Conjunctions:36 Dark Laughter

The Launch
The following is an excerpt from Ben Marcus’s “The Launch” as originally published in Conjunctions:36.
At the time of this writing, I am going to be Ben’s mother my whole life, no matter how extreme, inspired or innovative my behavior. It is not a role I requested. My projects with emotion removal and silence would have thrived similarly without him. I do not seek your agreement on this topic. There was no invitation or application to this motherhood, only your oily body seeking to seal our obligations to each other. You intercoursed all over me in order to finally obligate me to you. I can’t forget you with your back arched like a swan’s, your teeth bared, clutching the sheets on each side of me as you funneled noiselessly between my legs, forgetting to breathe, until I felt you slowly wilting inside me, then a pool of dampness leaking down my bottom, which you asked me to stanch with your handkerchiefs. Your apologies afterward hardly made a difference. As soon as Ben was conceived, he was apologized for. A detail conveniently omitted from the prelaunch forecast we made when we cataloged our vision for the person he might become.
     As much as I had hoped to court ambiguity, complication and mystery regarding my basic relationship to Ben, to somehow annex my motherhood to my other projects, so that I was not merely shepherding another average person into the Midwestern atmosphere, there is a fate that I am not imaginative enough to outdistance, a biology I have yet to surpass. I would like to alter it with chemicals. I would like to zero my heart, enter a silent house and perform the gestures that will deliver me from all of the sameness. To be new in this awful, old job. I would like to outsmart the role that is destined for me. But I can’t. I have failed to destroy my category.

Ben Marcus is a recipient of the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Letters and a fellowship from the Creative Capital Foundation. His work includes Leaving the Sea: Stories (Knopf) and The Flame Alphabet (Granta Books).