Friday, May 27, 2011

TUBE BABY – a short story by Dr. Shahzad Rizvi

Samantha, popularly called Sam, was very curious about her father—or more accurately, about the donor of the sperm which became responsible for her existence. She would lie in bed late into the night, wondering about him—what kind of man he was, what he did, what he looked like. She, herself, had a tall and statuesque figure, alabaster skin and gazelle-like eyes. Obviously, she had inherited all of this from him. Her mother had been bestowed many gifts by nature, but looks and figure were not among them. Often, Sam would stand in front of a full-length mirror, gazing at her reflection, trying to picture how he must look, trying to imagine being face to face with him. But it was an exercise in futility which always ended in frustration. How can I know? she thought.
She tried to quiz her mother about him, but never got very far. The most she got out of her was, “My requirement for the donor was that he should be handsome, intelligent, educated, and ideally free from any hereditary illnesses, and they said he fulfilled all the requirements. Now, I have a beautiful, smart daughter, and I’m quite satisfied.” It was well and good for her as a highly ambitious career woman—having a child without the entanglements of a marriage—but, with the passage of time, being fatherless became more and more of an emotional problem for Sam.
She found refuge in communicating with like-minded members of the Tube Baby Association. Much to her joy, she friended a member named Richard on Facebook and they planned to text message each other that night. Though only their common quest for paternal identity brought them together, she discovered that they had lots in common. They both liked nature, Indian food, and creative writing. Oh yes—and poetry, too. They exchanged numbers and they soon began to finish each other’s thoughts, as they texted.
One day, in a rather stirred emotional state, she arranged the pictures that she had of herself and of Richard side by side, realizing how much they looked like a couple. The time had come for them to see each other in person. It could wait no longer. Many a night she would lie awake, thinking of him, fantasizing about him. But, there was a problem. A whole continent lay between them; she lived in Washington D.C. and he in San Francisco. They often talked about getting together, but something always got in the way. Finally, he made arrangements to fly to the East Coast, so they could meet in person.
Sam was excited, looking forward to sharing the news with Richard that she was finally getting somewhere in her search for, as she called him, her test-tube dad. She’d been able to track down the SDA, short for Sperm Donor Agency. Everyone there was sympathetic and wanted to help, but cautioned, “Privacy laws on donation are in flux. We can’t give you the donor’s information, but we can try to contact him. Then it’ll be up to him to get in touch with you. No guarantees.” Time hung heavy on Sam’s heart as she waited. Every time the phone rang, her pulse would race and she would rush to the phone, only to be disappointed when she picked it up to find again that it wasn’t him.
At the airport, Sam’s eyes darted from person to person looking for Richard. She had no difficulty in spotting him among the swarm of travelers pouring out of the plane. She threw her arms around his neck, nearly knocking him over. They both laughed. He was exactly like she’d known he would be and they immediately clicked. It was as if they had known each other forever.
As they drove away from Reagan National, a ring came on her cell phone. “Hello?” Sam said into the Bluetooth in a nervous tone.
“Am I speaking to...S-S-a-m-m?” a male voice inquired. Sam’s voice was choked and she couldn’t speak for several seconds. “Hello. Can you hear me?”
Sam composed herself enough to be able to speak. “Yes, I can hear you. This is Sam. I’m driving.”
“So, this doesn’t seem to be good time for you to take my call?”
“No, no, it’s a very good time, sir.”
“The SDA got in touch with me and said you were eager to talk to me.”
“I’ve been looking for you for a long time. I’m your daughter.” There was silence for a while. She could hear nothing but the sounds of traffic. “Hello?”
“Apparently, I donated sperm to your mother through the SDA. That was a long time ago.”
“You’re my father!”
“I had stipulated that I would remain anonymous as a donor.”
“I want to meet you. Where are you right now?”
There was more silence. “I…I…I…am in a car…on Constitution Avenue.”
“Right here in Washington, D.C?”
“Can you please meet me by the Washington Monument? It will be hard to miss. I’m returning from the airport after picking up a friend. I can be there in 20 minutes.” For half a minute, she could hear nothing but his heavy breathing punctuated by noisy cars and blaring sirens. “Please…sir.”
“...All right. If you insist.”
“How will I know you?”
“I’ll be wearing dark-rimmed glasses, a beige suit, and carrying a black case. I use a cane and walk with a limp.”
Hearing about the limp, Sam felt a stab in her heart, but she didn’t let it dampen her excitement. Before she could say anything, he had hung up.
Richard spoke just then. “Now I can tell you that I too have found my donor father and have spoken to him on the phone several times. I didn’t want to tell you before you found yours, so you wouldn’t feel bad.”
But Sam didn’t answer him. She was preoccupied with conjuring up all kinds of images of the upcoming encounter. She was hearing her father’s shaky, jerky voice, with the words stammering out of his mouth.
“He told me that it would not be a good idea for us to meet.” Richard spoke again, but Sam barely heard him, as if he were speaking from the other side of a tunnel. “You’re lucky you’re meeting yours. I’m happy for you.”
As they walked toward the tall monument, she could see men in every imaginable garb—probably all tourists—but not one wearing dark-rimmed glasses and a beige suit was in sight. Richard suggested that they walk around the monument, and they did—twice. Still, they didn’t see any sign of him. With the passage of every moment, Sam was getting more anxious. What if he changed his mind and decided not to see me, she fretted?
“That must be him,” Richard shouted at the same moment that she spotted him in the distance. A figure that fitted the description was limping towards the monument. With quickened steps, Sam rushed forward, leaving Richard behind. Many emotions rose and fell within her tender heart. When he got close, she was startled by the lack of any expression on his face.
“S…s…a…m?” he asked, as if her name set off his stutter.
“Yes, I’m Sam.”
“I’m the donor that you’ve been wanting to meet.”
“I’m so happy to meet you. Shall we go somewhere where we can visit? Talk? Do you mind?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. You were eager to see me and now you have…but now I must be going.”
“Why won’t you give her a little time?” Richard shouted from behind her.
“Because that wasn’t part of the deal…it wasn’t part of the agreement. All of that happened a long, long, time ago when I was a poor student and needed money to survive. I have a different life now…a wife, children, a home, a respectable job and a position in society. I have a lot to lose, if people come to know about this...”  He suddenly became quiet.  Staring at Richard, he asked, “And who would you be?”
Sam turned around and said, “I’m sorry. This is Richard. He just arrived from San Francisco. We met through the Tube Baby Association.”
“So, he is also a tube baby?” He paused and looking intently at Richard, said, “You’re not the Richard of San Francisco who has also tracked me down…and has been calling me day and night?”
“Oh, my God! Are you the one? I had no idea. What a coincidence!” Sam was stunned and shouted, “So, you’re Richard’s father, too?”
“No…sperm-donor! Let’s call a spade a spade. Now that you have both seen me, I should be going.” He turned around with quickened steps and limped away. They both stood there looking at his receding figure until it disappeared in the crowd.

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