We decided to donate our eggs. She was older than me by three years. We met in an alley at a party. She was smoking and I asked to bum one, then I smoked four more. We finished the pack and bought another. She was the first girl I ever kissed. It was outside a Sunoco, next to pump number four. We kissed enough that I thought she might be my girlfriend, and one time I said, Yeah my girlfriend does the same thing, in a conversation with this guy bagging my bagel at DD, but then she stopped kissing me and I took the girl off of girlfriend to avoid confusion. We moved in together last year. Got a studio near the beach. Would drink champagne and watch the waves roll in. It always made me feel like I was in a movie, with the boom of the water crumpling into the sand, the stars like beads above us, her saliva still slick on the mouth of the bottle. It was the only time I ever had. There was a night down there that she told me she was looking into getting out. She was looking into this commune in New Zealand called Rainbow Valley. She said she wasn’t sure what she was doing here. She said she was talking to this guy she met at yoga, and he was telling her about purpose, asking her what she thought hers was, and she turns to me, her hair damp, her eyeliner smudged, her lips chapped, her looking absolutely beautiful, and she says, “I need to fucking find it.”
So we’re donating our eggs to find her purpose. We filled out this form online. We made our appointments. We maxed out our credit cards and booked a flight to New Zealand. She put her hand on mine as she clicked submit. She said, “Holy shit holy shit holy fucking shit we’re going to do it, yeah?” But I knew she wasn’t looking for me to answer. We got a confirmation email for the flight and then one for our first appointment. She started reading it out loud. “Okay so it says we have to have our blood drawn and do some kind of transvaginal ultrasound, whatever the fuck that means.” Then she turned to me and said, “Hey are you scared?” I shook my head no, but I was. I really, really was. “Yeah me neither, it’ll be so worth it, ya know?” She leaned in and put her head on my shoulder. “It’s going to be so so worth it. Do you want to go out tonight? To celebrate? We should do something.”
So we did something. And at 4AM I carried her under her arms for six blocks back to our place. When we got to the front door she refused to go in. She kept stomping her feet and swinging her arms. After awhile she collapsed at my feet on the doormat and I curled up beside her, my fingers tangled in her hair, and we fell asleep. We were woken by the mail carrier, in an attempt to step over us to do his job. I nudged her and the mail carrier apologized and I told him not to worry. When she wouldn’t stand up he asked me if I needed help getting her inside. I wondered if he knew what his purpose was. I wondered if he knew anyone that had donated eggs before. I wondered if he liked delivering mail. He was the final step in getting something from one place to another. I wondered what that felt like. I told him I we would appreciate his help and he took her under the arms like I had the night before, but it was easier for him than it was for me. I figured a lot of things were. We got her to the door and he asked me if we were okay. I said no, but that we would be. We would be, wouldn’t we? He pulled a slip of paper from his pocket. It was the address of a church with the sermon times listed below it. He smiled and said, Have a nice day. For a second I wondered if maybe we could find our purpose there.
We decided to stop at the diner on our way to the doctor’s office. I watched her reapply lipstick across from me in the booth. There was a nick of it on her front tooth but I didn’t say anything. We ordered pancakes and hash, she ate the pancakes and I ate the hash. When we were done she asked if I could get the check, said she was going to be broke until Friday. She went outside while I paid and I saw her leaning against the building with a cigarette dangling from her lips, she had her sunglasses on and had pushed her hair back behind her ears. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to sell my eggs. I didn’t want to move to New Zealand. I didn’t want to live in a commune. But I wanted her, and that felt like it was worth everything else.
After we signed in they told us to take a seat. She put her hand on my knee and we focused on the TV in the corner, blaring something about an accident on the highway. Then she turns to me and says, “Hey how many people do you think die a day?” I told her I wasn’t sure, but that we could probably Google it. She shrugged, “Yeah but like I don’t want to know the exact statistic, I want to know what you think.” I asked her why that mattered and she told me it was a way to gauge my pessimism. I wondered why she didn’t say optimism instead. A woman opened the door and called her in first. She asked if we could go together and the woman shook her head no. I kept my eyes on the TV. They said three were dead and one was in critical condition. I wondered what the alive one did for a living. If they liked jazz. If they hated going to the doctors. What their dream vacation was. A different woman opened the door and called my name. I stood up and walked towards her, keeping my eyes on the TV. The last image I saw was a picture of the survivor as a kid, she was sitting at one of those plastic little tikes tables with a birthday hat on. I couldn’t tell if it was her birthday or somebody else’s. The woman took my weight and told me to sit down so she could take my blood. I watched her put the needle in, paid attention to the pain and amplified it so I could feel what the survivor is feeling. What that little girl in the birthday hat is experiencing as she’s poked and prodded and brought back from whatever tried to take her away. I wanted to ask the nurse if she felt good being a nurse. What hurting people to save them felt like. I thought maybe that’s what I’ve always needed to do.
