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Clare, who had recently customized her name to Clear, asked me if I’d be willing to get her pregnant, if I would have sex with her sometime soon, not just j.o. in a beaker and hand it over, but go somewhere romantic, and be a playful, studly friend, and fuck her so she could have a kid that looked half like me. I was on an informal honeymoon in New York City with my wife Heather Yellopey. Miss Yellopey, as I sometimes like to call her, is an architect. She is painfully beautiful with bright blond hair, big curious eyes, and lips thick enough to climb on. At night when she pulls down her black panties and exposes her astonishing buttocks and declares in a mock baby-girl voice that she’s been bad and is ready for her spanking, I leap into action. Ooh, my cheeks are aflame, she has said on more than one occasion after her haunches have been walloped. The abovementioned Clare was an old friend from high school. We had sex a couple times by accident. Drunken staring matches, naked grab ass, someone’s face buried in the other person’s planetarium, mushy humping, out of sync-nothing dynamic. It always felt like what I imagined incest would be like. The familiarity was disturbing. We were pals. Our complexions were identical. Freckles everywhere. We even had them on our privates. Her ass was spotted. My dick. There you have it, inside and out.


     Adjusting your name a little bit to suit your truest incarnation didn’t necessarily seem like an overt sign of a deteriorating brain. The day after high school graduation Clare was on a plane to New York, escaping her oppressive, super-strict parents. She went from country bumpkin to rockstar’s sex slave in a matter of weeks. The junkie bass player of the Dimples introduced her to sex with rope, toys, and knives. We stayed in contact writing letters, the occasional phone call. When I got a postcard from her signing off as Clear, I assumed she was doing some female version of peace, later, out. I didn’t realize she meant Clear, like a glass of water; free from clouds, mist, or haze, i.e. this is who I am now.
     Clare’s name change wasn’t as disturbing as her insemination proposal. Heather and I met Clare for a lunchtime breakfast at a Ukrainian restaurant. The experience was normal except that the toilet in the men’s room was not in good working order. After flushing I charged out of the bathroom like a hunted animal. Everyone in the restaurant knew that I’d paid a short visit to hell.
“Don’t go in there,” I said to a bearded stranger walking toward me.

“I have to ask you something inappropriate.” She looked like she’d just peed on a Bible and wanted to do it again for the cameras.

     “Because it’s alive, and it’s coming this way.”
     Clare and I hadn’t seen each other in several years. She was still thin and muscly with bright orange hair. We threw our arms around each other for the big reunion. Then she turned to Heather.
     “Hi, I’m Clear.”
     “Hi Clear,” Heather said, in observance of Clare’s new name. They shook hands.
     We all sat down at a table. Heather and I held giant menus in front our faces, big laminated shields. Clare knew what she wanted to order. I wasn’t against her new name; I just couldn’t bring myself to say it.
     “Nice ring,” Clare said. “Your wedding ring. Very nice.”
     We both dropped our menus.
     “Thank you,” Heather said, genuinely touched by the compliment.
     “How come you don’t have a ring, sailor?” Clare asked.
     “Because I have ugly fingers.”
     “What? No you don’t!” Clare and Heather said in unison, and demanded proof.
     Both beauticians spent twenty seconds extolling the virtues of my fingers (Heather inspecting my right hand, Clare doting on the left), how each digit was either gentle, masculine, or both, each with the proper amount of hair, wrinkles, etcetera. Fascinating stuff.
     While the girls poked their way through delicate lentil salads with endive, goat cheese and tomato, I lowered my jaw to the table and swallowed my usual gargantuan portion of three over-easy eggs, home fries, kielbasa, sauerkraut, pierogi with apple sauce and sour cream, toast, juice, and coffee. I wanted to show my appreciation for being alive by eating a lot.
     We walked several heroic blocks through the big macho city, striding across the concrete, focused and determined like the other speed-walkers, with a specific goal in mind, a bookstore. In Manhattan if you don’t walk swiftly, aggressive pedestrians bump you from the left and right, and once you’ve fallen to the ground you are trampled underfoot, and robbed. Another secret to this East Coast streetwalking thing, never doubt your path. Plow straight ahead, do not falter. Once you hesitate you are on the ground, bleeding, a waffle print on your face. Clare, Heather, and I marched up Second Avenue. There was no attempt at conversation. I take that back. The girls spoke but I was oblivious to the content. I had the responsibility of protecting everybody. I concentrated on the ebb and flow of civilians. Clare led us to this gigantic used-book store called the Strand that had an onion-y mildew smell with a little dead body thrown in. I’d never seen so many people in a bookstore at the same time. Every aisle had multiple bodies in it. New Yorkers bought books more aggressively than desperate people in breadlines demanding a loaf. A pile of heavily clothed bodies entered The Strand, checking bags and backpacks, while an exiting dozen were lined up by the register throwing down big bills for armloads of books. Three minutes in, Clare hit me with the question.
     “I have to ask you something inappropriate.” She looked like she’d just peed on a Bible and wanted to do it again for the cameras. Her chin was tucked down and her eyes half rolled back. She smiled like a murderous clown.
     “Really? What?”
     “Never mind.” We were standing between Art History and Holocaust Studies. “I’ll talk to you about it later,” she said. “On the phone. Maybe in a letter. Maybe never.”
     “Tell me now.” Hitler’s Willing Executioners was inches from my blue-ribbon fingers. “You can’t build up to this and say some other time.”
     “Yes I can.” She liked that she had me.

