GenYsiX - Part 2
The doctor slides banks of sensors over her bare, slicked tummy. The whole room click and hums. We’re packed into a room, a bright cube. I bend around banks of green machines aimed at Cathy.
Surely you don't need all this stuff for a routine check-up…what on Mars do they all do?
The doctor says, “Nothing can grow here.”
“Except new life,” I mumble.
Cathy glares at me. She likes this doctor; a sweet and wrinkly octogenarian.
“What’s that?” the sweet doctor cranes his head around some contraption. I look at him. He is indeed very old. And wrinkled. What I see is a stick in a grey robe gripping a blinking green device. But also very wrinkly. A wrinkled stick. On this point, at least, we fully agree.
To be fair, though, he is almost exactly how Cathy described him. The kind of man who takes the Book of Standard Practices as gospel, who can recite it word by word even after shooting an entire syringe of Red Dust. Except that he’d never touch the stuff because that would be a deviation from the expected protocol as stipulated in the Book, section something, line whatever.
I smirk. Little stab of self-consciousness.
Actually I know exactly which line in which section he’d quote because I can quote it too. Anyway. That’s beside the point.
Deity, I’m nervous. The doctor is swivelling still more gear through the sterile space. The room and all its modular Medical Facility fixtures are in standard crisp white. But here in this one room there’s this very particular shade of green which is all artfully infused into every single machine the doctor handles. All of them proudly display the same green logo and green branding and the same perfect green name.
“So, all we have to do is select the GenYsiX box and then follow the prompts. It’s really that easy?” Cathy’s voice is reverent. It is the perfect tone. It captures the requisite awe for Science. She continues in a whisper, “We just select boy or a girl.”
The doctor halts his frenzied fiddling with the contraptions of reason. His wrinkled face splits in a wide grin and for just a moment he steps off his pedestal and he’s somewhat like the rest of us.
“When Joan and I had our first one,” he says, “there were still so many variables in the system. So much natural selection. But now – how fortunate you two are! Soon there will be no more room for chance.”
Cathy shudders beside me. “Good riddance! Oh Doctor what you and the company have achieved, what you’ve given…it’s…it’s just—”
I succumb to a petty and impulsive jibe.
“Miraculous?” I say.
The doctor tenses and he frowns and his eyes are swallowed up in it.
Cathy’s eyes go wide. She giggles. She cuts it short, gasps, “Oh, Max!”
“Forgive me, doctor,” I say.
Silly. Shouldn’t have. Not the time or the place. Felt good though.
Cathy says, “What he means is he means it’s like a miracle. Of Science. Figuratively speaking. If you’ll accept the turn of phrase.”
“Yes. Quite. Genesis is everything.”
His gaze moves from the green machines onto us. Intense. Frank. Hint of green reflection.
“You will see. You will be parents, soon, and then you will know. Genesis is all that matters. One day you will be old too and then you will look back on everything you thought you knew and you will understand the only thing that matters.”
Cathy squeezes my hand. “Of course, if it was up to Max, we'd go all natural!”
I love her. She is my wife. The doctor chokes. He might be the man manipulating the green machines, but it is always Cathy who pushes the buttons.
“All natural? Mr and Mrs Min, you—oh in deity’s name—do you have any idea how many variables there are? Do you have any comprehension of what that word even means?”
The doctor’s wrinkles are so very flushed and I interject before he suffers an attack of some kind.
“Not all natural. Just a few small things,” I say.
“Like,” says my wife, who I feel strong chemical bonding for, “whether Norm might be a boy a girl.”
Cathy's strangely playful today. Maybe she's getting off on it, on being so totally justified in her innocent-seeming tease. Being so totally right in the eyes of this quivering old priest of the rational.
Judging by the doctor’s face, we’ve averted the possibility of him having a heart attack. But he’s far from calm. He might just attack me if I don’t stop poking fun at Science.
“Mr Min, the choice is yours. Of course. I am not disputing your right to choice. But as a medical professional I must impress upon you how...how irresponsible any such a choice would be.”
He smoothes his grey robe which is utterly without wrinkles. He is searching for the perfect words. The most reasonable words.
“Please, Mr Min, please remember your Schooling. Remember the Science, for starry vault’s sake! You—and your wife—have already decided on a boy. You have assigned the name Norm to the zygote. You have prepared a room and painted it blue. Cerulean, I recall.”
“The doctor is such a good listener!” Cathy’s delighted. Her new pet.
“Indeed. Paint's not even dry yet,” I say.
“Blue is for boys, Mr Min. Norm Min is a good, strong name. A Scientific name. If you…if you change your mind, forgive me, you’d only confuse, bias, the baby. And you’d have to repaint the wall pink. How inefficient.”
By deity he’s serious.
