A Fertility Tale Pt. 03

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3. Return to Pandemos

When Richard Pratt took stock of his fertility venture, he was amazed; it had done even better than he thought. A simple spreadsheet built from bank statements and emails showed that R. Aries and John Doe accounted for at least seventy pregnancies. That didn’t include women such as Frenchie in the trench coat, the Italians, or the flings that predated Gloria Harbison. He didn’t even know if the flings had wound up pregnant, but why would they not? Impressive as the pregnancy record was, the cash in his Swiss bank account was even more astounding.

Nevertheless, he was gloomy and thought he might be depressed. By all appearances, he was on his way to becoming a decent architect, maybe a good one. But he had no girlfriend, no social life, and no prospects. He had had many partners, it was true, but they were one-offs. R. Aries did women who could afford him while John Doe did the charity cases, but every one of the women had a partner of her own. He had none. All he did, he told himself bitterly, was plow the field so someone else could plant the seed. Field after field after field. He had met plenty of young, smart, funny female designers and architects, but he knew very well that a serious relationship with Richard Pratt was out of the question — it was simply too dangerous. No one who did not want to be pregnant should even think about it, so he didn’t either, except when he did.

He considered seeing a therapist and even got a referral but couldn’t imagine describing his bizarre affairs to a therapist. He decided that to ever be normal, he had to quit the fertility game, but even that wouldn’t be enough: he had to get ‘fixed.’ Someone — Dr. Bancroft, Dr. Ellakis, or Yia-yia — had to figure out how to cure his condition.

Eleni had become convinced that Yia-yia could do it, but also that she had no desire to do so, and the topic died. Later Richard raised it again to ask if it involved somehow lowering the temperature of his testicles, an idea planted by Dr. Ellakis. Eleni seemed puzzled that he would think that. She explained that Yia-yia had been working on the vomiting problem. Unfortunately, everything that stopped the vomiting also made the hyper-fertility effect go away. Eleni’s theory was that if Richard took another treatment, the no-vomit treatment, there was a good chance it would undo the fertility effect and make him normal again.

In a follow-up email, Richard told Eleni he might be in Rome for a conference in April and was thinking maybe he should come to Pandemos for a weekend afterward. What did she think? Could she convince Yia-yia to reverse it? Eleni replied that he was welcome, of course. Yia-yia wanted to see him and so did her uncles (she neglected to mention herself). But she warned him that Tony and Thad only wanted to pitch a business proposal, and that convincing Yia-yia would be difficult. Why would she agree to undo her proudest achievement?

He contacted Penny Ellakis to ask for one last meeting. After that, John Doe was going to disappear. He felt guilty about it, so he froze three samples of semen to leave with her, to use as she saw fit. She was on her maternity leave when they met at a midtown Starbucks. Richard carried an insulated lunch bag that contained ice packs and frozen specimen cups. Penny Ellakis arrived with her husband and twin boys in tow. Penny pushed a stroller with one baby; John carried the other in a Snugli. John and Richard shook hands genially, then Penny kissed her husband and turned the stroller over to him. He left with a wave. Afterward Richard asked, “Does he know about me?”

Penny nodded. “Just the basics. He knows you helped somehow. Nothing more.”

“Um…the kids look great. Congratulations.”

“Thanks. Jacob and Jeremy,” she said with maternal satisfaction. “They’re a handful. I’m glad you got to meet them.” She waited for him to open the conversation.

Richard faltered. “I wanted to tell you I’m stopping. John Doe is going out of business.” She did not seem surprised. He handed her the lunch bag. “I thought you might have use for some final specimens. They’re frozen.”

“Frozen? How? Like in your refrigerator?” Richard nodded. She accepted the bag but looked concerned. “I should get these to the lab. They need to be, like, really frozen, correctly. How old are they?”

“A few days. The newest was yesterday.”

Penny did not want to seem rude or ungrateful but was suddenly intent on getting to her cryogenic equipment and anxiously wondered if she should check a specimen under the microscope or simply rush them all to the freezer. She decided on the latter and pulled out her phone to call a ride, then called someone else to tell them ‘Get ready’ — she was coming in with specimens. When she hung up, she said, “Look, I’m sorry, but I need to get these in a real freezer ASAP, okay?”

