D. Gilson shares how it felt to almost maybe become a father.
My appointment is at 9:30. The Pittsburgh Cryobank is located in Webster Hall, Suite #161, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and North Bellefield; the building is owned by the University of Pittsburgh, though the Cryobank’s website has flashing letters that repeat: IN NO WAY ARE WE AFFLIATED WITH THE UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH, and I wonder who designed their website, who okay’ed flashy HTML that has not been in style since I took Advanced Computers & Design as a seventh grader in 1997. Today, I take the Port Authority bus with plenty of time to spare. At 8:30, I enter the Cathedral of St. Paul, an enormous granite church located one block east of Webster Hall. It is time for Mass. I dip both my right index and middle fingers into holy water, cross myself, and sit on the next-to-last pew, left hand side. I am the only one in this pew. There are few others in the nave and I suspect only the devout or lonely come to Mass on Thursday morning. I am not Catholic. Our Father, who art in heaven.
The priest distributes sacrament and since I cannot partake, I leave. I walk two blocks south on Craig Street and get only coffee at Dozen Cupcake Bakery, though I eye the pumpkin loaf, wishing I had not already had breakfast. Give us this day our daily bread. Leaves on the lone maple outside begin to turn and I stand beside the tree, long for Missouri in a flash, for the line of maples behind my parent’s home, how before school Mom and I sat at the kitchen table with our coffee, gossiping about celebrities like two old bitties, watching the greens outside become reds, and yellows, and oranges, the colors of fire. I look at the time, 9:15, and begin to walk. I don’t want to be late. I am never late.
Cynthia Daily of Pasadena conceived a baby through the services of a California cryobank. In time, she wanted her son to connect with his biological half-siblings, and started an online group where they could “gather.” To date, the group has over 150 members: All children from a single donor. This strikes me as a frightening prospect; if the sperm was primarily used in a geographical center, and a cluster of the children remained nearby, how many of them might make out at high school parties, have sex in college, or even get married and perceivably conceive their own children? I begin to wonder, for no discernable reason, if Adam and Konrad Richter, brothers and stars of the 2009 gay porn Double Czech, are actually the result of the same donor at a Prague cryobank. Once in a Prague bar, I heard a Czech man tell my friend he was a regular sperm donor, that sperm donation is a huge industry in his country. He bought us three rounds of Jägermeister shots.
The lobby of Webster Hall, a mixed high rise of condominiums and offices, smells like a nursing home, one in particular that I visited with my dad, who inspected aging facilities for the State of Missouri. Sometimes I went with him, and sweet women who didn’t see their grandsons often enough gave me hard peppermints to sing for them. There are peppermints in the lobby here, in a wicker basket whose white paint is chipping. The Cryobank is the third door down the hallway to the left. In its lobby, there are three chairs, one desk, and approximately fifteen magazines, though no people. I ring a doorbell below a sign: If no one greets you, please ring this bell. A nurse wearing scrubs comes through a door labeled Laboratory. Her name is Janice. Janice is friendly and gives me forms to fill out. Lead us not into temptation. Question one: In the past 12 months, have you had sex with men? I answer no — in the last year I have had sex with one man, but not his plural.
In a voicemail, a friend once asked me to be her sperm donor, a message I never returned. And though I try not to let narcissism envelope me following her call, I question if it’s more a matter of whom one wants to have a baby with, or one’s desire to have a baby. The British company Fame Daddy (famedaddy.com) explains, “Most girls fantasise about dating their favourite boyband star, or having a fling with a Hollywood actor. Some will even wonder what a child from that union would be like, both its physical characteristics and potential for success. Fame Daddy is the only premium insemination service to now offer this unprecedented level of intimate VIP access.” I would, for instance, father a child for Emma Watson, but not for Lindsay Lohan. Would that I could, I would birth the child of Jake Gyllenhaal, but none of the Sheen/Estevez brothers.
Since I made my 9:30 appointment last week, I have wondered how it might feel to become a father. On one hand, I could help someone have a child who otherwise may not be able. Having no genetic diseases, is this my civic duty? Shit, there are a lot of kids in the world who need homes. Couldn’t people adopt them, choose the already-born over insemination? I may have kids I will never know. Maybe mine will receive the next Nobel Peace Prize. Maybe, however, my kid will be the next Jeffrey Dahmer. Or George W. Bush. Deliver us from evil. Donor money is good money, I reason. And easy. I finish the forms and Janice leads me to a collection room, hands me a cup, says “Please deposit your ejaculate here and write your name and today’s date on the lid.”
On a recent trip to New York with my friend Jessica, we sat in the bar at the Ace Hotel and I asked if she would consider having a baby with me. She took a sip of the wine before her, cocked her head, and furrowed her brow, answering emphatically, “Absolutely not.” Jessica knows me better than any woman and this concerns me for days, for weeks, though I will never say this, just laugh off the question to wine and gay men and the women they love. Forgive us our sins.
In the collection room I place a disposable pad on a stationary desk chair. There is a radio and a sink, beside which is a poster describing various sexually transmitted diseases. Below the sink there are paper towels and a plethora of pornographic magazines for those who like large-breasted African American women or barely legal Caucasian girls in pigtails. I close this cabinet. Through the closed door, I can hear the nurse as she moves around the lab. Augusten Burroughs once described his psychiatrist’s masturbatorium, a room in which the doctor pleasured himself on a scratchy chaise lounge with Jergin’s lotion. Today, this is my masturbatorium.
A week later, Janice calls. There is nothing wrong with my sample — no infectious diseases, no genetic abnormalities — other than my sperm is not able to survive the freezing their services require. She explains this is no negative indicator on my fertility or overall health. I sigh into the phone’s receiver as the Continental flight I am on taxies into a gate at the Houston International Airport. That would have been good money. And something else, too. I thank Janice and disconnect the call. Your will be done.
Photo: Paul Swansen/Flickr