Friday 18 May 2007
It was in the rain that I set off for the Louis XIV Clinic, on Tuesday afternoon. In the rain and fairly serene. I was smiling, I was happy and calm. It was finally happening, the wait was over. I was no longer thinking about my mother’s call, I was thinking only of this miracle which was really happening and my heart was sparkling. I felt as though I were on holiday.
On the RER which was taking me to Saint Germain en Laye, I had two surprising telephone conversations: first my father called me. Strangely, I can’t remember much of what he said to me. As a conversation, it was very desultory. And his tone was neutral, detached, which surprised and unsettled me. At one point it even came to mind that he was talking to me as if I were just going to have my wisdom teeth removed, without any particular emotion.
He first of all asked me how I was . Then he said that my mother had called him to talk to him about my operation and the letter. He told me he still hadn’t read it but he was counting on doing so as soon as he arrived home on Wednesday evening. He told me of my mother’s deception, of not being able to be at my side, told me that it was a pity that I had let them know so late, that she would have come to look after me if she had known sooner. He said he thought I was in good hands and wished me luck.
The whole conversation I held my breath, I was very uneasy and I gave him my habitual “standard issue responses” reassuring and automatic. I wasn’t at all frightened. Nevertheless, I had one feeling of urgency: to hang up. And it was with relief that I thanked him for calling when he said he’d better let me go.
Then my cousin called. I had spoken to her about my call from my mother the evening before. I told her I wasn’t sure whether to believe her. Her response surprised me: she said that it was very possible that my mother hadn’t participated in the organisation of our circumcision, since she had no say. “The poor thing, what would you expect her to do apart from submit to your grandmother’s wishes” she said.
It’s true that in Senegalese culture, a woman has a certain authority over her daughter in law, who owes her respect and obedience, and also over her grandchildren. So had my mother told me the truth? Had my paternal grandmother been the sole instigator of the butchery?
My cousin confirmed that my father himself had truly slavered (but I still don’t know what that means exactly). [in French you can faire baver de rage, jalousie etc but it sounds really odd in English and I can’t think of an equivalent - A.] While walking to the clinic, I asked myself if my father himself had a grudge against my mother because he really believed she was in league with my grandmother, or if it was because she had done nothing to prevent my grandmother from mutilating us, because she hadn’t protected us …
And then I arrived at the clinic and there I could think of nothing other than my relief at being there. I didn’t die on the way, the clinic hadn’t burnt down, it had really happened, I was going to have the operation….
I was put into a double room. I had asked for a telephone, not being allowed to use my mobile, and television, but I hadn’t particularly wanted to be in a single room. The very young male nurse who took me to my room told me the other bed would be occupied by another of Dr Foldès’ patients who would arrive next morning.
He had me fill in a form about my possessions (had I a mobile phone with me? A credit card? A cheque book? What was the number of the last cheque used? Did I have a digital camera? My papers? etc…) before asking me if I wanted to put anything in the safe, which I didn’t.
His questions gave me the feeling of having landed in some sort of no-go area, and that must have shown on my face because he assured me that there had been practically no incidents at the clinic, the questionnaire was simply a precaution, just in case. That reassured me only a little.
After the form, he verified that I was wearing no nail varnish, or jewellery (I had to leave my silver bracelets at home and without them I felt really quite strange). Then he mumbled, blushed deeply, and asked me very quickly if I had had all my body hair removed.
He showed me the showers, situated outside my room and told me I had to take a shower that evening before going to bed, and again next morning when a nurse came to wake me up. He showed me the iodine with which I had to wash myself meticulously, from head to toe twice, especially my hair, nostrils, nails (feet and hands), navel and the urogenital and anal regions.
When I returned to my room I had a visit from another nurse, who came to give me what looked like giant sanitary towels “for after the operation”. That worried me. Was I going to bleed a lot?
Then the duty anaesthetist that night came to my room. It was a woman with a Nordic accent. She told me that I would be given a sedative tablet that evening and another next morning. She asked me if I had any questions, to which I answered, no.
I felt lonely in that room. I phoned my man, then the meal arrived: vegetable soup, a portion of quiche and green salad mixed with quarters of tomato, bread, spreading cheese, and, for dessert, a yoghurt. That made me even more depressed, that dinner.
I read and watched television, then at about 20:30 I went to take my evening shower.
And that’s when I discovered the big difference between a room in a clinic and a room in a hotel: towels are not provided. Worse: they have none at all. I therefore had to dry myself with a sheet kindly lent to me by a night nurse, before putting my nightdress back on, and going to bed, my pill swallowed.
I felt a bit sad all the same, on Tuesday evening.
Sad and very impatient for Wednesday. To be finished at last.
(to be continued)
[Original in French]