In an ideal world it would’ve been great to say, How many kids do you want? Meet me in the bathroom in five minutes.

     I scanned the store for my beloved. A gloomy, disheveled-looking male employee crept through an aisle, pushing a cart of books. Miss Yellopey was out of ear- or eyeshot, hunting for books on gardening. I wanted to hear the inappropriate thing.
     I know I’ll get her exact wording wrong but it went something like this: I’d like to have your child, or, I’d like to have a baby with you, or, I want to have your baby. This was followed by another horrifyingly passionate I-dare-you stare. The delirious smile was gone. Clare was a girl with a sense of humor who never actually said funny things herself. She laughed a lot. At this moment she was as serious as a war monument.
     “You’re blushing,” she said.
     I felt my face. It did feel warm.
     I looked around the store but I couldn’t see anything; a little hysterical blindness in effect. All the books and shelves and people blurred into a brown speckled mass. Then she kissed me on the cheek. Charlie Sperm Bank and his adoring fans. A perverse wave of flattery poured over me. In an ideal world it would’ve been great to say, How many kids do you want? Shouldn’t be a problem. Meet me in the bathroom in five minutes. A cartoon image of two oak barrels creaking from the weight of too much hollandaise flashed in my head.
     “Think about it,” she said. “You don’t have to tell me now. Also, you don’t have to worry about being the father or anything like that. I mean, you don’t have to do anything else. I’ll raise him myself.”
     “What?” I was losing it, fast. “I’m going to browse a little bit, okay?”
     I wandered to the opposite end of the store, into the farthest corner. She’d already picked out a sex. She said him. Miss Yellopey, looking like a lemon tart, sat in a chair reading. The model citizen. I swallowed and then worried she could hear the swallow booming out of my throat. The man with something to hide.
     Clare didn’t ask me to be romantic and go to a hotel with champagne and flowers. Those were ideas generated by the good people at Terrible Imagination, Inc., otherwise known as my sick head, an evil organism that’s all too eager to fill in the blanks, add lots of water and gory details. The second I heard Clare say your baby, I was the reluctant star in a gigolo movie. Maybe Clare actually said beaker, test tube, or Petri dish, and I didn’t hear her because I always shut down the system when stricken with fear. Didn’t I just get married? Call me deranged but I think having babies with my wife is a better idea. Making a child via masturbation sounds like trouble.
     “Father, tell me about it. How was I conceived?”
     “Well, son, I rented Cocksmokers 3 and whacked for thirty minutes until the nastiest blowjob in human history came into view. I splashed down somewhere near the slo-mo hair-pulling sequence.”
     Maybe I’d feel less terrible if she had discussed the proposal with Heather.
     “Yo sista,” Clare says in fantasy #2, late at night, behind the meat-packing plant. “Give me some of that sperm. I want a baby now.” She and Heather are toe to toe, in rival gangs. It’s a very tense situation. “I dream about babies every night. I needs one. I feel it here.” She rubs her torso. “I want an infant to slurp milk from my puppies.”
     “Sorry girlfriend, no sperm-distribution program in my house,” Heather says as she swivels her neck side to side, doing the palsied chicken. “Try Brooklyn Cryobank. I hear their donors are put through a rigorous screening process. My husband’s sperm, you hear me, bitch, my HUSBAND’S sperm will never parachute into your twat.”
     Clare had lots of boyfriends ­ the guy with the target tattooed on the back of his shaved head, for example, Corlis Whitepie ­ he’d make an excellent father. Clare was thirty-nine, newly divorced, a late-blooming recent graduate of Columbia, studying psychology ­ volunteering at Bellevue, curing the insane. I’m certain she’d be an inspired mother.
     This is how I thought it through if you can call it that, privately, inside my soggy, lackadaisical head. I didn’t want to have this conversation with anyone, not Clare, Heather, nobody. Except maybe the boys at my neighborhood bar.
     “So, how as New York?”
     “Not bad. A runway model cornered me in a bookstore and asked me to inseminate her.”
     “She used the word inseminate? Was she German?”
     “Irish. Billions of freckles. Orange hair. Very hot. Has that ever happened to you?”
     “Hell, yes. Chicks are always demanding sperm, and not just for baby-making. All the women at Dean Witter wear little vials of it around their necks. They use it as a spirit conduit to communicate with Kurt Cobain and other dead hotties.”

