Uit: The Pickup
“For 41 years the boundless opportunities of the gynecologist were there, his harem of beauties passed literally through his hands. That afternoon as every afternoon in consulting hours the anteroom where they waited on his summons was full. His girls. On this day one or two among them were new acquisitions, no doubt brought there by the faith of others in the understanding and healing powers of their ‘Archie’. The newcomers were identifiable because they were busy under instruction from the serene and elegant Farida at Reception, filling in forms with personal details. Farida remembers well—trust her efficiency—the two women, on the kind coming along with a first pregnancy, and the other, age on her form set down as 35, a youthful-looking woman—well-endowed in every sense (Farida’s image of her, later), expensive clothes and rings, breasts soft as marshmallows falling together in the scoop neck of her dress as she leaned to write. Her appointment was early on the list and she did not have to wait long. Farida knows all kinds: this was one of those who feign not to be aware that there is anyone else, any woman other than herself, in the space around that self. She had not brought a book with her, as the intellectuals do, nor did she delve into her handbag or pick up and toss aside one magazine after another, as others do. One of the tense and haughty ones, plenty on their minds.
When shown into the doctor’s room she greeted him as with relief at getting away to find herself with an equal. She sat back confidently in the chair across from his desk furnished with friendly tokens of patients gratitude, malachite paperweight, embossed diary, clutch of gilt and silver pens, miniature calculator, two statuettes, copies of some god and goddess—he was at once interrupted by an urgent phone call, and she picked up one of the sacred objects and turned it, smiling. As he ended the call with a gesture of apology, she replaced the god. –Like the good Doctor Freud you enjoy having ancient art around you.—
—They are nice, aren’t they. The Greek period in Egypt, I’m told.—
—Well, I’m sure they’re a necessary change from the present with the troubles of people like me.—
He recognized then, at once, that she was not a woman who must be approached with small talk. —Now let’s hear what the trouble is.— He was also smiling slightly as he glanced through the form bearing her statistics and medical history.
—I’m in the middle of a divorce—and you know how that is, the lawyer says if I want the settlement I’m entitled to I shouldn’t be found to be having anyone else—if my husband’s lawyers knew there was another man…—
—I understand. Yes, that generally would be the case.—
—And now. I have a problem.—
—There is another man. Yes. That’s also generally the case. You are—let’s see—thirty-five. It is a restless age for women. If only men would understand that, there wouldn’t be so many divorces.—
They both laugh.
—So you’ll know what’s coming next, Doctor. I think I’m pregnant. God knows how it happened, I’m careful. The usual symptom, no period for two months. I thought the first miss was, what does everyone blame everything on, now—stress. I’ve got a new job—credit manager in a multinational company and now there’s this. I’ve done that urine test thing—negative, but I don’t trust it.—
—Any children of your marriage?—
—No. An abortion, five years ago. I’m not the motherly type, that was one of the things—many things—wrong in the marriage.—“
Nadine Gordimer (Springs. 20 november 1923)