When the condom got stuck in the vending machine in the basement of his dorm and he grabbed one side and she grabbed the other—both of them just a little bit drunk, trying pointlessly to be quiet while getting ready to make a whole lot of noise, his body electrified with the prospect of imminent sex and who knows what occurring chemically within her—it occurred to him suddenly that none of this was happening, that neither of them was really there and that he was only an echo, my memory of myself, knocked loose by anxiety, by the roiling and churning blood in my brain as I pinched the skin of her belly between my fingers and slid in a syringe. She cried then, there in our bedroom, in the moment and not in the memory. It was painful. She’d done the smaller injections herself—poking them into the thick skin of her thigh, thumbing down the depressors, pulling the needles out and handing them to me. I was there for support. I swabbed the injection sites and collected the waste. But this shot was not like the others: the site was more sensitive, the syringe—full of hormones to trigger ovulation, which I imagined as a bloom unfurling—more severe. This one hurt. It would be worth it, I told her. It would be worth it, I told us both. If it doesn’t work, she said, I’m not sure I can go through all this again, and my brain flooded once more with hot blood. I returned to the memory of those two kids, their bodies flush, standing astride a basement vending machine, and I watched them rock that thing back and forth and back and forth until they got exactly what it was that they wanted.
Joe P. Squance is a writer and teacher in Oxford, Ohio. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Every Day Fiction, Juked, Monkeybicycle, Lost Balloon, Menacing Hedge, and elsewhere, and he has written essays for Salon, Runner’s World, Organic Life, Sinkhole, and Serious Eats. Find him lurking @JoeSquance.