Shirley had given birth to a daughter, so she didn’t get to hold her right away. The team of doctors scooped the baby up and took her into the Implantation Room. As she already knew, her daughter had to get her Protection Chip. All females had to. It was for the greater good, they told them. This way, you’ll be safe, they told them. Shirley tried to feel comforted by that thought, but could simultaneously feel her own Protection Chip throbbing, deep within the pit of her stomach.
Her husband noticed her frowning and squeezed her hand. “It’ll be ok. Just standard procedure. We knew this would happen.”
“I know,” Shirley sighed and looked up at her husband, swallowing her tears.
“It’s better this way. Now she’ll be safe.”
He sounded like he was trying to convince himself.
The doctor returned several minutes later with the baby wrapped up in a blue blanket. The baby wasn’t crying anymore.
“The Chip has been injected.” He said sternly, handing over the baby, a little too roughly. He then smiled politely at the husband and slowly and gently handed him a pamphlet. “I’m supposed to give this to you, but I’m sure you already know all this info. It’s for legal purposes. Now sign here, which acknowledges that you’ve received the pamphlet.”
Shirley cradled her new baby daughter in her arms. The baby was sleepy and limp. They had given her something to sedate her during the implantation. Shirley lifted the blanket up and peered underneath at the tiny, compact body. She saw the bandage that already had blood seeping through, wrapped around her left hip. That chip was nestled into that little body, becoming part of it, keeping her under the radar forever. It should have made Shirley feel secure, safe and reassured. After all, everyone knew that women were at risk. So the new law was to protect them. It became mandatory for all women to get chips implanted in their abdomens.
The chip monitors nearly everything. What the girl is wearing, what the girl is saying, her intoxication level, her ovulation/menstrual cycle, and even how much makeup she’s wearing.
Thank God it can’t monitor our minds, Shirley thought sadly, remembering when she got the chip implanted, at 11 years old, just days after the law went into effect. Even at that age, she remembered feeling better before the chip. Not just mentally, but physically. It seemed that it ached quite often, that place on her tummy with the small scar and the hard lump she could feel, underneath the skin. It seemed to ache more when she was at work. It throbbed when she went to school. And if she was ever in a space with only other women, it hurt so much it was unbearable. She tried talking to her doctor about it but he told her it was all mental/emotional and sold her some anti-anxiety pills. She remembered how giddy the doctor was about being able to “hook her up” with the inexpensive ones. She also remembered how he frowned and said “Poor taste” when she jokingly asked him to just take the chip out.
She continued to stare at her baby, barely noticing her husband and the doctor shake hands in the corner of her eye. She breathed out in relief as her husband’s hand slid around her shoulders. She always felt better when he was close by. She felt the cool metal of his ring on his finger, brush against her skin.
Years ago, the government started issuing Marriage Rings that if worn by the husband, would bring the wife comfort. There was some kind of chemical reaction with what the ring was made out of and what the chip was made out of so that when they were close in proximity, the woman’s implantation area would feel soothed. Or rather, would not feel as painful as usual. It was supposed to “stimulate the economy of marriage and uphold the values of America,” they said. And it worked. Almost everyone she knew was married. To be more specific, every woman she knew was married to a man. She remembered a time when a man could marry a man or a woman could marry a woman and a man could be a woman and a woman could be a man or a little of both. She liked to reminisce of those times. It was one of the only things that gave her true joy; just knowing that there was a time when things were different. Even if she wasn’t allowed to talk about it, they couldn’t keep her from knowing about it. She reveled in her thoughts of rebellion, feeling connected to all the people of the past who were different, and disappearing.
What she couldn’t remember was how it all changed. It was just that over time, it was too hard for people to do what they wanted to do if it didn’t fit in with how the government wanted them to look. There were no actual laws discriminating against people, but it just happened. If you were openly gay, you couldn’t get a job, couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment, couldn’t find a house to rent, and there was always a “valid” excuse as to why. There were no laws against them but they simply couldn’t survive. So everyone went into the closet. The only place we could all be ourselves, were in our own minds, in our fantasies, while we robotically, merely survive, floating around lifelessly and quietly, looking like the cookie-cutters they want us to be.
She felt her baby’s body relax more as her husband’s hand adjusted the blue blanket, the marriage ring already interacting with the newly implanted chip. A tear fell onto his wrist and he noticed his wife crying.
“Are those happy tears?” He said wiping the tear of her cheek with the back of his finger.
“Yes.” She lied.
She hated how much she longed to have a son. How much easier it would be. She reminded herself that her daughter would never know the difference. Shirley knew there was a time when things were better, a time when her body belonged to herself. She remembered the time when, perhaps, there was more danger, but there was also more freedom.
But this little one, this female being born into this world, would never know that comparison. Shirley tried to feel relieved; she tried to feel glad that her daughter would never long for the past. Her daughter would never feel like something was taken away from her. She would never be aware of what she’s lost.
But Shirley couldn’t stop the tears from falling, since deep down she knew that her daughter would also never know the feeling of true freedom. And never knowing true freedom, will just feel normal.