Vas Deferens, Bears & Jacob:
Why I Listen To My Children Breathe

Photo by Seniju
Vas Deferens, Bears & Jacob:
Why I Listen To My Children Breathe by Jesse Goolsby

Just to be sure, I give it fifteen times then head back to the clinic. No jokes as I hand the sample over. Nine hours later: “All clear. You’re good to go.”

One of the identical twins that used to lure prospects to Nephi now works for the Forest Service. On a recent trip home I run into him on Main Street. He’s a shouter.

“Remember Nephi?” I ask.

“Dude was crazy! Cra-zy! I mean, anything, man!”

I tell him about my operation, the doc’s bear quote, Boy Scout camp.

“First of all, screw Yosemite!” he says. “They’re still sending us their crap. Second, you’re wrong. Bears will eat you, man! Why wouldn’t they? It doesn’t matter. Black bear, Griz, little bear, big bear, whatever. If it’s hungry it’s going to feed! I’ve seen ‘em eat metal! They’re sure as shit eating a person. That doc was right, man. She was right!”

A pause.

“Oh,” I say, but it sounds like, “Oooooohhh.”

For the record, I’ve only fainted once: after giving blood. I had just stood up when the world went dark. I woke up to someone tapping my cheek, saying, “Breathe. Breathe.” They gave me low-grade orange juice and sent me on my way.

Since then, I never look when they stick the needle in.

Every now and then, Sarah will be out somewhere with our three kids and I find myself home alone. I revel in the arresting silence—a few minutes of precious peace. But when they’re late getting home with no call, no text, my mind allows about an hour cushion, and then begins the murmurs of worst-case what-ifs. The whole scene flashes by: the dreaded call, auto accident, mass funeral, depression, insurance money, survival guilt, changing everything, moving (would I have to move? yes, definitely), different career, different clothes, new music, keep the photos, and later, me dating or not, the guilt accompanying either option, a second try at a family, reverse vasectomy?—and I can’t help but take note of everything around me.

I track the physical details of the moment, possibly the last where my world remains intact, the smells, the weather, and it’s all too much and I feel lightheaded, but then the garage door grumbles open and they all saunter in screaming at one another. Sarah simply forgot to turn her phone on again.

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Jesse Goolsby is the author of the novel I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). His work has appeared in Narrative, Epoch, The Literary Review, The Greensboro Review, Redivider, and the Best American series. He is the nonfiction editor at The Southeast Review.