Searching for Swimmers–Chapter 36
“But she was here only days ago,” Jason said.
“Well, I’m sorry, sir, she doesn’t work here,” the receptionist said.
“Maybe, Dr. Radkin, then.”
“He’s out of the office.”
Jason sat down in one of the empty chairs in the waiting room. At least, Dr. Radkin was real. Maybe he wasn’t losing his mind, after all. He walked back up to the man behind the receptionist’s desk. “Can you at least confirm that a woman named Reese used to work here?” Jason asked.
“Look, sir, I’m new and—”
“Yes, I know that. You’re working Reese’s job.”
“And whatever private beef you had with this woman is no concern of mine or CryoGenerous. You need to leave.”
“Actually, the beef I have is with CryoGenerous, and you… I’ll leave whenever I damn well please.” Jason picked up a pencil from the man’s desk. “And I’m keeping this,” he said waving the pencil in the air. He turned to go back into the waiting room, paused, then turned back to the receptionist’s desk. “You know, I’m not.” Jason broke the pencil in half then slammed the pieces back onto the man’s desk. “There! You can keep it.” He stormed out the front door and sat down on the curb, head in his hands.
Jason felt like he was back at square one. The same city, the same clinic, the same lack of answers, and all he could think of were the same things that wouldn’t have worked the first time. Only difference, this time, there was no Reese to give him a list.
He searched his email on his phone trying to discover her last name, but all of the emails had been sent from a generic email address with no personal sign off. He envisioned the first conversation they had back in Denver. He remembered her sincerity. He remembered her comic glibness. However, he could not remember her last name. He phoned the cabbie.
“Take me to LoveJoy’s.” Jason said.
“You are a quick operator. Haven’t been gone but a few days and already back delivering more. Not even an hour gone by and back to the bar.”
“It’s not like that,” Jason said.
“Hey, it’s like however you say it’s like. So if it’s not like that, then it’s like something else. That simple, chief.”
“Don’t have to thank me, but if it’s not like that, just got one thing to say.”
“Well, inquiring minds want to know. You don’t have to dish, but I wouldn’t mind being served.”
Jason took off his seat belt and laid down in the backseat. “So, you want to know?”
The driver looked at Jason in the rearview mirror.
“Fine. I don’t want to have kids. Don’t want a wife, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a dog, a cat or any other bullshit. Regardless, on my birthday I got scared, then drunk, and decided to freeze my sperm. Fast forward only to find out that my sperm is gone. Came here to find answers but got a list. List’s been marked off, but I don’t believe it because I’m fucked in the head. So, come back here only to find the distributor of the list presumably fired. Now, I just want a fucking drink. There—satisfied?”
“Damn, son. Could’ve just left me thinking you were a Sperm Casanova. Instead, you had to lay all of that shit on me.”
“Welcome to my fucking life.”
Jason sat at the bar trying to determine his next move, but since there was no next move, he just ordered another pint. The bar hadn’t been very crowded when he’d first arrived in the early afternoon, but after the business day closed, the bar broke wide open, slowly filling to capacity. By seven, not only was Jason properly drunk, but he was in jeopardy of losing his bar stool to a bathroom break. Fortunately, the bartender who had served Jason for the last four hours noticed his shiftiness on the stool.
“Dude, I’ll watch your seat if you need to piss,” he said.
“Can’t order anymore beer with a full bladder.”
“True that.” Jason stumbled off his stool. Why is everyone so nice to me? he wondered. If he were a bartender, he’d reneg his offer after a statement like that. Oh well, Jason thought, time will tell. At least I’m free to pee.
Surprisingly, there was no line for the bathroom. I knew there was a reason I like this bar. He opened the door to find it was a private bathroom, well sort of. Jason never quite understood this. There was a lock on the door, but there were two places to use the facilities, both a urinal and a stall. Jason thought, Why have a private bathroom with two places to relieve yourself? Am I a dick if I lock the door? Am I a perv if I leave it unlocked? He didn’t know and didn’t really care, so he compromised and left the door unlocked, and used the stall with the door open.
Just as he was shaking and flushing, he heard someone enter. He wondered if he shared the same dilemma. But as Jason zipped up and walked to the sink, he heard a full stream hit the porcelain. He pumped the empty soap container then rubbed his soap-free hands under the water, but something caught his eye. The pisser’s shoes. Converse—black. The water continued to run over his hands until the guy at the urinal was done. He looked strangely at Jason. Jason pumped some paper towels, dried his hands and went back to his bar stool.
Jason arrived to an empty stool and a fresh beer. He grabbed his beer and turned around on his stool, facing away from the bar. Secretly, he hoped to find the mysterious woman he’d met before and seen on the plane. Instead, he noticed people’s shoes. He saw Birkenstocks, Sketchers, Nikes, Converse and several nondescript types. He gulped his beer thinking that maybe he’d finally lost his Y chromosome. As he continued to peruse the crowd, his eyes continued to drift to their shoes. More and more often he saw Converse. After Jason swallowed the last of his beer, he flipped around back to the bar to order another. The bartender took his order. “Is there a Converse shoe plant in town?” Jason asked.
“Not that I know of,” the bartender answered.
“Sure a lot of Converse wearers around here.”
