Resty O. points to a Father's Day post from Howie Severino. I thought I'd dig into the archives and pull this one out from the ersatz company newsletter ca. 2004.
Crowded together in the testes are 200 million sperm, jostling, jockeying, heads bumping and tails thrashing. Another hundred million or so are in the testes on the other side doing the same thing. They move. From the seminiferous tubule they swim as one to the epididymis.
The atmosphere is electric. They’re tired but they’re raring to go; raring to fulfill their purpose: to deliver the genes they’re carrying and merge with the egg somewhere out there. Their purpose is to die to themselves and live again as part of something beyond themselves. To die so they could live. And it seems like a good day to die. It seems like a good day to live.
Only one of them will succeed. Only one will be chosen. One out of 200 million. Each one of them carries a unique combination of genes and it is up to the egg to determine which is the prefect match for her. And he hopes he’ll be the one.
He squeezes his way through the crush of heads and flailing tails and makes his way towards the head of the pack, right at the opening of the vas deferens. But he in turn is jostled as other sperm move in front of him. He finds himself pushed back further and further in the middle of the writhing mass. He bides his time.
The crush grows thicker with each passing second and the force behind him pushing inexorably forward jamming him into the backs of the sperm in front of him. Any moment now...
A milky fluid washes over him from the prostrate gland and the seminal vesicles. The sperm will need this liquid environment to swim in once they leave their host and enter the alien world out there. An alien world that would either be his home or his grave; his salvation or his doom. He’s ready for both. This is what he was made for. This life-or-death swim.
The Cowper’s gland has secreted it’s clear liquid on the inside of the urethra’s wall, protecting them from traces of acidic urine that might have been left there. He feels the puboccoccygeus muscle contract a little and braces himelf. This is it.
A massive contraction and he’s propelled forward, along with 200 million others. They explode out of the urethra and land right at the opening of the cervix, right in the middle of an acid bath! He swims for dear life as sperm after sperm falls beside him and in front of him, succumbing to the acid. Others, losing steam, lacking the energy or will to continue, simply stop swimming. They will die here, tragically. More tragically, he thinks, than the ones who fell by acid trying to fulfill their purpose.
They enter the uterus and from here on in, they navigate through blind reckoning. The massive cavern of the womb causes some to lose their way. He sees them wandering aimlessly in the thick mucus, or banging their heads on the walls of the uterus, trying to find the opening that will lead them to the prize. He swims on. Over the corpses of more sperm who have come to the end of their journey.
There are two openings heading toward two fallopian tubes. And he doesn’t know which one houses the waiting egg. He knows she’s singing to them but they couldn’t hear her from here. He sees some of his siblings taking the left opening and some taking the right. Some sperm stop, frozen by indecision. There they would stay simply because they could not decide to just do something. He leaves them and takes the opening on the right.
As he enters the fallopian tube, he hears her. Faintly at first, then more distinctly as he swims forward; a soothing, calming, chemical song, calling them. He almost bursts with joy at hearing the music. He made it this far. By this time there are only about a thousand of them left. From the testes to the fallopian tube, they have made what would be for us a 200-kilometer swim.
He sees her. Already she is covered with sperm trying to find a way through her wall. He swims to her, almost mesmerized by her song, and finds a space on the wall and tries to breach it. He sees her patiently examining each of the sperm offering her the genes they carry. Then she stops. Her wall opens. She lets him in. She has chosen him. His joy now knew no bounds. He gives her his genes, and she gives him hers. Out of 250 million, she has chosen him. They join, they grow, they find new life while losing their own, and nine months later...
Lita gave birth to a baby boy. There was no joy in this birth as with her previous one. None on her husband as well. They eke out what could be loosely termed as an existence gleaning from the refuse of the city. They live... strike that...they reside on the heaps of the very same refuse that provide them subsistence; Lita, her husband, and their four children. One child perished in the slide. A trash-slide, heavy rains seeping to the bottom of the trashmountain, loosening the compacted pile of plastic bags and styropor lunchboxes which used to be held together by hardened, decayed organic material. Her last child, a girl, didn’t live past her first week. Mercifully, Lita thought at the time. They named her posthumously. Lita is holding off on naming this one as well, preferring, for the time being, to call the child the generic ‘bata’. It was a wise decision. The baby died two days later.