Non-Fiction by Nikitta Adjirakor
It begins with your back inching further up the bed that is inexplicably called a table. The examination table. The bed-table.
There you are half naked, shivering, tense and staring fearfully at the doctor as he approaches you. His hands are cold, startlingly, like the metal instruments he uses to prod your vagina. When he grips your foot and pulls you towards him, you scream a loud piercing cry that echoes through the room and advances past the door where your mother sits waiting for you. It makes a mockery of that flimsy curtain meant to give you an inkling of privacy like a container for your trauma. A nurse rushes in, the one who walked you into the office reassuring you of a painless procedure.
It continues with your eyes shut attempting to use the darkness as a comforting cloak. Even though you can’t see, you feel a cold bluntness press into skin and attempt to push your thighs apart and with each movement, your back begins to slide upwards on the bed-table. Your body remembers the moment before as his fingers and his other instruments forced a path through your vagina attempting to find your womb.
Your womb that he calls diseased.
Your womb that is nesting tumors and not babies.
His entry is excruciating and as your womb tries to expel him, your body moves farther away. Except this time, the nurse is behind you and eases your back downwards.
“Isn’t this what you do with the small boys?”
The words of the doctor shatter the cloak and you open your eyes to stare at him. In disbelief. The small boys. The boys. Boys.
The question of what boys lays on the tip of your tongue, but your mouth is silenced by his stare. Challenging. Unrepentant. It is then that you feel the weight of the nurse’s hand on your shoulder holding you down and in place for his onslaught.
“Aren’t you one of the university girls?”
His tone is mocking and audacious, daring you to answer. You know he knows you’re an undergraduate student, because the nurse made it a point to ask you that question. You thought it odd. What does a question about your education have to do with the doctor’s hands about to rummage through your vagina? Now you realise the intent for it was not a randomly placed question but rather one that set the tone for your examination.
You are a university girl, so your sexuality is an open book to be flipped through, read and consumed by all.
You are a university girl, so you do ‘it’ with the small boys.
His question does the trick the nurse’s hands cannot accomplish. It fastens you to the bed-table as you sink, carrying the imagined shame of yourself and the women who defied everything to get an education.
It continues with that instrument called a speculum, a cold, clicking, metal device that reminds you of a plier meant to pry apart your vagina for the doctor’s prodding. Later, you read about its history. Invented by a man, experimented on enslaved black women, it suddenly makes sense that it is this torturous looking device that is inserted into you.
You try to stay still so as not to prolong this session of pain. Your legs, quivering and trembling from fear, carrying the weight of your gender and your sexuality refuse to part.
“Stop pretending you don’t like this. I’m preparing you for your husband”
The comment slices through you and you shudder, wondering how this moment, this practical moment that should be painless and normal, concerns a yet-to-be-met person.
The doctor’s figure clouds over you, pushing you farther unto the bed-table. But your legs are closed, he cannot perform the pelvic exam and even when he angrily shouts at you to leave his examination room, they are unable to comply. You stay on the bed-table, half naked, with your legs and private parts exposed to the room and to the nurse. To him. When he drops the speculum next to you, you see yourself in it. In that moment, you feel discarded, useless and without purpose.
The nurse moves to walk you to the changing room.
“I’m sorry. It should not have been painful. It’s your fibroids. Find a boy to marry you soon.” You gather your things and you walk out thinking of your diseased and discarded self.
Later, you find out your scream travelled along the corridors of the hospital and stayed, for a longer time in front of the door of the examination room you were in. It landed next to your mother, long enough to clothe her in your misery and when you walk out, her tears mirror your own.
Nikitta Adjirakor is a Ghanaian academic and a creative writer. Her works focus on the intersections between women’s health, trauma and belonging. Her recent works include the documentary ‘A Thousand Needles’ and the blog ‘More Than Period Pain’ both narratives on women’s health. She writes regularly on www.morethanperiodpain.com and on instagram @nikitta_dede.
Originally published April 16, 2019