The Harmless Thoughts of a London Gynecologist
Mrs. Mangum, is it?”
“Mangrum, Doctor Delk, there’s an R you see.”
He has a glimpse of her in the mirror above the basin where he is washing, she is mousey, she might be anyone, then returns to his lather: He must scrub this away. This grey of working women’s underthings, meager, grey from being brought in wet from the line, half-slips held by safety-clasps, he must scrub it from his flesh, he must it to the pink and wrinkle, he must scrub it to knuckles already scrubbed to the bone.
“You should be in a gown, you know. Mrs. Higgins—my nurse? —She didn’t see to you then?”
“What sort of name is Delk, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“There’s a gown on the examination table, I believe—Mrs. Mangrum? If you’d be so good?”
“Where you’d say you’re from again, you’re Swiss?” Her eyes dart around the room, taking it in, as if trying to commit it to memory. His office is small, barely more than a cubby-hole, and the walls of his office are bare. One basin over a bare floor—his office is simply supplied—beside the basin a cart where his instruments are arranged, beside that a cabinet with two glass doors, then an examination table, the examination set flush to the wall and a tissue running its length, and in the middle of the room, beneath a hanging lamp sealed with tubular grillwork, a leather chair, its stirrups made of metal and cold to the touch, the stirrups set for the moment at an awkward—what lifetimes ago Frau Strauss would have called a duckfooted—angle, and at the other end two adjustable muffs to cradle the head.
His back to her still—dried on a towel of terry, his fingers puttering now in surgical trays and glass cylinders, a flat red cross on each. “Yes, from Switzerland.”
Red is the only true color in his office.