Once our eggs were mature we returned to the doctor for retrieval. We knew how it was going to go. We did a lot of research online. We got our next-door neighbor to drive us. His name was Henry and he was sixty-five. He lived alone with a pet parakeet. Sometimes he would put the parakeet in a plastic basket inside a mesh laundry bag and bring him to the grocery store. His car smelled like uncooked hot dogs and there were parakeet pellets all over the floor. We sat in the backseat together and she held my hand. The whole ride there I thought about how it was going to feel to have them sucked out of me. They said it would only take twenty to thirty minutes, that they would do it vaginally with some special kind of needle. They said we would need a few hours to recover, and that they would try to put us in the same room. When we got in the waiting room we signed in and sat down. She was shaking. I said, It’s going to be okay. Think about the future. Think about all the things we’ll be able to do. She said, “I’m going to have a baby.” She said, “I can’t do this.” She stood up but stayed in place. Her knees were wobbling. Her arms were covered in goosebumps. She turned around and met my eyes. She said, “Are you going to do this?” Then she paused and said, “Will you do this?”
So I did it. She brought me a package of Famous Amos cookies from the vending machine in the cafeteria. She sat in bed with me and we ate them. She said, “I love you.” But I knew she didn’t mean it. It was raining. She texted Henry and told him he could head back to pick us up. She didn’t ask me how I felt. She didn’t ask me if it hurt. She didn’t ask me anything. We watched re-runs of Friends until a nurse came in and told us he was here. On the way home she sat in the front seat. Henry squawked about traffic and what he was making for dinner and some new game show he was really getting into. Rain pooled on the lip of the window. I stared at the back of her head the whole way home. When we were inside I took off my clothes and got into bed. She said, “So when do you get the money?” When I didn’t answer she asked again. Then she pulled out her suitcase and started packing. I told her it wasn’t going to be enough. I told her that now we were seven thousand dollars short, that our flights alone cost close to four. That we still needed to get from the airport to the commune and that we had to live. I told her that there was no way three thousand dollars was enough to live off of. Then she got mad and she said, “Well what the fuck are we supposed to do? I can’t do this I can’t do this I can’t do this. DO YOU FUCKING GET THAT?” She was in my face now, and she was screaming. She yelled, “I DON’T THINK YOU FUCKING DO. I’M GOING CRAZY HERE. I WANT TO DIE.” She kept repeating it, I want to die I want to die IwanttodieIwanttodieIwanttodie. She was running her hands through her hair and pulling, clumps coming out and falling to the hardwood. She ran into the kitchen, ripped open the cabinet doors, and started smashing the glassware on the floor. On the tenth glass she cut her hand on a shard and fell to the ground, blood streaming out onto her thighs. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t crying. She sat there in the remains of all the glasses we found together, at thrift shops and antique stores, from free boxes in the alleys behind our place, she sat there in the remains of what we’d built together, only a small part of it, but still a part, her hairline damp with sweat, her eyeliner blurred beneath her eyes, her lipstick faded, her looking like someone I’d never met before, her looking absolutely unrecognizable, a stranger, me thinking that I knew this, I’ve always known this, me thinking that right now, right here, this is it, this is the end. After a while she stood up and washed her hand off in the sink. She said, her voice muffled by the sound of running water, “You can just write me a check.” I pulled the blanket up to my neck. I said, Yeah, I know. She said, “You’ll know where to find me.”
A few years later we saw each other in the grocery store. Her hair was different and she had gained weight. We were in the frozen foods aisle, I saw her reflection in the glass. I wanted to turn around, I wanted to see her eyes. I wanted to ask her how long she’d been here. I wanted to ask her if she ever found what she was looking for. She knew it was me but she kept walking, and when she was about to round the corner I turned around and watched her go. It was the first time I ever had.