1. It will feel like you’re on the verge of menstruation. The intense pain in your gut, distinct from a normal stomach ache, throbbing through your entire body, accompanied by rising anxiety. Heavy legs and a feeling of exhaustion that will push your head down with light but constant pressure emanating from the upper part of your nape. Nerves as you obsessively count, then recount, the days and nights, a reconstruction of your life through a calendar and your diary. You’ll allow more days to pass, between two and three, until one Thursday on your way to work you’ll find the courage to walk into a pharmacy.
You’ll lock yourself in the office bathroom. The typical waiting time won’t be necessary: the test will respond immediately. You’ll call your doctor friend who’ll recommend that you repeat the test the next morning when you first urinate, and that before doing so you take your temperature. You’ll lay down and stare at your apartment ceiling, waiting for the night to end. The test the following morning will have an identical result. With your body temperature, your doctor friend will confirm everything.
You’ll get the names of various doctors. When two acquaintances recommend the same one, you’ll call and schedule an appointment.
2. You’ll arrive at the first doctor’s appointment in a trance. A work thing will hold you up and you’ll arrive late. You’ll ask the taxi to let you out a few blocks away. You’ll find yourself at an ordinary building on Calle Billinghurst, its only defining characteristic will be some sort of mural, the size of a door, made with mosaics embedded into the wall that form an orange and yellow abstract figure. You’ll ring the bell to the fourth floor, apartment H. The buzzer will shriek before you even announce who you are or where you’re going, as if they were waiting for you, and you’ll push open the door with your body. The elevator will carry you through the floors that separate you and the doctor’s office. You’ll ring a second bell and wait in a beige and impersonal room where you’ll listen to Radio Aspen. You’ll hear your last name called. A secretary momentarily lost in the abstraction of her telephone screen will nod towards the door you should open. You’ll open that door to find the doctor in question on the other side. The doctor, blue eyes and gray-haired, will seem too skinny to you. He’ll be wearing brown corduroys, a sky-blue shirt, and a white lab-coat. In his coat pocket, you’ll notice an expensive pen. It will seem to you that even if he was wearing the smallest pants in the store, they would still be too big for him. He will speak to you slowly, pausing often to the point where he’ll make you nervous. He’ll ask you to lay down on the table and lift your clothing from your waist up, leaving your belly exposed. He’ll pump gel onto your abdomen and spread it around using a curved device with a suggestive shape the size of a remote control. In some areas he will linger the device, increasing the pressure he exerts onto your stomach. He will continuously glance at a screen to his left. There, he’ll be monitoring the image of your abdomen. He will confirm the suspicion that two tests and your doctor friend have already confirmed. When he finishes the examination, he will pass you a handful of white paper towels that he keeps next to the monitor and ask you to dry the gel. He will say to you that it’s okay to readjust your clothing and get off the table. He will ask you to please sit in the chair designated for patients across from his desk.
He will give you specifics about your situation. He will ask you questions about your medical history. He will explain to you how the procedure works. He will write the fee on a Post-It and hand it to you. He will ask you if you’ve shown any symptoms. He will request that you take a few days to think about it as if it were his obligation to ask you. He’ll recommend that you go for a run. He will tell you that the best thing you could do is to let things happen naturally. With the expensive pen in his coat pocket, he’ll write you an order for a blood test. He will tell you to, if you are convinced, make another appointment with him for the following week, and to bring the analysis results with you. Still seated at his desk, he will gesture you to the exit. Before closing the door, you will hear him lift the phone receiver to ask the secretary to send in the next patient.
You’ll leave through the same doors you came in through, then walk a few blocks before stopping a taxi and asking the driver to bring you back to work. You will lock the door of your office and search your phone for a number. You will punch that number into the landline and listen to a voice that, like a whisper, almost as if the words were coming instead of going, will confirm that if you took the next step, he would be able to accompany you.
3. You’ll return for a second appointment, but only after long conversations with the two friends who recommended this doctor above all others. This time you’ll stop a taxi on the street in front of your house and ask him to take you to Calle Billinghurst. He’ll drop you at the corner and you’ll walk the few steps that separate you from the entrance. It won’t be necessary to press the buzzer because in the entrance there will be a woman your age. She will have difficulty keeping herself upright, and will be assisted by another woman who looks as if she might be her mother, crossing the threshold in the opposite direction.
You will take the elevator to the fourth floor and knock on the office door. The same secretary will open it, her telephone tucked away in the right pocket of her light brown lab coat. You’ll notice that to keep her bangs off her forehead, she uses pink Hello Kitty clips. She’ll let you into the waiting room and ask you to take a seat. You’ll wait in the same chair and listen to the same radio station as the last time.
All around you will only be women. The other women, like you, will wait their turn, all of them accompanied by other women. Your turn will arrive and you’ll head to the same office. This time, the secretary’s directions won’t be necessary. You will meet the same doctor, blue eyes lit behind wrinkles and pronounced thinness. The doctor will not remember you. You will retell him everything and he will ask you again if you are certain of your decision. You will pass him the results of your blood test. He will ask you to schedule yet another appointment and he will give you instructions for the day before. He will insist that you come accompanied. He will prescribe you injections and tell you to say in the pharmacy that you have a urinary tract infection. You will repeat that you are sure. When you have finished talking, he will see you out with a handshake.
