“There may be a problem with your sperm.”
This was not the diagnosis Greenberg wanted to hear. He and Mrs. Greenberg had been trying to make a baby for the past two and a half years, since 1995. There were messy ovulation kits. Calendars. Vaginal thermometers. The tiny bathroom in their 3rd floor condominium could barely contain all the over-the-counter fertility paraphernalia.
And yet, for all their efforts, including the obligatory early morning schtupp, they had nothing to show for it. It was all a swing and a miss.
Mrs. Greenberg checked out fine. Her fallopian tubes were fallopianing. Her eggs were good, fertile eggs. And her plumbing system got the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
Her lady doctor, who had called for the couple to come in for a joint consultation, pointed the finger at Larry Greenberg. More accurately she pointed the finger towards the region below his belt.
His first trip to a gynecologist went exactly as he thought it might.
If two and a half years of fruitless fornicating didn’t make Greenberg self conscious about his virility, the accusatory sneer of his wife’s (clearly) lesbian doctor surely did. She handed him a business card and instructed him to set up an appointment right away.
“Let’s see what’s going on down there.”
Again she pointed to the area below his belt.
“Or, what’s not going on down there.”
Greenberg knew of the sperm banks discreetly located throughout the Westside of Los Angeles, but he had never been to one. When he first moved to California and took a room as a boarder at a UCLA fraternity house, he met some of the brothers who made a living at the local “whack shack.”
They never studied. They never worked. They drank beer and smoked pot. And had plenty of money to fuel their pastime. All they had to do was walk down Gayley Ave., past the Chabad House, engage in some hand-to-gland combat and collect a check. They invited Greenberg to accompany them on one of their masturbatory sojourns, but he preferred to earn his money the old fashioned way – slaving as a dishwasher at the local Straw Hat Pizza.
Now, 15 years later, against all odds, he found himself in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Medical Services Laboratory. As he filled out the bundle of paperwork attached to the clipboard, his mind wandered.
The rational side of his brain knew that behind the locked doors he would not find a harem of short-skirted, leggy nurses ready to assist him with the precious extraction.
On the other hand, he was in Beverly Hills, a city known to indulge its residents, and suspected the lab had gone to extraordinary lengths to provide a comfortable, even posh, environment that would yield the maximum payload.
He envisioned plush, microfiber couches in a secure dimly lit room. A room endowed with the world’s widest selection of pornographic stimuli. He even pictured a sleek, Japanese-designed custom electronic sleeve that would offer personalized, hands-free collection. The Tugatron 7000™.
All very conceivable for a sperm collection center located in one of the world’s richest zip codes.
But Greenberg was wrong on all counts. Nurse Ratchet -- he decided that was her name the second he saw her -- came to the reception area and called out his name.
“Laaaaary. Laaaarrrry Greenberg.”
She led him back behind a wall of clear acrylic that had the appearance and thickness of bulletproof glass. They zigzagged down a hallway lined with paintings, the kind of paintings you would only find in a medical laboratory hallway. The nurse opened the door to what looked to be a regular bathroom, an oversized regular bathroom with no special accommodations, with the exception of a tubular stainless steel handrail built to comply with the state’s code for the handicapped.
“Wash and dry your hands thoroughly. Then, get it all in the cup.”
“Wait, this must be a mistake,” he thought.
“And no lubricant. None,” she said before shutting the door behind her.
The room was exceedingly bright. The fluorescent light ricocheted off the cinder block walls. Dimensionally, it was not that far off from the standard two-person jail cell one might find at Folsom or San Quentin. There was nothing but a sink, a toilet, an all-aluminum table chair and a long narrow table that spanned the length of the tiny room.
Atop the table, there were three magazines.
They didn’t put a lot of thought into the design of this room. Nor did they seem to consider its rather unique function. But at least they had the foresight to provide something in the way of visual stimulation.
Suddenly there was the roar of a toilet flush from the bathroom on the other side of the cinder blocks.
Greenberg looked at the three magazine covers spaced evenly across the long table.
U.S. News & World Report
Harvard Business Review
One part of Larry Greenberg wanted to scream. The other, more sensible part of Larry knew that screaming would draw unwarranted attention and in effect say, “I can’t make babies. Something is going on with my little men. So now I’m in a refurbished janitor’s closet where they want me to dry hump myself into a little plastic cup!”
He didn’t want to do that.
He locked the door. And then he threw the deadbolt into place. The last thing he needed was some overly inquisitive lab technician with a corridor key to accidentally walk in on him while he was flying solo.
He yanked about a dozen and a half paper towels from the dispenser above the sink, crumpled them up, wet them down, and stuffed them in the crevice between the bottom of the door and the floor stop. His mind raced with ugly possibilities. Somebody could be walking in the hallway, drop their car keys or a quarter, bend over to pick it up, peer through the crack under the door and spot Greenberg solus in flagrante delecto.
Not only could that happen, the way the morning was transpiring, Greenberg fully expected it to happen.
Acting out of extreme precaution, he pushed the featherweight aluminum chair against the back of the door. Greenberg would often tell people, “If he was in for a dime he was in for a dollar.” And on the issue of self-pleasuring privacy in a public setting, he was in for a buck seventy-five.
Before the mission began he took one last meticulous look at the cinder block wall. He slowly and carefully scanned the wall with the palm of his hand, delicately searching for any pinholes, where a hidden camera with a full battery and ample memory could be placed.
What if, again his mind raced, the Beverly Hills Medical Lab was an elaborate front? Maybe they were secretly selling footage of their patients masturbating? Could be an entire underground operation. Perhaps supplying the filthy tapes to fetishists in Cambodia? Or Laos?
Laos always seemed to Greenberg to be a place where old men, tired of the jungle, the red sticky mud, the constant monsoonal rain, and the day in/day out consumption of boiled monkey liver and rice, would entertain the notion of watching affluent and unsuspecting Americans jerking off behind closed doors.
Satisfied that the room was clean, it was time to get down to business.
Greenberg picked up the U.S. News & World Report. It was the magazine with the least written and the most photographic material. He threw it on the floor in front of him, undid the buckle of his pants and squatted on the cold aluminum chair.
In a feat of flexibility he did not know he had, Greenberg spread his legs wide, so that he could keep one foot solidly on the wall and the other wedged into the doorway, in case the lock, the deadbolt and the forest of wet crumpled paper towels did not suffice.
He fiddled through the pages hoping to find a picture of Madonna or Princess Diana, or some up-and-coming actress of the time, but could only find a spread on Queen Elizabeth. And an in-depth interview with Hillary Clinton.
Her Royal Highness was sporting a pink dress that bared the bottom half of her 70-year-old gams. The First Lady was wearing one of her signature pantsuits. Out of respect for the crown, Greenberg went with the younger lass from Arkansas.
A full 30 minutes later, the tug of war was over. Later, he joked he spent more ‘sexy time’ with Hilary Clinton than he had ever done with his own wife.
He gingerly screwed the cap on the plastic cup and placed it in the pass-thru vault, per the instructions of Nurse Ratchet. He double-checked the label on the cup. If some medical assistant were to make a mistake, he’d have to repeat the most humiliating, most joyless experience he’d ever had with his penis.
As he exited the clinic he drew his baseball cap tight across his brow in the hope no one would recognize him. The last thing he wanted was to run into a friend or a colleague and engage in some street side chitchat, particularly when he was sporting that telltale face that screams, “I just masturbated into a plastic cup.”
(Coming up tomorrow, Fill Up the Cup, Part 2, Balling For Dollars)