Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Female Physician

The Female Physician
-by William Hay

I was in London at the time. My young wife and I were dancers. We had just bicycled across Europe. Now we were studying dancing in the dance capital of the world, working during the days to pay for night dance classes.  Both our teachers were world champions. Hers was Bill Irvin, world champion  of classic dance. Mine was Doreen Key,  Latin American world champion.  

We were young  athletes then. In top physical shape.   We moved like young animals.  She was a cat. I was more a wolf. Lithe. Powerful. In America we’d appeared on television. Individually, together, and chorus line.  Here the  rumour was dance was the next Olympic sport. We wanted to compete.  

She’d been a ballet dancer all her life . I’d come to dance as a teen ager from gymnastics,  martial arts and theatre stunt work.  Here we were, young,  in love, at the height of Mod.  It was the time of The Beatles and Rolling Stones.We shopped the boutiques on Oxford Street  We drank black and tans in English pubs, house wines in pate bars and cafes.  We didn’t do drugs.  We’d dropped acid in Toronto and smoked hashish in Morocco. The drug scene wasn’t where we were in London.  It was all about the  music and the dance and theatre.  

The  dark side was the IRA.  They were bombing fairly regularly.  The Queen spoke out against them.

We heard her on the radio.  We didn’t have a tv in the flat.  We were living  sparse. Tiny furnished flat, no kitchen, bath, sink and tub,   little table, 2 chairs, bed. The loo outside, across the entrance.   

“My throat hurts something fierce, “ I croaked one morning.
“You should see a doctor.” she said.
“Do you really think so?” I asked, hardly audible.
She put the back of her hand to my head.  
 “You’ve got a bloody fever.  Phone in sick and go to the clinic.”

This exchange happened in the bed.   It was winter.  We had to feed the meter to get heat. Mornings were always coldest.  Feeling sorry for myself I watched her get out of bed, her sweater over her short lingerie.  She fumbled about in the bottom of  her purse,   finding a coin for the meter.  She came back to bed.  I dozed.

There was warmth in the room and she was dressed when I got up  and got ready. We were always pretty quick getting ready. We didn’t like to spend money on heat.  Out on the street we joined the  the throngs of others heading towards the city trains.

I stopped at the telephone booth, hugging and kissing her before she continued on her way.  She looked back once and waved, giving me that incredibly beautiful big mouthed smile photographers loved.  She had on tan high heel boots that enhanced  her strong dancer calves,   dark tights, short  short blue mini skirt.  Above that  she wore the warm white sheep skin coat we'd brought back from Morrocco.  She always looked good.  Heads turned wherever she walked.  Sometimes she stopped traffic.

Now she was gone, lost in the streams of others heading up to London. 

I stepped into the red telephone booth, the kind that Clark Kent changed out of his journalist clothes into his Superman underwear in. I didn’t feel like Superman. I felt punked.  I phoned the office where I worked temporary letting them know I’d not be in today.

The clinic was further along, down a side street.  We passed it on the way to the our local pub.  Many an evening we’d gone there  for a pint.  There was always a crowd of friendly locals glad to hang out, glad to include us, glad to chat.  They served cheese and onion sandwiches or steak and kidney pies. The local pubs closed at 10:30.    I liked guiness.  She liked shanties. The double decker bus stopped across the street. We’d taken it once to a near by  theatre with a local group doing something modern. We preferred the West End. Whenever we could we’d stay after work in the city to take in a play Friday night.

“Can I help you?” the young girl asked me at the desk.  She wore a crisp white uniform and sat at an Olivetti manual type writer.  A couple of others were already in the waiting room. A couple of  old ladies. Frail, sitting together like white haired birds clutching their bags and brollies on their laps.

“I’ve a sore throat,”I croaked.

“And a cough and fever,” I added, to give  substance to my complaint.  

“Do you have identification?” she asked. I’m sure she could tell I was Canadian by my accent. The English were very good at hearing where you were from even in their own country or their own city.  Just by listening to a sentence or two, they seemed to know right off where hailed from, geographically as well as class.  Class was important in England.  We got lumped in the category, “colonials’, up some from ‘foreigners’.

