I hold my wife’s hand while the doctor inserts a metal something into her vagina — she winces, and so do I. “It pinches,” she says. “How’s that?” he asks, making an unseen adjustment beneath the paper draped across her legs. She begs me with her eyes — I don’t know — make him stop, make the pain go away. “Do you have it?” he asks me and I take the vial of freshly laundered sperm — it’s called a “sperm wash” — from an envelope, uncap it and hold it while he siphons the contents into a long-nosed hypo. We listen to the paper rustle as he tries to find another opening inside her body. “Take a deep breath,” he says and we both inhale disinfectant and alcohol. “Done,” the doctor says as he removes the needle. “Wait five minutes before getting up.” So we wait, and pray for our antique egg and battered seed to make a miracle. I listen to our breathing, the ancient hiss of desire, and wonder how at fifty-two I could wish to be a father. I think of my nephews lumbering gallantly into manhood and how I’ll be an old, old man before my children are ready for the burden of their lives. What will I have to give them besides anger at my own decline, sorrow that I won’t know them better? Finally my wife sits up, and I help her from the table. She gathers herself into her clothes, each breath a tearing, almost a sob. I stroke the cool mottled skin of her arm, skin which was once soft as breathing but has toughened with age, the garment now, not of passion, but of something grave, full of pity. Too soon we must return to a house filled only with the smell of cut flowers dying beautifully.