… But He Was Still Hungry

My kid is super-hot on Eric Carle’s timeless and much-adored The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  He loves the book so much that I can recite it word for word from memory without so much as a hiccup, and he can fill in the blanks when I leave words out.  (“On Monday, he ate through one…” “APPLE!”)  Fantastic bonding experience, reading with the sprout, even if it exhausts me reading the same book night after night after night (it does, but you know, welcome to parenthood).

We’re reading the book tonight before bedtime and I have one of those HOLY SHARKNADO moments.  If you’re not familiar with the book, basically there’s a caterpillar, he’s hungry, he eats through all this food at a picnic and every night he’s still hungry.  Sort of existential in a way, actually (damn, there’s ANOTHER of those moments, okay focus).  But I’m reading through the story for the sixtieth time and it’s right about the time where he eats through four strawberries (but he was still hungry) when I realize that I AM THE CATERPILLAR.

I mean, I guess we’re all the caterpillar, aren’t we?  Chewing our way through the swollen fruits of life, gorging ourselves on the sweet meats of the vine, but at the end of the day, it’s not enough: we’re all still hungry.  But it hit me today, like an unregistered immigrant flying through a red light when I’ve got a green (not that THAT ever happened to me), that the caterpillar is ME as a writer.  I popped from my egg one day and started looking for food (writing).  I chewed through apples, pears, plums (my novel, short stories, the blarg), eating so much at times that I made myself sick on it (yep I’ve definitely been sick of writing a few times on this little excursion).  I’ve not yet turned into a beautiful butterfly: more likely I’m one of those guys that turns into a dusty, nasty moth that spirals into your porch light and fries himself before he can get a taste of the night.  But man, if this realization didn’t resonate with me.  I guess great literature does that, dunnit?  No matter what age group it’s aimed at (you YA haters can suck it, Twilight is TIMELESS [no it isn’t, please kill me]) if the writing is sound it will appeal to virtually anybody in some way.

So I’m the caterpillar.  I achieved the goal I set for myself four months ago: achieved it in less time than I budgeted for.  And achieving it has tasted sweet, sweeter than I imagined it would, though not without its bitter aftertaste.  But it’s now a week and a half later and my stomach is rumbling something fierce.  The novel was fantastic.  Delicious.  Satisfying.  But I’m still hungry.

I’ve got to find my next project.

Sure, I’m still writing daily — the blarg is keeping me honest on that front, and that’s not going to change — but the blarg is a completely different animal than churning out 900 words a day on ONE singular topic, one idea, one band of characters.  The blarg requires the attention span of a coked-up yap dog: one moment I’m peeing on the carpet, next moment I’m chasing the neighbor’s cat through the azalea bushes, next I’m snoozing on the pair of shoes you left in the corner, and then I’m running under your feet trying to trip you down the stairs.  There’s no focus, no throughline, no gravity.  Last couple of days especially, the fact that I’m not writing anything of substance is irking me, burning in the back of my brain like I’ve left the stove on before leaving on a five-day cruise.

I guess that means that the break is over.  I’d promised myself a bit of time off to decompress after finishing the first draft of the Project, figuring that if I tried any serious writing too soon I’d feel burnt-out and frustrated and stretched too thin.  At the moment I’m torn between telling myself that I need a bit more time to really spin down — a lot has happened in these last few weeks — and embracing that sucking wound in my gut that’s gasping for more words, more ideas, telling me I need to write write WRITE.  The urge to write is winning out at this point, I fear.  The question is, what will it be?

Do I jump into the draft of another novel?  I’ve got a few ideas on the burner for that and I’ve felt a couple of nibbles along the way writing the first one.  Do I try my hand at writing an extended short story, a little novella perhaps of maybe ten thousand words?  Go back to the stable where I first started this crazy gig and try my hand at another stage play or screenplay?

New resolution: By no later than Monday of next week I’ll choose a new project to work on, and set an acceptable deadline for its completion.  I’ve got two weeks left in the summer and then it’s back to the teaching grind, and I’ll want something to anchor me creatively.

Aaaand I’m Sterile (Seriously)

It’s been four days, and I can take the icepacks off my crotch.

Okay, I’ve had the icepacks off since the second day, but that certainly doesn’t have the same ring.

As Bill Cosby once put it, “My wife and I have five children.  And the reason why we have five children is because we do not want six.”  My wife and I have two children.  And I am happy to say that there will not be any more additions to the line, from my wife’s and my branch at any rate.

That is to say, at 4 PM this past Thursday, I got the chop.  Vasectomy.  Snip snip and my days of fathering kids are irrevocably done.  My wife asked me several times in the days leading up to the, uh, event, if I was nervous about it.  I was, but only in the sense of this being a permanent modification to the only body I will ever have.  I don’t have tattoos, I don’t have any piercings (well, one in the ear which almost certainly shouldn’t count), I don’t have any metal hips or plastic fingers or anything.  I am strictly factory-issue.  Until now.

Not that I have convictions about marring your own sacred temple or anything.  You get one body, you get one life, do with it what you please.  Tattoo the Mona Lisa on your butt if you want to, or better yet, a space unicorn leaping through a ring of fire around your belly button.  Spike holes the size of tree trunks through your earholes.  The only consequences you’ll have are the funny looks you’ll garner, and in the case of your tree-trunk earrings, probably some chronic neck and back pain.  (What?  I’m over thirty now, this is the stuff I think about.)

