Woman, Life, Freedom

By Nina Aminzadeh

It is still dark outside. The cab has arrived. After Ali opens the door for me, I get in. As soon as he settles into the backseat, he rests his head against the cool glass of the window and closes his eyes. He hates waking up early and loves to sleep. And a hot breakfast to start his days, as he calls it. Eggs and sausages with fresh bread and a cappuccino. The sun hasn’t yet risen. We arrive. I never use an elevator. I don’t want those who need it to wait. I climb the spiral stairs. I know how many stairs there are on each floor. On the twelfth step, the stone is loose. Every time I reach it, I check it with my foot. No. They still haven’t fixed it after all these years. They do use an elevator.

I open the door. It is a large room with chairs lined up against the walls. Some seats are in the middle, facing the big TV hanging from the ceiling that’s always on the news channel, but silent. It doesn’t matter if on that day an earthquake struck Kermanshah, causing many buildings to collapse and many people to die. I count the women with my eyes. Today it seems quieter. Only 20 women are in front of me. I am skilled at counting women in crowds.

Despite knowing all the details, I read the statement every time I go there. It will take three to four hours from the time of your appointment for you to be visited. Don’t talk on the phone here. Make sure your phone is on silent. I silence my phone and glance at my watch. I tell myself it doesn’t matter. Later, we will go to a cafe for breakfast. Hot breakfast.

I sit where I can see everyone clearly. I start counting again. I’m sure I guessed correctly about those eleven women. When it’s their turn, after a few minutes, a sound like the in the waiting room. This is the only moment people become silent in the waiting room. Looking at each other when our eyes sparkle with happiness. It is the only time all of us forget that people died in the earthquake. Someone gallops towards life.

I multiply eleven by fifteen minutes. My god, this takes at least two hours and forty-five minutes for just these eleven pregnant women. Four women walk across the room with a glass of water. But they don’t require a lot of time. It takes about five minutes for each, which adds up to twenty minutes. I’m not sure how many minutes I need to set aside for the rest. There are some people who never leave a trace. They don’t always rub their baby bump. Their companions do not sit next to them and do not occupy a chair. They don’t walk across the room and drink gallons of water. They don’t like sitting in the middle. They don’t talk to the person sitting next to them, and they don’t complain about their appointment time. Five years ago, I became one of those people who doesn’t leave a trace. Since the gynaecologist told me that endometriosis had reached my intestines. Then I started taking pills, and I became menopausal. Before that, I was one of those women who used to walk across the room with a glass of water. I grumbled about the appointment time with the person sitting next to me, and I loved sitting in the middle.

Ali comes up with me. I show him the loose stair in the staircase. He asks me, after all these years, do you think you can jump over it with your eyes closed? He knows. Knowing how to manipulate the truth. Like others who have power. That’s why he studied law, but he never wanted to be a lawyer. He comes with me to the waiting room. When I sit where I want, where I can see everyone clearly, he points to a woman and shows her an empty chair.

I think it must be his fourth. He is sure of my decision. But he wants to talk to the doctor to make sure the surgery is not dangerous for me.

They call my name. Let’s go, it’s my turn. I send him a message. He gets there and takes my hand. He knows that I am sure of my decision, but I am afraid of this kind of ultrasound. He knows that it will never be normal for me. Every time, I wish I had that type of sonogram, which requires gallons of water.

There is only one step left to the ultrasound room door. The secretary says, “This man cannot come inside the room; you have a vaginal ultrasound.” We turn to her.

-This man? He is my husband.

-He can’t. Men are not allowed in for this type of ultrasound.

There are some people who know the rights and try to change it. He didn’t say anything. Having no rights is something he knows well. He lets go of my hand, and I take the final step alone.

The legs are weird. There are times when they throw you back into the past when you try to take a step forward. m sitting in the chair next to him. I wear a long white dress with a golden band in the middle. I have an olive leaf crown on my head. He has a white shirt, and his tie has gold and black stripes. As we stare at each other in the mirror in front of us, we don’t say anything to each other. It’s like Turkmen horses with brown manes galloping in our hearts as we are in seventh heaven. It is our turn. The notary brings the marriage certificate. Before we sign, Ali tells him he will give me all seven rights.

-You will definitely get into trouble soon. You are young, you are in love, and you can’t understand now. Live with her for a few years. Come back when you see there are no problems. It’s never too late to give her the rights, young man.

-To sign, write all seven.

The notary laughed loudly. It was then that I learned not to laugh loudly.

We sign each page with a blue pen. With all the rights that are given to me. Right to divorce, right to education, right to employment, right to leave the country, right to custody of children, right to divide property, right to choose housing and place of residence.

I get the marriage certificate from him. Holding it in my arms.

You’re the luckiest bride now, the notary tells me. Then he looks at Ali and says, “Poor groom.” I laugh loudly.

I stand in the ultrasound room. I’m waiting for the previous person to get dressed and empty that damn bed. While she is closing the buttons on her manteau, she comes out from behind the curtain. How wrong I was in my calculations. I should have left a few more minutes for each woman. Taking off and putting on a manteau, dress, and pants takes a lot of time. Poor women.

I lie on the bed and close my eyes. Like every time, the doctor starts saying a series of weird words that I اhave never understood. L in M 3 cm. It can be seen on the left. N in J 5 mm. What a tough world it is for doctors. I’m so sorry for the person behind the screen who has to quickly type up these weird words. I wish I could tell her that I understand you, but please don’t hit the keyboard so loudly. I wish I had the courage to ask the doctor to stop looking in my belly and to not pressure that damn device on my stomach and womb so much. Or if you do, don’t lie to me that it will end soon. Doctors can easily tell the truth in the way that they want. Maybe that’s why ten minutes mean nothing to them.

She says it is over and walks behind the curtain. I say, thank you. My eyes widen suddenly. Without putting on my pants, I get down from the bed and stand still. I can’t move. I can’t remember anything. Have I thanked her every time? Or did it just happen today? I can’t remember. But I really thanked her.

She stands before me and explains:

– Your condition has not changed. Continue taking your pills. They can at least stop your disease’s progression.

– I want to remove my womb and ovaries.

– It’s too early for your age. You are just 35.

– But I’ve made up my mind. I can’t stand it. I can’t take all these hormone pills anymore.

– Are you sure?

– So, we need your husband permission for the surgery.

I laugh loudly.

We order two cappuccinos and a big omelette. After lighting a cigarette, I stretch my legs and put them on the seat in front of me.

– What did the doctor say?

– She said that since my intestine is involved, surgery is very risky.

– So, now what’s your decision? Do you want to operate?

– No, I just want to buy a few packs of pills before returning home.

Some people leave no trace behind. Although they know their rights, they fight for them differently.

2 February, 2023