by Elif Shafak
[Zeliha, a young and single Turkish woman, is at the gynecologist’s office for an abortion. The receptionist subtly shames her, but the Doctor is solicitous, and a master at using his time well.]
The doctor was a burly man who communicated strength through his erect posture. Unlike his receptionist, there was no judgment in his stare, no unwise questions on his tongue. He seemed to welcome Zeliha in every way. He made her sign some papers, and then more papers in case anything went wrong either during or after the procedure…
Harboring profound contempt for weepy women ever since she was a little girl, Zeliha had promised herself never to turn into one of this walking miseries who scattered tears and nitpicky complaints everywhere they went and of which there were far too many around her. She had forbidden herself to cry. To this day, she had on the whole managed pretty well to stick to her promise. When and if tears welled up in her eyes, she simply held her breath and remembered her promise. So on the first Friday of July she once again did what she had always done to stifle the tears. She took a deep breath and thrust her chin upward as an indication of strength. This time, however, something went awfully wrong and the breath she had held came out as a sob.
The doctor did not look surprised. He was used to it. The women always cried.
“There, there,” he said, trying to console Zeliha while putting on a pair of medical gloves. “It’s going to be all right, don’t you worry. It’s only a slumber. You’ll sleep, you’ll dream, before you finish your dream, we’ll wake you up and you’ll go home. After that, you’ll remember nothing.”…
The doctor patted her shoulder, handed her a tissue, and then handed her the whole box. He always had a spare box of tissues ready by his desk. Drug companies distributed these tissues boxes free of charge. Along with pens and notebooks and other things that carried their company names, they made tissues for women patients who could not stop crying…
“Are you sure this is what you want? Perhaps you would like to mull it over”, said the doctor in a velvety voice as if Zeliha was a pile of dust and he was afraid of brushing her away with the wind of his words if he spoke louder. “If you’d like to reconsider this decision, it is not too late.”
But it was. Zeliha knew it had to be done now, on this the first Friday of July. Today or never. “There is nothing to consider. I cannot have her,” she heard herself blurt out.
The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak, © 2007