It’s a strange feeling.  In biological terms you could make the argument that I no longer qualify as a male.  Certainly there’s a gravity to the fact that, after twelve or so weeks when they can flush out all the cobwebs, I won’t father any more children.  That’s heavy sharknado, man.  A harsh toke.  But it’s also an incredibly calming sensation.  You hear about those couples in their late 30’s, 40’s, hell, even their 50’s who all of a sudden “had a surprise” and bango, they’ve got another sprout running around.  There’s comfort in knowing that won’t be my wife and I.  We’ve had the talk dozens of times about whether or not we want any more kids, and now, having the two, the decision became very, very easy indeed.

What I found humorous about the entire operation (haw, haw) was just how much of a big deal it wasn’t.  When baby was a couple of weeks old, I made an appointment for a consult, which could not have been more of a formality.  Medical history, list of medications I’m taking or allergies I have, and I was scheduled.  They wanted to take a urine sample but, because I’d foolishly gone in the hall right outside the doctor’s office, I couldn’t, and they said it was “no big deal.”  No big deal!  I’m only about to sever my manly bits and thwart my biological imperative.  No big deal.

Then, the day of the event.  In the first place, it’s outpatient surgery, which is a fancy way of saying you don’t go to a hospital and they kick you the fargo out after it’s done.  In fact, my operation (it feels silly to even call it that) was completed on the same exam table I was evaluated on during my consult.  This was a shocker to me given my experiences with hospitals lately (two c-section births for my kids and my wife to go through, one extended stay in hospital for sprout the first immediately following his birth… the concept of an operation that doesn’t require a lengthy ensconcement in hospital is not one that I really understood.  Nonetheless, I arrived for my appointment at 3:45 and was whisked into the exam room and prepped for surgery, and I was on my way home by 4:30.  I was even able to drive myself home.

I won’t go into extreme detail on the operation for the sake of any squeamish men who may be reading, but I will describe it a little for the sake of being thorough.  First of all, about the only direction I was given as far as preparation was to “shave the area”, which was a quarter-sized patch on the front of the… can I say sack?  Let’s say sack.  If you’re a fan of Seinfeld, you’re probably familiar with the episode where Jerry shaves his chest by accident: he set out to correct an irregularity, then he had to even it out, then he realized he had made things worse, and before he knew what was what, his entire torso was shaved and he was howling at the moon, scratching his feeble growth.  This was not unlike that.  I ended up clearing “the area” and a good swath all around.  Doing this in the summer is not something I advise outside of necessity.  The one word that comes to mind is “sticky.”

Anyway, I go in and strip and sit on the table under a paper sheet (not even a gown, remember, I’m not in a hospital) and the nurse comes in to prep me, which involves making small talk about Georgia Tech and slathering brown antiseptic gunk all over my privates.  The doc comes in, gives me the last chance to chicken out, and advises me to lay back.  I have the option to lean forward and watch or lean back and stare at the ceiling.  I chose the latter, because I’d rather not vomit all over myself.

Quick little stab as the lidocaine goes in, and then I feel some pushing and pulling and working but no real sensation.  If you’ve never been under the effects of lidocaine, it’s a bit like being poked and prodded through four or five pairs of socks.  Then, another stick, deeper inside this time, and a spike of cold fire zips all the way down to the, uh, boys, and that’s the last thing I really feel until the cutting.  Well, I think it was the cutting.  Guys, if you’ve ever jumped into the car too fast and sat on your business, that’s the closest thing I can liken it to, except that it was a slow sensation to set in.  Kind of like it was being stepped on, deliberately and slowly.  Then the same thing on the other side, and then they started to mop up.

The business of it was over in about five minutes, which I distinctly remember because it was so freaking fast it almost defied belief.  The actual sensation that I remember most is suppressing my laughter as the doctor stitched me up — he had literal needle and thread and was sewing my, uh, business, up with these comically overstated strokes of the needle, like some lunatic maestro conducting an imaginary orchestra in my pants.  (Okay, I wasn’t wearing pants, but could you… just… come on.)  Nothing but tugging and the swooping of the needle, a tug and a swoop, and I’m biting my lip to keep from cracking up.

And that was that.  I spent the rest of the night with a pack of frozen peas on my crotch, and I spent the next day in the pleasant dizzy haze that only prescription pain meds can legally provide.  Sunday I was off the meds completely and had a little workout late in the day, today I had my first run since the operation and am having no ill effects.  Oh, my entire sack turned black from bruising but that’s fading and apparently totally normal; no extra pain associated with it.  The only lasting effect I have from the operation is a tiny, half-inch seam on my business, and even that will fade within about a week.

Okay, so this post was maybe a little graphic and probably more than you cared to know about my man parts, but I wanted to write it for a couple of reasons.

  1. This blarg is a chronicle not just of my writing experience but of key moments in my life, and this is most certainly that.
  2. I honestly want to encourage guys who are thinking about this to have it done.  If you’re afraid of the pain or discomfort, you shouldn’t be.  A weekend spent with a little unpleasantness in your area is far, FAR more preferable than a lifetime with extra kids you didn’t expect.
  3. To go further in that vein, compared to a female sterilization, a vasectomy is far less invasive, and has a far shorter recovery time.  The ladies have to go through childbirth and living in a man’s world after all — this is a tiny bullet you can take for your wife (and your relationship).

I may write an update in a few weeks when I’m fully recovered (I still have to be very careful if sprout wants to jump on my lap for example), but I don’t know that that’s necessary.  The surgery really was minor enough that in retrospect it hardly merits as much as I’ve written.  It really is a tiny, tiny thing even though it has huge repercussions.