Perfect Pitch

by | Feb 7, 2022 | Fiction, Issue Twenty Five

In the waiting room, we of advanced maternal age spy over barricades of open magazines. Which body among us will accept implantation? Who of our ancient sect will allow modern medicine to age us backwards, reproductively speaking? I count six, including myself. Statistics stalk me: five will lay fallow. I’m a sniper, my scope trained first on the pretty one, next on the one with the blue, braggy diamond, big as a knuckle. They go down, upping my odds.

My husband is obsessed with the genetics of musicality. About once a year, he turns to me from a mile away, tucked into his end of the couch, during a commercial, usually in cold weather, when we’ve forgotten to go outside, and asks, as if for the first time: “Did you know perfect pitch is hereditary?”

The nurse doesn’t see the corpses when she calls my name, says it’s fine to bring my magazine. I decline, put it back; I’ll focus myself fertile. The one I let live, because of her sad eyes and crooked lipstick, wishes me luck. Like a good runner up.

After the transfer, my chances seem slimmer.

I consider reminding my husband we’ve been over this, that he needs better questions, new ones that might make a difference in terms of our future. “Are you serious?” I say instead. “Like, it’s either in our DNA or it isn’t?” He looks suddenly alive, like the rollicking man I met at the dance hall. “One caveat!” he cries, and comes close as skin. “If you train, you can get it, but not after the age of four. Four!”

Years later, when the adoption goes through, I’m relieved I didn’t defy odds in that waiting room. I mentally un-murder those women, re-birth them happy.

My husband sings our daughter to sleep every night, always off key, always with outsized joy. As an infant, she babbled along, her song incoherent but unmistakably music. On the eve of her fourth birthday, she sang her first song, every note perfect, an aria extracted from crystalline ether. “Practice or genetics? Nature or nurture?” My husband wants answers. I’m nourished by the questions. 

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