Richard could tell she did not want to linger. As they waited for her ride, he asked, “Have you thought any more about my condition? You said it might go lezbiyen seks hikayeleri away if we could, you know, lower the temperature…”

In her hurry, Penny Ellakis was matter of fact. “I don’t know. Maybe an antipyretic would help. You could try ibuprofen to start, but don’t get your hopes up.” Then she scolded him gently, “You didn’t give me a chance to study anything. It’s not as simple as an ice pack on the testicles.” She began a brisk lecture. “Spermatozoa are very sensitive to temperature. The scrotum is like built-in air conditioning. When the testicles get cold, they ascend into the body to warm up; when they’re too warm they descend into the scrotum to cool off. If you apply an ice pack, they might just run away, up into the body, which would defeat the purpose. So, I don’t know, but ice packs are impractical. Even if it worked, you couldn’t live with it 24/7. And we don’t even know if the high temp is testicles or prostate or what.” Richard nodded without comment. He would never have expected to hear ‘scrotum’ and ‘air conditioning’ in the same sentence. After Ellakis left in her car he walked back to SoHo dejectedly. It appeared that Yia-yia was his only option and he rechecked his tickets to Rome and Paphos.

Rome was Rome: old, crowded, noisy, varied, seductive, mysterious, alluring, eternal. He avoided the official conference hotel and for the same price rented a studio near the Piazza del Popolo. After attending two days of boring sessions, he decided fuck it and spent the rest of his time walking the city. Trajan’s Forum was more interesting than Sustainability: Ancient and Modern Perspectives, which sounded, frankly, like bullshit.

He landed in Cyprus with misgivings. It had been a long time since his first visit to Pandemos and he had no plan for persuading Yia-yia, though he knew he probably needed one. His only new idea was to offer to pay her. Even a fraction of the sum in his Swiss account was substantial, but nothing had suggested Yia-yia was interested in money.

A chauffer met him at the airport with a sign seeking ‘R. Pratt.’ In the picturesque village below the resort, he was handed off to a staff member with a golf cart. At Pandemos, which looked as prosperous and inviting as ever, and much less crowded in April, there was no check-in. Two more staff whisked him and his luggage to a neat bungalow. Its windows were open, and a slight breeze stirred the curtains. The afternoon view, no surprise, was superb. It practically forced one to relax. Immediately after the porters left with their tips, Leni knocked.

“Hey! I heard there was an American on the property,” she said peppily and advanced to peck his cheek. “Welcome back.” They grasped each other’s arms in a friendly greeting — warmer than a handshake, but less so than a hug. Richard smiled as they looked one another over. “Nice to see you, Leni. And nice to be back.”

“Yeah, same!” She thought about playing the hostess and showing him his amenities — it was one of their best cottages — but decided he would figure it out on his own. The place was compact, but well equipped, with a kitchenette and a sitting area in addition to the king bed, luxury bath, and walk-in closet. Sliding doors led to a small patio with a hot tub for two, more seating and, of course, the view.

He had missed lunch, but Leni said she would make sure he got something if he needed it, just let her know. Right away, she asked if he would be willing to spend some time with Yia-yia before the banquet.


“Well, it’s sort of a party for the whole resort. You should be flattered — you’re the guest of honor. Really, it’s Thad and Tony showing off, trying to impress you. They figured they might as well impress the rest of the guests while they’re at it.”

“When does Yia-yia want to meet?”

“She won’t hang around for the party so, soon — whenever you’re ready. Half an hour? Unless you need lunch. I’ll swing by.”

Richard wasn’t sure what to expect, but he needed to see Yia-yia. No sense waiting. They met in her modest makeshift office off the bar. She welcomed him warmly (just like a grandmother, he thought), and smiled her approval as she looked him over. Such a nice boy! Eleni stayed to translate. They all sat and Yia-yia began her questions, which were clinical. At first, Richard was a bit put off by them but soon decided he could trust her. Yia-yia was smart and curious and her questions were obviously sensible. First, of course, how many women had he done? He gave her his estimate but couldn’t tell if she was impressed. [Eleni was.] What did he know about them? How many had become pregnant? [Most, perhaps all of them — he wasn’t 100% sure.] What else did he know? How old were they? Did they have real problems conceiving, or were they just impatient? Had their fertility been evaluated? What did he know about their diagnoses? What else had they tried before coming to Richard? What about their cycles? Their last period before having sex with him? How long until they became pregnant? How many had twins? Any triplets? Unexpected problems? Premature labor? Preeclampsia? How many had returned seeking second babies? [She predicted they would, and Richard silently groaned — he hadn’t thought about it, but she was probably right; it made sense.]

