After a few seconds, the girl begins to undress. She folds her clothes into a neat pile and climbs onto the half-table. Crossing her legs at the ankles, her eyes dart around the room purposely avoiding the medical tray draped in blue. She focuses on the walls. Instead of medical charts or diagrams, there is artwork—big, bold close-ups of the center of flowers in all sorts of colors, red, orange, pink or blue, purple, and black. She reaches up and repositions her ponytail, making it tighter against her scalp. A sigh of relief escapes her lips as she hears a knock at the door; the doctor, nurse, and someone who reminds her of her best friend all file in. There seems to be faint muttering from somewhere, floating through the air—the room is full:


Speculum, antiseptic,


It says call your doctor immediately, bold print, if you experience any of the following:  Severe bleeding. Pain not relieved by medication, or rest or heat. Vomiting that lasting more than 4 -6 hours.  Foul smelling discharge...I memorized the whole pamphlet. Severe bleeding, pain not relieved, vomiting—what smells fouler than rusty iron, salt mixed with something sterile and—flowers? Was the woman before me wearing perfume…Who puts on perfume for something like this? Mom lost everything when she got pregnant with me. But here I am. She chose her choice and now I choose mine. Severe bleeding, pain, vomiting—but now I forget what comes next.


Lidocaine injection,


The bottom of the bottle read Cha-Ching Cherry. I understand the irony now as my feet are dangling in the stirrups, and my knees are straining to touch. I’m trying to forget that night, my legs were spread open just like this—I could see my red toenails as the back of my knees bounced against his shoulders. It went too far, too fast. He doesn’t even know; I gave him the wrong number. No goodnight kisses, just his empty promise to call. Maybe he tried, but I don’t really care now. A mistake. The polish on my toes is peeling and I still remember what he said when he grabbed my foot:  You’re so fucking hot. Am I so fucking hot lying here as the doctor injects whatever she called it into me? She said I’d feel the prick of the needle, but I feel nothing. What is the exact shade of what she’s taking away from me—bright like Keys to My Karma or dark like Bastille My Heart? All I know is: I’ll never wear red again.


Cervical dilation,


Uncomfortable? They said it would be just like cramping…like a really bad period. You don’t know what I would have given to have had a really bad period instead of a faint pink line. I’m going to squeeze this girl’s hand right off. What was her name again? Why can’t I remember her…I used to have a perfect memory. The box said something about being 99% accurate, that line was so faint I bought two more before getting the digital-for-dummies kind. PREGNANT. I think there were exclamation marks and confetti. What’s this girl’s name again? She has the calmest eyes I’ve ever seen, I could go for a nice cool swim and just get away from it all.


Gradually the room gets quieter, and when the girl opens her eyes she notices the doctor and nurse are both missing. It is over. The patient advocate brings her pile of clothes over and sets them on top of a swivel stool. “You can get dressed again, but be sure to move slowly. You don’t feel light-headed do you?”

            The ash-blonde pile of hair moves as the girl shakes her head.

            “Good. Be sure to put this pad on too, there will be a good amount of discharge, like they explained earlier during counseling.”

            “Can I ask you something?”

            “Of course.”                                                                                          

            “During…this…” The girl’s hands flutter in an attempt at an appropriate gesture. “Did you hear anything?”

            “What do you mean?” The patient advocate asks.

            “It’s just that I heard a whole bunch of noise.”

            “It was probably just the machine; sometimes it can sound pretty loud, even though—”

            The girl interrupts, “No, it was more like voices. I can’t really explain.”

            “How did they make you feel?”

            “Like I wasn’t alone, maybe.”

            “Good.” the patient advocate steps toward the door.

            The girl clears her throat, “Can I ask you something else?”

            “Of course.”

            “Did I squeeze your hand too hard?”

            The patient advocate walks back over and takes the girl’s hand again. “No, you did great.” She pauses and then slides out of the room, the door clicking behind her.

            No longer afraid, the girl slowly puts her clothes on; starting with the cotton panties she bought especially for this occasion. One leg and then the other, she knows every single pair from the package would end up in the garbage over the next few days.  A rush of rain beats against the side of the building and the girl wonders if the voices were just a figment of her imagination. But she can’t help feeling as if she has become part of a secret society she never expected or wanted to join; there is comfort. Then the procedure room is empty again.


Although Janet considers Memphis home, she's a recent graduate from Georgia College (Milledgeville) where she earned an MFA in Fiction. Previously her flash has been published in Six Sentences and The Medulla Review.

"The Procedure Room" comes from a longer piece originally written for a Prose Forms class where I attempted to mix realism through monologues. In fact, I wrote the monologues first. This could be considered mixed genre piece because it was inspired by my own volunteer work as a patient advocate in a women's health clinic one summer several years. But as Thomas Wolfe explained, "Fiction is not fact...fiction is fact arranged and charged with purpose." 




Copyright 2009