He means it, he has absolutely no idea. I stare at Cathy all smug as a sand drake.
“Your wife,” continues the doctor in perfect oblivion, “who is carrying your baby, your baby who is to be a boy—has made up her mind. Do not cloud your joint intention. It is your choice, still, of course, it is always your choice – but do not choose differently. Do not choose the dangers of the past when the future is so bright. You know the Science, Mr Min. You know what conflicting intentions can do to a developing child. You don't want to cause any complications, do you? This choice—which is yours and yours alone to make—don't let your personal feelings cloud your clear mind. Don't let a—a fantasy, if I may be frank—cloud the clear perspective afforded to you by your Schooling, by the firm convictions of all our Science. Your wife may tolerate these fantasies, may poke fun at you because she experiences strong chemical bonding for you, but I am a medical professional and I cannot let this go unchallenged. Please continue to make the right choice—freely, of your own will—as your wife has already done.”
I am silent.
Cathy beams at me.
Innocent as a hyena.
I say, “It's Dr Min, actually.”
“What?” coughs the doctor.
“It's not Mr Min. It's Dr Min.”
“I...that's hardly relevant, man! Did you hear what I said?”
“Every word. And I forgive you. We have never met, you have dealt with Cathy directly. Your head must be full of her stories about cribs and bibs and blue paint.”
If I had a choice, none of us would even be here.
If I had a choice there would be no child. I wouldn't be married, wouldn't be settled, wouldn't be doctor of anything. If I had a choice, which I did, because you always have a choice.
I remember Mom...You can be anything! Do you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher? What I want is to travel, to adventure; to explore the edge of imagination and maybe fall off. Somewhere there is a line between fantasy and what might be. I want to test this line. I want to hang in the rift between the possible and the manmade.
I remember...Mom offering me peas or carrots. But I don't like vegetables at all. I was trained on false choices. But aren’t we all?
Do you want to wear the navy or the slate tie today? I want to wear a t-shirt. No collar. I don't want to work this job.
Again—carrots or peas. Cathy my wife. The trap of what’s normal.
Maybe it goes all the way back to that little boy sitting in the high chair in the kitchen forcing himself to do what he hates so he doesn't make mommy sad. So he doesn't make Father mad. Heart still thuds at the image of the hand holding the wooden spoon, the big red hand with the big knuckles and the veins like wriggly mountains.
Heart still thuds today the same.
“Of course, doctor,” I say. I am perfectly calm. “Of course! I am free to choose and will make the only choice—the right choice. Forgive me, I've been very emotional since Cathy got tested. Thank you for reminding me of Reason, and the infallibility of Pure Applied Science. How could I choose anything else—who would? Who would make a choice that left the life of their child up to chance when by injecting a chemical cocktail into Cathy's uterus we can make the boy into whatever we want. Our very own little baby toy! Boy. Excuse me. I’m all excited. Our own baby boy. Of course! I'm so glad I learned in Schooling how sticking needles into the zygote—into our Norm—it doesn't affect him adversely at all, all it does is to reconfigure him how we want him to be. How perplexing the choice must've been before Schooling made our minds up!”
The doctor's smile grows broader and broader until his every feature vanishes under some wrinkle. Like desiccated brain-flesh stretched over his head.
He’s lapped up my every word. He has not, in fact, truly heard what I’m saying. He has not, he cannot, read behind the words.
He’s lost touch with the plain reality of irony, no longer feels the nip of sarcasm.
Cathy is ecstatic.
I understand everything in a moment of violent truth. I see it, the game she’s been playing these last few months, I see every move laid out in a glorious, twisted chain. What a woman. What an ability.
I’m so inspired by my insight that I extend it even further back, to when I walked into the jaws of the snare willingly—Do you take this…? I do—to when I made the choice, but further back still and far deeper to the peas and carrots and the P’s and Q’s and the rap on the knuckles when I didn’t dot my i’s and standing on my chair in front of the class and writing in the Piggy Book, and I stare the great big grinning System right in the lifeless eyes. Eyes without life, obviously, because the System is a big machine and it is not alive but I imagine it as this mechanical beast of interlocking rules and commands and mechanisms and the oil of human struggle. It’s not real of course except it also totally is real and in this moment when my son is still in the belly of his mother I see his whole existence pre-set before me. Every up and down. A standard three act structure: his Schooling, job, and gay marriage. I see it because it is predictable but also because Cathy has maneuvered me—us—into the GenYsiX process and the next step is to with money and needles make her belly full of Science so that our clever little Norm can be c-sectioned out.
Because it’s really backwards to give live birth—who would make that choice, the pain, all the variables! And of course to preserve her full package so that when Cathy and I one day split up like we’ve discussed she’ll still have all her honey for the other drones.
My wife is so lovely, glowing there on the table next to the wrinkled old coat.