4. You will visit a pharmacy on your way to work the day before the next appointment. You’ll hand the pharmacist the prescriptions. The pharmacist will ask you how serious the infection is. With god-knows-what determination, you will respond that it’s very serious, and that, furthermore, you’re in a rush. You will pay in advance for the medicine and the applicators. You will first be required to conduct an allergy test with the medicine, waiting half an hour before proceeding with the injections. They will, at last, inject you three times, two on the right and one on the left side of your hips. You will feel how the liquid, thick as syrup, enters your body. You will feel a searing pain as if a slug were eating the inside of your thigh. Instinct will tell you that the pharmacist derives some enjoyment from the pain he’s causing you. You will hold his gaze and remain stoic, fighting to hold back tears. You will leave the pharmacy alienated, on auto-pilot, as if following a list of precise instructions. You’ll continue walking to work. The day will feel very short. You will feel numb and the aches engulfing your body will hurt more than most other days. For the first time, you will witness the presence of a swollen stomach along with the symptoms of a body occupied with the spectral presence of a second body in gestation. Seated in the ergonomic chair in your office, you will feel like the thick liquid they injected into your hips is beginning to dilute. The pressure of the internal movement will feel like there’s a constant pulse in both hips. Before leaving, very late from the office, you will remind your boss that the next day you won’t be at work. She will ask if you’ll be reachable via email. You’ll respond that by the afternoon you may be available. Leaving the office, you’ll pass by an ATM to withdraw the amount of money that the doctor scribbled on the Post-It.
You’ll lay down to sleep without eating. When you’re just about to nod off, you’ll hear your phone vibrate on the nightstand. You’ll swipe to ignore the call, again. Via text message, you’ll thank him once more for his gesture and explain that, despite his good intentions, you prefer that it isn’t he who accompanies you the following day. Immediately after, you will call your mother without turning on the light and ask her between sobs to take you to the doctor.
5. You will sit once again in the office waiting room on the fourth floor on Calle Billinghurst, this time with your mother beside you. She will try to take your hand while you remain distracted by the receptionist. This day, she will seem sunken in despair with her phone, not in a relationship of dependence, but one of anguish. You will watch her repeatedly glance at her phone and understand that she’s begging the device for a response. You will hear your own phone vibrate in your purse where it’s slumped on the floor. The sound that it will make clacking against the other things in the bag will cause it to lose its specific quality amid the conversations happening around you. They will call your last name. For the third time, you will enter the doctor’s office and take a seat in front of him, this time with your mother beside you. This time he’ll remember you. Your mother will introduce herself but he will barely make the effort to return the pleasantry. It will surprise you to hear him recite the instructions with the agility of a girl skipping rope. His careful, withdrawn tone will have disappeared, his thinness won’t seem so extreme. You will have become accustomed to his scrawniness, seen beneath the warm light that will enter his office through the fourth-floor window. You will listen to him, trying to focus your attention on his words, however, each one of the instructions will float in the air like a helium-inflated balloon. Your mother, luckily, will take mental notes of everything. He will tell you that the post-procedural bleeding should not exceed that of a normal period. That the bleeding, similar to that of a normal period, will take place for at least the next ten days. That it’s possible that it may continue for up to forty days after. That if the bleeding following the procedure exceeds that of a normal period, it will be necessary for you to contact him. He will prohibit the use of aspirin. He will ask you if you have private medical care. You will respond yes. He will then tell you that, if it comes to it, you will need to be prepared to visit the ER. He will clarify that under no circumstance should you explain about the procedure. He will tell you that, furthermore, for the next two months, your body will continue the normal gestation course. That the hormones will continue to be produced during those two months. That you will become sensitive or irritable or even depressed. That the hormones are going to toy with you. That it won’t be you, that the hormones will always be at fault. Afterward, he will again give you the details of the procedure. He will comment that the total time of anesthesia will be thirty minutes. That after the procedure you will feel numb, that you won’t be able to do much. That it will be necessary to lie down immediately afterward. That it would be best for you to not leave your house for two days afterward. That you don’t exercise for at least a month. That during the first fifteen days, you don’t walk more than ten blocks. That it will be necessary to rest. That two days after, you can begin to work again. He will hand you a white envelope enclosing an invoice with the exact same number as the Post-It from the first meeting. He will ask you to follow him to another room. You will say goodbye to your mother who, making a tremendous effort to keep her tears in her eyes, will tell you that she will be waiting for you when you come out.