As the conversation proceeded, Richard found himself more and more interested. Clearly, Yia-yia wasn’t just some granny from the hills dabbling in home remedies; she knew a lot about fertility. More, it seemed to him, than Dr. Bancroft, for example. After a while, her questions shifted from the women to Richard himself. By then he didn’t mind their personal nature. How often did his eggs hurt? Only after intercourse, or at other times as well? What other symptoms had he experienced? Unusual aches or pains? Was he ever lightheaded after sex? Did he have headaches? Sweats? Palpitations? Shortness of breath? How long after sex did his eggs hurt? How long did it take him to become erect again? What did the women say about it? [She seemed completely unsurprised that they all thought his semen was ‘boiling.’] Did he take any medications? How much did he drink? Had a doctor analyzed his ejaculate? He summarized what Dr. Ellakis had told him about it without revealing that she had inseminated herself. [And come to think of it, damn, he had inadvertently left Ellakis’s twins out of his spreadsheet.] Had this New York doctor written a report? Could Yia-yia see it? Was there anything else unusual about his semen, besides temperature? Volume? Color? Odor? Consistency?

Eventually, she asked about the sex act itself, which did embarrass Richard a little, mostly because Eleni was listening and translating. How long after penetration before he ejaculated? Did he remain erect afterward? In what position did they copulate? How many times? Here Richard thought the questions might have gone too far, though Yia-yia’s interest seemed anything but prurient. He allowed that he was generally behind the woman but added that he thought it really didn’t matter. He admitted the sex was somewhat rough…

Eleni raised an eyebrow before translating and asked, “Rough?”

Richard blushed. “Well…you know, vigorous.” Eleni did not comment further and went on translating. Richard wondered whether she’d translated ‘vigorous’ or ‘rough.’

Finally, Eleni cautiously informed him that Yia-yia would like to examine him. Because she had, you know, examined him before and, well, now she wanted to see what had changed.

Richard cleared his throat and said, “I don’t think we need that. Just tell her I want her to reverse her treatment. Can she do that?”

Eleni translated faithfully but Yia-yia dodged the question. She admonished him in Greek while gently shaking a finger at him, then began collecting her notes as Eleni translated. “She says you should be grateful. You’ve been given a wonderful gift. You can be rich if you want.” It appeared the interview was over. Yia-yia did not shake his hand but, again like the grandmother she was, patted his arm.

Richard said, “You can thank her for the gift, but please tell her I didn’t ask for it. And I’d really like her to undo it.” Eleni translated, but Yia-yia had turned mute. She smiled inscrutably and waited for them to leave. As he left, Richard said to her, “Please think about it.” Leaving Yia-yia’s office, he saw the staff setting up tables, cloths, chairs, and flowers near the bar and pool.

At the start of the banquet Leni introduced Richard to her uncles. Tony and Thad were smartly dressed and made an elaborate fuss, welcoming him with handshakes, back pats, and avuncular greetings. The next time he looked for Eleni, though, he didn’t see her. Though she hadn’t left, she intended to stay out of sight. She expected her uncles to put on a gaudy show and didn’t want Richard to think she was part of it. For that matter, she didn’t want her uncles to think so either. She would catch up with him later.

As the sun set, the staff lit candles and tiki torches. Here and there a fire pit crackled. A couple of musicians performed off to one side; a middle-aged woman played classical Spanish guitar and a younger woman, who might have been her daughter, accompanied softly on a flute-like pipe. The bar opened. Food appeared. There were passed hors d’oeuvres and self-serve tables with warm trays of wonderful, aromatic food. Everyone seemed happy.

Tony and Thad made sure Richard had a drink, then another, and took turns walking him about the property. They were unabashedly proud of Pandemos. He learned about the building materials, the construction challenges (including exorbitant bribes they’d been obliged to pay), the phases of their several expansions, and their plans for further improvements. Tony walked him onto an adjacent undeveloped parcel, far enough to show him an outcropping over a steep grade from where the view was unimpeded — it practically floated over the Mediterranean. Tony told him their Greek name for it: I Théa. “We haven’t built here yet because it’s fucking expensive — too steep. But we will. You can see why,” he said with a sweep of his arm. “But it has to be done right. We didn’t want to do it before we could afford it.”

