Stepping from the taxi onto 7th Avenue, a tremendous brick building rose straight before him, its steel entryway gleaming white in the sun. On the 6th floor was the New York City Cryobank. But it occurred to Henry that he'd seen this building so many times -- and admired it, too -- though never with the knowledge of what happened inside its walls, that there were men like himself who came in great desperation and sickness to store their sperm. Riding up in the elevator, with the escape-hatch in plain view and the shaft-to-freedom and its thick metal wires and near darkness stretching skyward, Henry wrung his hands. The doors opened and he stepped out the elevator onto a diagonal of linoleum-tiles, a wide-open space. Ammonia was strong in the air. As was the human emptiness of the New York City Cryobank. Where was everyone? The front desk, a white tome of Formica, and two gray sofas which formed a waiting area, were unoccupied. A sign on the desk caught Henry's attention:
To our Bankers, please keep in mind that it is only legal to store sperm for up to forty years in New York State. Thank you, the NYCC.
Henry's palms became wet with perspiration. Who could think so far ahead about reproduction? Madmen, tyrants, the mentally ill. Hopefully anyone who came here inquiring about forty years of storage had their files sent to the FEDs. But where was the staff? Leaning over the front desk Henry saw a computer up and running. A half-filled mug of coffee rested on an issue of New York Magazine. From a chair-back hung a white leather purse. Someone was here. But where?
Hello. Hello. Anyone. What's wrong with these people!
Without seeing the office blueprints he felt confident he could rob the bank and make off with everything in its vaults this minute. Who was keeping guard? No one. This was ridiculous. He checked the time on his phone. His appointment began five minutes ago. Weren't they expecting him? Perhaps Dahl had bungled the hour, told him 2 p.m. instead of one or noon. Just another stop on the doctor go-round. But he couldn't simply leave. Today was Saturday. The bank was closed Sundays and the surgery was Monday.The thought of not banking sperm passed through Henry, and fretful, he cried out, What's going on? Where is everyone? Come on.
A phone began to ring. Henry swung around and pursued the device on the front desk. Hovering over it, he watched its pulsing red light. Someone would answer. Someone. Anyone.
No one did. These people -- unconscionable. Couldn't they do their jobs? He was doing his. He'd arrived on time. Hadn't he? Yes, he had. And he was ready to masturbate, ejaculate and pay the NYCC with a credit card for banking his sperm. What more did they want from him? He could take his business elsewhere. He might. He'd read about other banks, two, one in the Bronx, up by Fordham, another in Staten Island near the ferry terminal. Perhaps he should call one, or both, explain his situation. There was time, if he acted fast.
Instead he called Dahl. He got his service. Henry asked the operator if he could speak to the doctor. She explained how she could only tell Dahl to call him back, that that was her function.
Just make sure he knows it's an emergency. I'm at the sperm bank and there's no one here, and the doctor said he trusted these people -- Henry was shouting into the phone -- and I've been here five, ten, fifteen minutes, I don't know, a while, a long while, and where is everyone? Maybe the doctor has special information. And I've got to leave my sample here today because the orchiectomy's on Monday and... and... just have the doctor call me. Okay? Thank you. Thank you very much. It's Henry Schiller.
Henry hung up.
Put my life in the hands of these doctors and look what happens.
This essay was excerpted from "Balls" by Julian Tepper (A Barnacle Book).