Searching for Swimmers–Chapter 32

Sweat trickled from Mark Applebaum’s bald head and down his high cheekbones until the drop hung on his distinct chin. Jason had never witnessed such polite indignation.

            “I appreciate that you want answers, Mr. Purdue. We all want answers, but your unannounced arrival was an assault on my already bereft wife, concerning a matter that frankly, I’d prefer, could I do so, erase from her memory.”

            “Of course, Mr. Applebaum. Your wife explained as much, and I never intended to bring about such distress. I apologize and will leave immediately.” Jason quickly walked to his rental car parked on the street.

            “Hey! You wait just a minute there.”

            Jason stopped.

            “You think you can just come to my home and…and…” he struggled with the word, “fuck my world, our world, then just walk away?”

            Jason wasn’t sure why but he turned back around.

            “You can’t do that. You can’t just stroll up to my front door and incoherently blurt out your idiotic screw up to my wife and then just walk away, concerns wiped clean. Nothing’s clean.”

            Jason slowly walked up the paved walkway that split the well-manicured front lawn. He stopped about fifteen feet from the front porch and just stared at the distraught man.

            “You just throw around your DNA as if it represents nothing but meaningless letters. Just toss it into a vial like you’ve got the right. You think you’re better than me, some gift of humanity? Well you’re not. You’re nothing. You’re just splooge in a glass, that’s what you are, Mr. Purdue.”

            Jason felt his facial expression go blank. He stuck his hands into his pockets.

            “Because you, sir, don’t choose life, you’re nothing but a poser. You’re a spectator, not even a fan. You’re just waiting in the bleachers, talking with your friends, hoping you might see the big play. You don’t even care about the intense human emotion associated with the play; you just want to be there to gossip about it the next day.”

            Jason swallowed the lump in his throat and breathed in through his nose and out his mouth.

            “You!” continued Mr. Applebaum. Jason saw the vein in his neck strain. “You are…you are…,” his finger pointed indignantly, the vein from his neck extending down his shoulder through his arm to his pointer finger. “You, sir, are a goddamn, mothersucking, fucking asshole!”

            “I’m sorry for your loss.” Jason turned and walked toward the car. Before he opened the car door he turned around to take one last look. He saw the proud and polite man crumbled to his knees in tears. This isn’t my problem. I can just leave. Jason opened the door, paused, and looked back. His body pumped with adrenaline, his head pulsed. He twirled the key fob nervously, then slammed the door, and walked back up the walkway. This time he went all the way to the porch.

            He looked at the humble mass on the pressure washed cement. “It’s not your fault,” Jason said.

            Applebaum adjusted his position so his face looked upward. Jason extended a hand and he took it. Jason pulled him up to a standing position. Applebaum stared at his feet.

            Jason stepped back. “Look, man, it’s gonna be alright.”

            Applebaum tipped his head up.

            “Really, trust the motherfucking-splooge-in-a-glass-asshole on this one,” Jason said. “If he of all people thinks it’s all gonna be alright, then it’ll certainly work out for someone like you, Mr. Applebaum.”

            Applebaum wiped his face and laughed. “Call me Mark,” he said as he extended his hand.

            Jason shook his hand.

            “I’m sorry, Mr. Purdue.”

            “It’s Jason, and there’s no need to apologize. We all need a punching bag sometimes. Happy to oblige.”


            Mark and Jason sat in wire-framed chairs on the front porch.

            “Again, I’m sorry for unleashing all of my personal, pent-up shit onto you. I had no idea you were a victim in all of this,” Mark said.

            “Don’t worry about it, and the word victim is a little strong.”

            “You seem like a nice enough guy and all, but if there’s one silver lining in all of this, it’s that I’m glad I don’t have to worry about sharing a baby with you.”

            “Jeez, thanks.”

            “No, I didn’t mean it offensively. Having a child has just meant so much to Christina and me that…well…I wouldn’t want to share the experience with anyone else.”

            “I get it.”

            “So what do you plan on doing if someone has your baby out there?”

            “You know, I never really got that far. I have no fucking clue.”

            “Then why go to all of this trouble? You could have just as easily let the whole ordeal go.”

            “Yeah, and then eighteen years from now have a young adult blind side me.”

            “Guess that’s true.”

            “But now that I think about it. Maybe that wouldn’t have been so bad. I mean, the situation is out of my hands. Besides, other people would’ve already done all of the hard work. And based on what I’ve seen, done by people who really want a child, it might not have been too bad to get that knock on my door after all.”

            “Yeah, I don’t know if I could do it.”

            “Yeah, but how often do you get to create something with no effort?”

            “Wait, you said might have been.”

            “Yeah, you were the last on my list. Assuming the list was accurate, I’m in the clear.”

            “You sound disappointed.”

            “I guess, in a way, I kind of am. My little adventure is over. Crisis adverted. Now it’s time to get back to reality and, to be honest, my reality is pretty boring.”

            “I know what you mean. Not the boring part. Well, most of it’s boring, but a good boring. You know? But this was our last shot at a kid. I mean, you go through your whole life never really giving kids much thought. You think, yeah sure, I’d like to have some someday, and then you get distracted. Other things take priority—my career, Christina’s career, wanting to have the right house, basically getting all of the pieces perfectly placed.” Mark quietly stared into the distance. Jason followed suit. “I mean we’ve been through it all. All of the doctors, four, five…no…I think, six total. Even did the in vitro when my guys weren’t swimming well, but poor Miriam had a miscarriage. After a time of mourning, we decided to try some stronger sperm but got the same result. I think this one was even harder on Christina. She feels her body’s betrayed her, that the biology of her womanhood is dead.”

            “Man, I’m sorry,” Jason said.

            “Your sympathy’s not needed, but your ear is appreciated.” Mark looked at Jason and slowly nodded his head. Then he stood up and stretched his arms. “Who knows, maybe we’ll adopt.”

            Jason followed Mark’s lead and stood up.

            “Not to be rude, but Christina needs attending to.”

            “Of course.”

            Mark extended his hand and Jason took it. “Have a safe trip home, Jason.”

            “Thank you for your kindness in handling my intrusion.”

            Mark laughed and walked inside while Jason made his way to the rental car.


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