My felony-craving offspring looks a little like Clare
and I with tattoos.

     I couldn’t bring myself to tell Clare no. I didn’t have it in me to even ask for a little time to think about it. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I wandered the aisles of the Strand and continued to fold in on myself. This had “shitty soap opera” written all over it.
When Heather tapped me on the elbow and asked if I was ready to leave I did my best to utter a nonchalant, Black Forest, Ja.
     I don’t want to hand over the goo to an old high school friend so that in twenty years my son will one day seek me out, weapon in hand, and annihilate my face. Maybe that’s an appropriate scenario, something I deserve. In the hospital my son and I have a peaceful reunion, as he apologizes for partially maiming me.
     “Hey, Pop, sorry to cut you up like that. I was pissed. Lost control. No hard feelings, right?”
     “I can’t really talk . . . too painful,” I try to say. “All these bandages . . . “
     My felony-craving offspring looks a little like Clare and I with tattoos, multiple piercings, a Fu Manchu growing near his mouth and a lot of scar tissue by the eyes. He’s a bouncer at The Roxy, and he’s taking acting lessons.
     “It was good to meet you, son. Good luck with your life. I’m not pressing charges.”
     Clare, if you’re reading this, sorry to take so long getting back to you, but I’m ready to answer. I’ve slept on it for five years. I cannot have children. Every time I close my eyes, my friendly little mind makes up another terrible story and frightens itself. Sorry not to be the donor-gigolo-stud you had in mind. My sperm is best used for spraying on bellies, backbones, and foreheads, for rubbing on rag paper, for finger painting. 

Excerpted from the story collection Headless (Akashic Books).
To buy this book, click here.


©2004 Benjamin Weissman and

Benjamin Weissman is the author of Dear Dead Person. He has written for various art and ski magazines, including Artforum, Freeze, Frieze, Parkett and Powder. A professor at Art Center College of Design and Otis College of Art, Weissman lives in Los Angeles.