You will enter an enormous office where they will have arranged a make-shift operating room along the left side. You will remain there alone for only a few minutes. You will watch the doctor enter through a separate door from the one you used. He will be dressed in a surgical gown. He will hand you your own gown and ask you to undress, and once you’ve changed, you will sit on the operating table in the center of the makeshift operating room. He will ask you if you received the necessary injections. You will respond yes. He will check for marks on your hips to ensure that you aren’t lying about the injections. You will watch a woman enter the room dressed for surgery with a mask on, prepared to assist in the procedure. The doctor will tell you that she is the anesthesiologist. He will ask you to lay down on the operating table. The anesthesiologist will place a needle in the vein of your right arm. You will feel a light stream enter your vein. It won’t hurt. Immediately afterward, you will feel the anesthesiologist flooding the passage with something that may as well be water or an anti-allergy.
The anesthesiologist will repeat that the procedure will take thirty minutes. She will tell you that it will all be over soon. You will think about things you have never thought of before. In ideas that you don’t believe. In gods that you don’t pray to. A few tears will fall down the sides of your face and the salt of your eyes will reach your neck. You will feel the weight of your immobility and the precision with which the anguish will begin to occupy the space within your body. You won’t have time to digest this feeling.
6. You will awake without anguish but exhausted. A few seconds will pass before you can remember where exactly you are and why. The doctor will tell you that everything went as planned. He will give you a few minutes to come to and then will help you sit up on the operating table. You will see your naked, white feet from above. You will feel the cotton bandage formed into a diaper that contains the bleeding that is already descending from your uterus. You will hear him ask you to stand and to accompany him behind a screen where your clothing will be folded neatly. You will see your mother enter the room from behind the screen. Your mother will help you dress slowly. Everything will happen from within a plane abstracted from reality, as if your body didn’t inhabit the entirety of the space that it will be occupying.
The doctor will give you more instructions. The words will leave you as soon as they are spoken. Perhaps because of the lingering effects of the anesthesia, they will form a caricature of yourself following the instructions, trying with great effort to retain them as if they were kites that had lost their threads and were escaping with the wind. You will feel the cold envelop the wet surface of your bones. Your mother will help you enter the elevator. She will look you in the eyes. She will ask you how you feel. You won’t be capable of responding. You will leave the building for the last time, your mother helping you across the threshold. A young woman will pass you taking the inverse route. She will help your mother keep the door open so that you can exit the building. You will take in the mural in the entryway for the final time, the yellow and orange. It will seem to you that amid the sweeping strokes of the mural hides the ethereal image of a cat that, between the warmth of the colors, casts the shadow of a hidden smile.
Your mother will stop a taxi and help you in. She will tell the cabbie your address and the car will cross the city. You will arrive at your apartment, your mother will help you exit the car then grab your purse and open the door to the building. She will call the elevator, which will open its metallic doors and let you inside. She will push your floor’s button, and meanwhile, she’ll check your purse for your house keys. She will open the door to your house, then help you into bed. She will cover you with the blanket that lays at the foot of your bed and leave you to sleep in silence. She will just barely raise the blinds, spilling clarity into the room as the image of your body appears cast onto the bed. She will close the door and wait outside for you to wake up.
7. When the anesthesia wears off, you’ll awake in pain. A constant ache over your entire body, and a deep feeling in your skin that will make it so that even the blanket that will be covering you will feel intolerable. Furthermore, you will begin feeling fluctuant, rhythmic vibrations in your uterus, a deep pain as if someone was digging inside you with a serving spoon. You will go to the bathroom to find that the bandage still has not reached its absorption capacity. You will ask your mother to bring your purse so you can check your phone. You will have thirty-five missed calls from the same number that the night before you decided to message instead of picking up one of those calls. You will again opt to text and inform him that everything went as planned. You will set yourself up in bed to begin responding to the work emails that will have begun to accumulate. Your mother will want to know if you feel like eating something. You will reply yes and she will make you tea with crackers. The doctor will recommend that you eat lightly on that first day.
You will hear your mother on the phone through the door to your room. You will hear her say that she can’t leave you alone. You will try to concentrate on the questions that await your attention at work, and when you sense that your mother has stopped talking, you will call her into your room. You will tell her that you feel fine, that it isn’t necessary for her to stay with you. You will lie to your mother. You will tell her that he is coming to stay with you until you feel better. Finally, she will collect her things and leave but not before telling you to call if you need anything.
You will start, little by little, to organize your inbox. Responding first to those emails which don’t require the most concentration or mental effort. Everything that normally does not require any effort will take a lot out of you. You will soon need to sleep again. You will awake and the purity of the day will be diluted. You will go to the bathroom, and this time, it will be necessary to change the bandage that contains your bleeding. You will return to work two days later. When you sit down at your desk, planted in the center of your office, you will realize that two days of rest have not been enough. When you get up for the first time to go to the bathroom, you will find that your ergonomic chair has a patch of blood, that your diaper wasn’t capable of containing it all. You will tell your boss the details of the affair and return home to rest. You will not respond to any emails for three days and three nights.
8. As soon as seven days have passed, the amount of blood will begin to lessen. You will feel alone even when you aren’t, as if standing on a bench, observing everything, without anything able to reach you. You will cry and you will see that your stomach continues to swell for two weeks. You will continue to bleed for thirty more days. Though less and less. After forty days, the blood will stop flowing. Everything will go according to plan. When six months later you return to your normal gynecologist, your uterus will carry no traces of evidence.