The bartender laid Jason’s drink down. “Yeah, lot of Chuck lovers.”
“You know, Converse, Chuck Taylors.”
Reese Taylor sat on her couch sipping a white wine. She had some money saved up from her eBay sales, so the last couple of days had been mostly worry free, mostly. For years she had collected porcelain dolls, but began selling them off a couple of years ago. Thanks to Marie Osmond, they were in demand. Despite her cash reserve, she still fretted, which is why tonight she was on her second bottle of wine. She was happy that she’d walked out on her morally corrupt job. She’d only started there because she thought it was the furthest thing from corrupt. In response, she curled her legs underneath her body on the couch and took a long drain from her wine glass until it was empty. She leaned forward and placed her empty glass on the coffee table next to the half empty bottle. Reese knew wallowing in white wine was no way to progress her life, but then she thought about her bank account, leaned forward and poured another glass.
She took a few sips, paused, then set her wine glass down again. It had been four years since she’d quit smoking. Mostly as a reminder of her resolve and partly as justification to cheat now and then, she kept a mahogany box filled with Benson and Hedges. Neatly inside the box was a space for a Zippo lighter. Reese removed one of the cigarettes and the Zippo, then lit her smoke.
She inhaled the smoke, held it, then blew it out. In one hand she held her wine glass, in her other a cigarette. Life felt right. Reese sat in a calm exchange, smoke puff in the left hand, wine sip in the right, until the ringing of her phone startled her.
She placed her wine glass on the coffee table and her cigarette in the pristine ashtray. She scurried to the kitchen table and fumbled through her purse. Her cell phone was in her hand but the lights, the bells and the whistles were on silent. She put the phone down. Still the ringing continued. She jumped from the table and ran to her cordless battery station in the kitchen. It was uncommon for her landline to ring, unless it was a telemarketer. Still, without thinking, she picked it up.
The noise in the bar had reached titanic levels. “Is this Reese?” Jason asked.
“Yes, who is this?”
“Is this Reese Taylor who used to work at CryoGenerous?”
“Maybe. Again, who’s asking?”
Jason took a slug from his beer. This was the third Reese Taylor he’d phoned. Immediately, he regretted phoning from a very busy and happy bar. “Jason, Jason Purdue.”
The line went dead. Jason considered it might be the circumstances but was more positive that the right number had finally connected. To celebrate, he ordered another beer.
Why is Jason Purdue calling me? More importantly, how did Jason Purdue figure out how to call me? Reese sunk back onto the couch, wine glass in one hand, half burnt smoke in the other. She put the cigarette and the wine glass down, and then curled up into the sofa. How am I going to handle this? This wouldn’t even be this without me. No matter how far she sunk into the cushions, she knew that she was still the one who was responsible for the mess. She got up, took a quick swallow from her glass and toke from her smoke, and then flopped back down. She buried herself headfirst into the cushions, wishing she could sink deeper. She felt better with her head wedged between the bottom and top couch cushions and she felt better, until her phone rang again.
Jason let the phone ring…and ring…and ring. He was convinced she wouldn’t answer, but unfortunately he still wasn’t convinced this was the Reese Taylor that had given him the list. He listened closely to the answering machine message and decided it sounded like the Reese Taylor he knew. He ended the call then hit redial.
The ringing had stopped. Now she heard the muffled sounds of her own voice on the answering machine. That’s torture enough, she thought. She was grateful to hear a click and no message. She sat back up, regretting stamping out her cigarette, and grabbed her wine glass. Her body tensed waiting for the phone to ring again. Her glass held poised, she waited—nothing. She swallowed.
Brriiiing. Half her wine made it down to her liver. The other half, spit across the room. Reese thought about the implications of answering her ringing phone. No longer was she worried about not answering it. She knew it would keep on ringing regardless of her inaction. Based on this inaction, she decided to pick up the phone. “Hello?”
She answered. Jason was shocked. He hadn’t expected that. He didn’t know what he had expected but after the third dial, he certainly didn’t expect her to pick up the phone. “Hi.”
“What do you want?”
“Well…” Jason put his beer down on the bar to gain some composure. “Well, I want to know why.”
“Why? That’s your whole big reason behind your call. Fucking why!”
Jason was taken aback. “Uh, yeah, I suppose, I mean, yes, why?”
“Why did you give me the list? Why only three names? And why do it if none of them conceived? Clearly not all of them got my sperm. Presumably none of them got it. So, yeah, why? Why the wild goose chase?” Reese’s end of the phone went quiet and Jason worried she was going to hang up on him again. “Look, please don’t hang up.” More silence.
“Look, I’d rather not talk about this over the phone,” her quavering voice replied.
“Shit, is your phone tapped?”
“No, that’s ridiculous. I just prefer to have serious conversations in person.”
“Oh, guess that makes more sense. Should I come to you or you to me?”
“It sounds loud where you are, that, and since I’m doing the favor, why don’t you come to me?”
“Fair warning, I’m a bit drunk.”
“That’s fine. Me too.”
“Should we do it tomorrow then?”
“No, I have a feeling without the alcohol I’d never get this done.”
“I know the feeling.”
Reese gave Jason her address. Jason called his cabbie and settled his tab.