L. Haiman is a Bucharest-born-Edinburgh-schooled-London-based writer whose work has appeared online in The Missing Slate, and in print in the
short story collections Garlic and Sapphires, Two in the Bush, and literary magazine Anything, Anymore, Anywhere. L. Haiman is also an ongoing collaborator of illustrator Via Fang.
If there’s a secret to having a vagina it’s being kept safely within turning the flesh cushioned landscape into a high-level security zone. On average this territory of mine has been much more explored by someone other than me. I counted. It’s what you start doing in the absence of being done. And I could probably go on living just fine if it weren’t for the hormonal uprisings in the wake of every single bloody
revolution—there is an unfair number of synonyms for the word discharge.
There was a time when being late was making me nervous. Now it’s just a reasonably predictable fact enforced by the undeniable excuse living in London offers: it takes far too much time to be on time—not worth it. I still end up rushing though, in this case swerving through dart-like raindrops, running past and accidentally through puddles, achieving nothing except for the honest look of a damp rained-on turkey. The fact that I reach reception twenty minutes after my appointment is nothing compared to the sight of my shoes that look like they’re made of tumble-dried velvet—rain-sued suede.
I have an appointment with nurse...Blank. Eleanor, Laura? I have full recollection of the piece of paper on which I’ve written down the name. I can see it on the table in my living room on top of a pile of other papers all used for various notes. This one is written in pencil, on the corner so as not to disturb whatever other crap I’d taken down in a hurry.
I must be late, I conclude with gravitas waiting for some kind of absolution that fails to be delivered. It’s four in the afternoon the receptionist seems to say, we’ve used up all our compassion.
Can I take your name?
Yes, that one I know. I spell it in the time it takes one cheeky raindrop to roll down from my temple to my chin. It’s an appointment for a smear test, I wipe the water off my cheek unsettled by the linguistic unwholesomeness of my cervix lining.
Up the stairs, first floor. Take a seat. The nurse will call you.
Am I late?
The nurse will call you.
I take off my coat and head upstairs where I am welcomed by a committee of empty chairs. I sit down after a small deliberation over which seat suits best and wait. There are old magazines on the table next to me as if the anxiousness of being in a waiting room in this case hall can be appeased by the de-contextualization of current affairs—nothing beats the passing of time on a late October day like reading about the fashion trends of six summers ago. Should it worry me that the majority of waiting room literature addresses women? Are we more likely to wait to be seen?
My name is called out from behind me and I follow a short dyed blonde nurse—Ellen—to a small consultation room. She’s all smiles as if I am here to congratulate her on her fiftieth birthday and present her with the most desirable gift of all.
She locks the door behind me, which I find redundantly normal.
Sometimes people walk in, she grimaces and points at the consultation table resting next to the door. As long as they don’t poke my insides too they can watch all they want, I think and put my bag and coat on the chair.
Nurse Ellen is short with a round face that inspires trust while reading keen enthusiasm. What an important and improperly if at all glorified métier: examining vaginas and collecting tissue. I take off the lower part of my clothes as per Nurse Ellen’s instructions and lie on the bed slash table with my knees up. I hear the condom-like sound of surgical gloves being put on followed by tearing of packaging.
Relax, Nurse Ellen touches my womb with her warm icky-soft rubber fingers and holds up a see-through plastic speculum. Now put your hands under your bum and lift your pelvis for me. I comply, but relax I do not. The word speculum unsettles me more than the sight of it. Can’t help notice the irony in choosing to name the most ungraciously violating object after the epitome of beauty’s artifact: mirror. It’s not like you get to see yourself reflected inside someone’s vagina. Or is it? Magic mirror on the womb, who’s the weirdest in the room? I know it’s uncomfortable, Nurse Ellen says we all hate it and winks on behalf of all the women everywhere ever speculum-ed.
It’s in. I can feel the cold inside-sliding touch followed by the pervasive aggression over my muscles. I try relaxing to allow unobstructed passage, but it’s like holding a long overdue fart while being led through the climaxing promise-gate of a good oral—counterproductive.
Relax, please. I know it hurts but it’s quite tight, Nurse Ellen pleads.
She finally inserts Mr. Duck Face all the way through and opens his beak letting in a whiff of cold air that seems to dry everything up. I brace myself for what’s coming next: the magic spatula brush that makes me imagine the sound and feel of cotton rubbing alcohol on a window with the alcohol being my tissue cells and my cervix the window.
It might bleed a bit, Ellen (we’re on first name basis by now—she’s standing at the bottom of my mount Venus) warns, but it looks normal, she reassures me.
The scratching and brushing begins and it always feels like it goes on for at least ten good minutes, as if the smear is indeed smearing something utterly pristine that one in this case Ellen the nurse must wipe clean at all costs.
Done! The speculum retracts, traces of me smeared all over its face and I feel deflating if only for a second then relieved. I put my clothes back on and stay for a quick chat with Ellen about my syncopated period. I express my worries vis-à-vis an abnormal delay which in the absence of intercourse (it’s been close to three months since the last recourse) is far more worrisome. Ellen disagrees. All normal seems to be her most favourite tune and I can’t say I don’t like the sound of it.
I walk out feeling lighter and slightly uncomfortable carrying within me the memorable touch of Mr. Duck Face’s face. Gynecology one lust nil. He’s wiped me clean and dry removing any desire of (up)coming retribution.
Outside the rain is milder.