dispatches: The Cloud

My mother was progressive and carefully explained sex to me well ahead of the rest of the kids in school, which was a problem, given my in-built mania to tell everyone around me about cool things I’d learned.

Mind you, I was not clear on the idea that sperm cells preferred to be administered in a liquid medium of a precise consistency and temperature, and I explained to my fellow students, with a tone of wisdom and gravity, that sperm was microscopic, like bacteria and viruses, and just leaked out of boys in a cloud that could impregnate any unlucky girl in the vicinity of a particularly potent boy.

My breathless retelling of this misconception about conception led to a very brief mass hysteria in my class involving all the girls taking to fleeing the boys as if they were surrounded by swarms of yellowjackets, complete with sudden darting changes of direction and wildly flailing fanning gestures.

“What on earth are you doing, Miss Wassman?” asked our teacher of one of the gesticulating young ladies.

“I don’t wanna have a baby!”

“You what?”

“I don’t wanna have a baby! There’s sperm everywhere!”

“What?”

“Joe Wall said—”

“—Oh, did he now? Mister Wall, can I have a word with you?”

And I was disabused of my errant notion.