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Stowing my bike in the garden shed I notice how quiet it is at the back of my house. The goldfish in the pond circle in the dark water. Overlooking them is the the statue of Kwan Yin I gave Bette for her birthday two years ago. In the distance, a jet plane gains altitude before veering south, leaving a long vapor trail behind it.
Where is everyone?
I peer around the corner of bamboo and see Bette’s arm dangling loose over the side of the hammock. On her chest, Angelica makes baby blubbering sounds, soft enough not to stir Bette from her sleep. There’s a conversation I want to have with her, but immediately after waking up is never a good time to ask Bette life-changing questions.
I consider my approach.
Her objection to marrying in another state, saying it just didn’t feel right somehow, since we’d always live in California and we’d felt sure it would be legal soon, had been fine with me at time. Now, it’s not. I feel differently with a baby. If I were to die tomorrow would she have any legal rights to our child whatsoever? That thought stuns me and I wonder why I’d never thought of it before.
Perhaps, because getting pregnant, especially on the west coast, where LA’s very sexy culture had led me to believe – if I’d ever wanted sperm it would rain down from everywhere and I’d call a number and get pregnant.
That turned out not to be case when you have a very picky partner and I hadn’t help matters much either. There’d been a very definite ’ick-factor’ about it, and I’m not just talking about the sperm, which, thank God, I’d never seen.
Bette, on the other hand, had developed an obsession with the millions of ’thems’ she’d affectionately named. while writing out her check, her surrogate swimmers.
Swimmers for short.
”Swimmers is a good name for them,” she’d said one night during her preparations for our candlelit encounter. One of several she’d designed for my fertility process. Adjusting her magnifying glass, she’d marveled, ”Tina, I think these guys are going to do the trick.”
”Bette, please don’t ask me to look at them again.” I’d shielded my eyes, knowing I needed to get into the mood for their ’insertion’ if this were going to be at all pleasurable and not just plain weird.