The Harmless Thoughts of a London Gynecologist

In the row beneath, from left to right, there are a medium culture, a vaginal pipette, and at the tip of the pipette—don’t ask him why—there’s a stain the shape of Portugal.  Next to this there are slides for Papanicolaou smears—he keeps a paper clip attached to each so that they can be introduced and removed from a fixing solution without leaving a smudge—and, finally, next to the slides, he sees an Ayre’s cervical scraper, and a fixing solution (50% ether, 50% alcohol).

In the third and bottom row, where his fingers are at the moment—from where she’s sitting, they seem to be cruel fingers,  the sort only a man might have—there’s a cylinder of sterile cotton balls; a uterine sound; a Sims speculum (this what most of us know as a “perineal retractor,” which, like any other retractor, must be held in place by an assistant, and, as a consequence, since who knows where the hell Mrs. Higgins his nurse is?!, today is useless); a lubricant; and a translucent glass container of sterile rubber gloves, the dimensions of which are more or less the same as a common kitchen chafing dish.

But all of this is lost on Delk—thinking, as he is, of his salad days.

(It is 1932 and he is little more than a boy on the Leibenfrassen, sitting at a small table in a notorious cabaret, surrounded by National Socialists, listening to Frau Strauss, an emphysemic, a relic of the Weimar days: “What he would do for these, leibchen,” she says, cupping her hands beneath her giant breasts. “But—then—You’re too young to remember.”

(Frau Strauss, who is claiming to have scripted silent films at UFA and taken Jannings as her lover, is sitting limp-wristed, a cheap cigar clutched between her index and middle finger, each finger the size of a sausage, and Delk watches as the cigar moves cursively beneath the klieg light.

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