I don’t provide my services in a back alley. Far from it. The spare bedroom of my home is warm and calming and safe for those who, at the peak of their emotional burdens, can feel the weight of their worry and sorrow lift from their bellies.
I accept no payment.
I ask no names.
My wife, the light of my life and my partner in our secret community outreach, passed away five years ago. It still hurts to mention her.
Her loss was a singular catastrophe for my health and wellbeing. I meandered without purpose or direction for months before I could resume a semblance of my day-to-day activity. With no one left to love, and I include myself in that calculation, I had little remaining but my work and charity. Those would have to suffice. It was either that, or to join my wife in death. I knew it wasn’t time yet.
I performed my menial, work-from-home day job in the mornings and aided the young women in need during the afternoons and evenings. The neighbors thought I was giving piano lessons. The rest of the time, I daydreamed. I reminisced about my decades as a professor of biology before I was forced into an early retirement. Those were the best days of my life. I interacted with happy, eager people. I learned. I taught. I researched. I lived.
After Carol’s passing, I couldn’t do any of those things anymore. What I did wasn’t living. It was “getting by,” as they say. So I got by.
My wife and I had wanted children. We just never found the time. Then she died. So that was that. Despite knowing how much my secret charity helped women in need, it still stung a little to see them making their sacrifice.
I refused to give it up, though. Abortion is illegal in our country. I’ve always believed strongly in a woman’s right to choose. Both Carol and I did. Regardless of the heinous punishments we’d receive if we were caught, we thought it was too important to stop. After Carol died, I considered that charity to be our legacy.
It wasn’t the legacy we really wanted, though. Certainly not the one I wanted. My desired legacy was traditional: a boy or girl who could call me Dad. No matter how much I tried to swallow that desire, a few of the young women who came for my services caught me tearing up after I’d finished with them.
As I said, it’s been five years since the world lost Carol. I know what you’ve read so far makes me sound like an poor and innocent man struck by tragedy. But I have my demons. They seethe just below the surface. The lesser angels of my nature, perhaps. Or maybe the greater devils.
I’d be lying if I said, in my darkest moments, I didn’t think about trying to convince one of the young women to bring her baby to term and then give it to me. There were a few, terrified, reluctant ones who I was certain would have agreed. Those were the procedures that hurt me most. I’d look down at the tangle of clots and veins and proto-limbs and wonder what I would have named it just a few months later, if I’d only had the courage to ask.
But that’s not who I was. That’s not who I am. It’s why, four years after mourning Carol, I started something new. Something that brought me back to my days as a professor and a researcher.
Nowadays I don’t tear up when I perform the procedures on the girls. I’m pleasant and professional and they leave with the knowledge their lives can resume without the consequences a child would bring them. They also leave something for me. They always had. I just never realized what it meant.
Like I mentioned, abortion is illegal in our country. We’re a land of archaic beliefs and customs always battling against modern, progressive ideals. We are also lax when it comes to many regulations – one of which being no laws pertaining to how we must deal with our dead. And while I curse the illegality of abortion because of how it affects women throughout the country, I celebrate the lack of laws regarding our deceased loved ones. It’s why, after five years, I still have Carol in our basement. Preserved.
For the last year, I’ve saved the remains of every fetus. I’ve learned about stem cells and their supposedly miraculous regenerative powers. Don’t misunderstand me – I know I can’t bring Carol back. She’s long gone. But after my inspiration struck, I realized I could open her and take what I needed.
I write this with the enthusiasm and hopeful outlook of a potential father and possible madman. Label me a backward savage if you must. Label me a monster. All I know is I am still a biologist. Still a scientist. Every night, I combine the portions of the excised bits of Carol’s reproductive system with the remaining pulp of the procedures from earlier in the day.
One of these days, the stem cells will bring an ovum back to life. It’s with that certainty – that blind, desperate faith – that I pleasure myself over each petri dish so I can contribute my half of the equation. And after, as I get dressed and put that day’s experiment into the incubator, I wonder if that’s the one who will grow up to call me Dad.