The Harmless Thoughts of a London Gynecologist

“So you’re Swiss then.” It’s a first test of wills, this shifting of her weight, the first, inevitable unbuttoning of her first piece of clothing.

It is a poor blouse, he thinks, drab, a noncolor—such as baby food. “Don’t bother with the ties, unless you’d like, there’s really no need”—and then, as she accepts his hand, as she puts a foot on the pedestal clutching feebly at the cloth in back—“Here, Mrs. Mangrum, it’s time to have a look at you.

She is facing Delk, her knees tight together. He is close to her, so close he can smell her thin head of hair, no doubt she washes it beneath a tap; she is so close to him her shins are touching his thighs, and cupping her ankles in his hands and bringing them around so that she is suddenly prone, he says,  “Around we go, dear, lie back there, that’s the ticket.” Then, finally, as he puts her feet flat on the tissue, which runs the length of this table: “Lift a bit more, dear, we want to relax your tummy muscles don’t we.”

Right lower quadrant, Left lower quadrant—It’s the silent incantation of a man who’s working by rote—Central lower abdomen, Umbilical, Lumbar. Palmar surface of his whole hand flat to her abdominal wall: “You’ll tell me if it hurts.

But there is no warmth to his voice, his tone is professional and distant, and his eyes are closed as the flat of his hand proceeds in small, concentric circles, the circles becoming wider and his manner more distant and the rhythm as if he is listening to some primeval, inaudible chant, Pudendum, Vulva, Labia, Ovarian, it’s as if the words themselves evoke a musky, feminine scent.

“You’re right as rain, Mrs. Mangrum. No encysted fluid, no tumor I can find. Now—This next may cause some discomfort, so you’ll want to give it a grit, I imagine.”

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