On Becoming a Man

by Marg Roberts


I wait on a hard seat holding Angélique’s hand. She is trembling, her teeth chatter even though it is a warm September afternoon.

I tell her, ‘Don’t worry. The result will be good. You see, we’ll have many babies.’

I don’t tell her that maman explained Angélique’s fallopian tubes might be blocked, that it sometimes happens. A simple operation will correct the problem.

After several minutes we are shown into the consulting room. All is white: walls, blinds, chairs, even the doctor’s coat. It is summer 1967. Love is in the air. Why do we walk into a morgue?

The doctor wears gloves although he has completed his physical examinations many weeks ago. We look for results of the tests. Angélique shivers in her blue dress with flowers and short skirt so I move my chair close to hers so she can benefit from my warmth. I am sweating and I unfasten the top button of my shirt.

‘It is nothing to worry about,’ I reassure. She leans forward in her seat, clinging to my hand.

I, who am normally silent, have an urge to chatter to ask if Angélique is not the most beautiful woman in the whole of France, to boast that though she had many suitors, it was me she chose.

When the doctor begins to describe the reproductive process, I pay no attention because we learned this first at école primaire and then at collège. Instead, through the window I watch pigeons fight over a piece of blossom. The tree burns with flower. Surely one will fly to another branch, but no.

‘So,’ the consultant taps his chin, ‘We have Madame Bonnemaison. I am happy that your tests are normal and of course I will send the results to your médecin généraliste.’

A flush touches Angélique’s cheeks and I want to kiss her, make love once more on the beach the moment we leave this terrible place.

‘The fallopian tubes?’ I ask. ‘Are they good?’

The consultant frowns. Maybe he thinks I do not know about such things though he’s out of touch if that is the case.

‘The situation for you, Monsieur, is not so fortunate. Your sperm count is abnormally low, which means…’

‘I am virile. My semen flows fast and there is much.’

‘Ten million sperm per millilitre of semen.’

He does not answer my, ‘Is that not enough?’

Angélique releases my hand. ‘What can be done?’  She sits tall, foot tapping.

‘It is unlikely that you will be able to conceive. One fifth of the male population…’

I spring from my chair. I have shrivelled to a small boy.

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