Scott Rhymer: Etopic Man
Fiction » November 2001

There was an article on my news service today that caught my attention. It described the suicide of one of the students at the school where I teach now. I hadn’t had the kid in any of my classes, but I knew him by sight and reputation. He was a troublemaker: one of those lone wolf, kind of kids that nobody liked, and who was perpetually making attempts at attention getting by acting up in class, not doing homework, and constantly getting into fights which he lost with regularity (or so I understand.) I’m not going to name names, mind you; not really fair to do that sort of thing. Not ethical, either. I read the article with some surprise, because it turns out he was quite a sensation in the past. His father had been equally infamous. I had the dubious honor of living in the same neighborhood the father, Ectopic Man.

You know who I mean, I’m sure; some of the papers derisively called him Zeus. He was the first guy to carry a baby to term. It’s still an odd thing now, but then...he was considered a first-class wacko. The medicos at the time were furious about the experiment’s ethical ramifications and hammered at the credentials of the doctor who was overseeing the whole thing. But the idea of opening a new market in fertility options, plus the multi-million dollar prize offered up by some of the tabloids was obviously too much for the doctor to bear.

Ectopic Man–I forget what his name was–he was one of the gays that inhabited the downtown area of Philadelphia near the apartment I was renting near Society Hill and his big thing was he wanted a baby. Not an adopted kid, not even a child of his own genes that someone else carried. He wanted to create a life, start-to-finish, himself. I was working at the hospital where Dr. Charles Vernicki worked–the doc that actually performed the implantation and the medical care afterward–and nobody thought this was a good idea. It was dangerous to himself and the child, unnatural, arrogant and narcissistic...even blasphemous.

Anyway, Ectopic Man got his street name by one of the other guys that used to frequent the neighborhood video store, which prided itself on the largest selection of homosexual porn in the nation, the whole thing being secreted away in the second floor. I would pop in after work sometimes to rent the odd movie or two, but never went up there, more out of embarrassment and not wanting people to think I was that way, than a lack of interest. You would see Ecotopic in there, or in the local deli, or walking to and from wherever he worked or went in the daytime, and as the news got out–and it got out fast–he would take abuse from just about everyone. Throughout that year, Ecotopic Man would be seen, steadily getting larger. Early on, the guys that ran the deli kicked him out after the counter rags outed him and his doctor for the experiment. The Korean septuagenarian that ran the 7-Eleven would take time out from wandering around the store surveilling the black shoppers to gawk at him and conduct a running, and no doubt abusive, commentary with his wife whenever he frequented the store. Most dangerous were the meth dealers and prostitutes that ran their business up the darker side streets like 13th...they would physically assault the guy when they saw him, and I remember seeing him with his arm in a cast for some time. Though the gays were pretty supportive publicly, even they were weirded out by the whole thing. I’d hear them talking about him in the video store from time to time.

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