Richard drank little but loved the food. It was unbelievably good — its like was unavailable even in New York. As he refilled his small plate he wondered if it was the same Bulgarian chef. As the guests began retreating to their rooms, many approached Tony or Thad with thanks and polite compliments about the party. The brothers magnanimously insisted that the pleasure, the honor, was theirs — they hoped that Pandemos would never disappoint. As Richard likewise looked to excuse himself, Tony and Thad graciously wished him goodnight. They advised him to sleep late, enjoy the morning, perhaps take a walk (would he like suggestions for trails?) and they would see him again after lunch. Richard thanked them and returned to his cottage. As he quit the thinning gathering, he scanned it once more for Leni but did not see her, which was puzzling and disappointing.

His cottage was stuffy. He opened the entry door and the slider after switching on a light, then slipped off his jacket. He had no cell service, but the Wi-Fi was good, and he checked for messages, ostensibly from the office, but he was hoping for something from Leni. Why had she vanished?

As he scrolled, a woman appeared in the open door and knocked lightly on the frame. She wore a knee-length shirt dress of off-white linen with a colorful shawl around her shoulders. Her red-blonde hair was pulled back and held in place by combs. Her jewelry was expensive but not gaudy, and her smile was friendly, almost mischievous. Richard had noticed her at the party, but they hadn’t spoken. In one hand she held a bottle by the neck; her sandals dangled from the other. “Yoo hoo. Hi neighbour,” she said with a grin. “I’m hunting for martini glasses. Any joy?” The accent was British upper class. She stepped into the room and held up her bottle. “I think I’ve found the only gin on the whole bloody island. I don’t suppose you have glasses. And vermouth. And ice and olives?” She cocked an eyebrow invitingly. “I’ll make us martinis…”

Just then, Eleni appeared in the open slider. She, too, carried a bottle. She started to speak, but stopped when she saw the Englishwoman, and her smile evaporated. The other woman was elegant, Eleni realized with sudden embarrassment, while she herself looked like a fucking bartender. Richard turned from one to the other, at a loss for words. Eleni broke the silence with an icy apology. “Excuse me. I didn’t mean to interrupt.” Furious but calm, she set her bottle on a table and left. On her way out she said, “Just can’t help yourself, can you, Richard?” And was gone.

Richard stared at Leni’s bottle, at the empty slider she had exited, and finally at his English visitor. To her credit, the refined lady said, “Oops. My mistake. I hope you’re not in too much trouble.” And she slipped out with her gin.

Richard closed both doors. Shit. He picked up the bottle Eleni had left. There was no label. He pulled the cork and sniffed. Zivania. Damn. He left it on the table and went to look for her. She wasn’t at the bar. Not on the patio, not in the dining room. Where had she gone? He went by her room — his old room, once upon a time. He knocked but the room was silent. Defeated, he gave up and returned to his cottage.

He couldn’t text on his non-Cyprus phone, so he sent her an email. “Leni, can we talk? Where are you?”

After a while he sent a second message. “I didn’t invite her, Leni. She’s gone. Nothing happened.”

Still no response. So, another email: “I’ve never seen her before. Tony or Thad must have sent her. It was nothing.”

Finally, he wrote, “Leni, I’m sorry. Talk?” He decided she was deliberately avoiding him.

She was. Eleni sat in her darkened room, fuming. She had no intention of answering the knocks she knew were Richard’s. She read his emails as they appeared, then reread them, and her anger began to dissipate. Still, she resisted replying. She knew he was telling the truth. It was entirely possible her uncles had sent the Brit (her name was Diana Simon and Eleni had once liked her), or maybe the Brit had found Richard on her own. Richard seemed to attract women. Fuck! Then again, who cared? What was the point? She had to face the fact that nothing perfect, nothing magical, nothing even good was going to happen. Yia-yia was going to say ‘no’ to Richard. Richard was going to say ‘no’ to Thad and Tony. No one — least of all Eleni Vitalis — was going to get what they wanted. Richard would leave. He would go back to merrily fucking the world’s richest women and she would never see him again. It was all shit. What started as anger became sad despair.

Back in his cottage, Richard poured a finger of Eleni’s Zivania and sat with it, depressed. He recalled the first time she had given it to him — This is old Zivania, the real thing. Where was she now? He sipped until the glass was empty and, surprisingly, resisted the urge to drink himself to sleep.

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