live the healthiest possible lifestyle in order to lure a viable embryo into my uterus and accommodate it there.
“How many times do we have to go over this? There’s genetics, and there’s statistics, none of which we have control of. I wish we did, so much, trust me. Sometimes I hate that we’re both educated enough to know it can’t be jinxed by some shaman rituals, magic drops, or reading from the stars because then at least I wouldn’t feel so damn powerless.”
“I don’t agree with you on this one,” Hal opposed me, “our health and condition are just as important.”
I turned the lights off, went to the bedroom, and changed into my pajamas wordlessly, postponing the moment when I have to relive the painful part of this talk.
“You know I have a point,” Hal said.
As if he read my thoughts, he drew it out of me. “And you know that at the time of our one successful IVF, I was strong and healthy as never. I was in the best shape of my life with all those vitamins, exercise, a perfectly balanced organic diet, prenatal mindful yoga classes...,” a bitter laugh escaped my throat as I was naming all the warranted methods we tried. After the pregnancy ended in an early stage, I was asking myself what have I done wrong with such urgency that it almost destroyed me. “It’s not happening, Hal. Not anytime soon. And I can’t live a life from a fitness advertisement slot. I just can’t.”
“I’m sorry,” he came to me and hugged me in his slightly awkward but very sweet I’m doing my best manner. “I know it’s hard, but don’t despair, okay? We’re gonna get there. We’re gonna have a child,” he said, smiled, and I nodded and smiled... and it proved how incredibly great we were in fooling ourselves.
“Good night, honey,” I kissed his cheek, sat down on the bed, and started adjusting the pillows.
“You’re going to sleep already?”
“Yes, I’m drop-dead tired,” I replied in the middle of yawning.
“But what about the fertile days?” he said.
“Oh, I’ve forgotten about it.”
“We can skip this time if you want...”
“No,” I started stripping my panties, “I don’t want to waste a month,” and opened my legs for him, “let’s make it quick, though, okay?”