I’d remembered to bring my passport. I gave it to her along with my other papers.    She set it down beside her manual typewriter and began efficiently punching and pounding the keys    She had flax blond hair  and what the English called a ‘peaches and cream complexion.”

“Here,’ she said, giving me back my passport and papers and handing me a  form,  “take this and give it to the doctor when she calls you.”  

“I took a seat beside the old ladies who smelt somewhat “old”. I imagined that if was my normal self it  it might  be an even more distinctive scent.  

I’d also heard the  girl say ‘her’ and thought about that. I’d never seen a female doctor. The doctor I’d had growing up was a man.  I’d not seen a doctor more than once or twice. I was usually very fit and not one to go to the doctor.   That was how sick I was. 

A moment later a mother and her child came out of the inner office at the end of the waiting room.  The  boy was licking  a red lolly pop. The mother thanked the woman doctor.  She followed her  little boy as he made a wide berth around  the old ladies as if fearing they might steal  his candy.

“Come along now,” said the taller than I’d imagined woman doctor. She wore comfortable shoes , black mini skirt, white lab coat.  The old ladies  moved quickly into her office showing more agility and speed  than I’d have thought.  They carried their bags and brollies with them.

Time passed. I  sat there listening to the sound of the traffic outside,  the rat tat tat tat of the girl’s typing. 

Finally the door opened.   The ladies leaving, thanked the doctor, profusely.  They each clasped prescriptions and managed still to carry their  bags and brollys.

“Come in,” she said, looking at me.

I stood and walked in.  A  big cluttered executive oak  desk dominated the room.  A rotating leather cushioned wooden chair sat behind the desk.  A couple of bare wooden chairs in front of it.   To one side was an examining table half hidden by a ceiling hung curtain. A glass and metal cabinet with drawers, some white gauze and stainless steel instruments just visible too. Otherwise the room was bare.  No pictures.  Sterile. Clinical.   

She took the form from my hand sitting behind the big desk and and gesturing for me to sit in one of the wooden chairs in front of the desk.  I felt it still warm from one of the last occupants. 

She looked down at the form, then up at me, 

“Sore throat?” she said. “When did it come on?”

“I think It began last night but it  was really sore  when I woke this morning,” I croaked.

“Nothing else?”  

“A cough?”

“Dry or wet?”

“Dry , I guess, “  I said, not certain.

She was in her late thirties, early 40’s.  Old to me then. Crow’s feet around her eyes.  Slight forehead wrinkles.  A somewhat sallow complexion.  Indoor sort.  A pleasant enough face. Thin lips.  No make up. Sensible looking.  Intelligent. Brown hair. Brown eyes.  

“Stand back there”  she said. I rose and stood where she’d pointed , directly opposite her desk, a few feet back from  the chairs. She remained seated.

“Take off all your clothes.” she said looking directly at me. She had an almost whimsical look in her eyes.  Serious enough enough but different. 

I removed my over coat and sweater. I didn’t know where to put them. There were no hooks apparent.  No coat hanger.  I piled them on the chair I’d just vacated.   I took off my white shirt and put it on top.  I didn’t wear an undershirt.   I stood there then  naked to the waist.

“Take off the rest. The pants and the underwear. I have to examine you.”  she said emphatically,  taking her eyes off me,  looking back at the form on her desk, making a notation with her silver pen. I continued to undress feeling her eyes back on me. I felt  awkward.  Very awkward.  I was glad for my loafers. They’d been easy to kick off.  Getting my tight jeans off had been difficult. I’d had to balance on one leg and pull.   Slipping out of my white briefs had been easier.  I left the socks on. The floor was cold.  

I stood there then.  A neat pile of my things on the chair in front of me.  She was still watching me.  She had glasses and a silver pen in her hand.   She twirled the pen  as she appeared to  study me.  I was completely  naked. I was embarrassed at my exposed genitals.  I hung my hands at my side, awkwardly.   Standing there , sort of at attention. Waiting.  Not knowing what else to do.  I’d never experienced anything like this.   She continued to look me up and down. She put her  pen down and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear.

Rising very slowly from her desk, leaning forward so her  cleavage showed at it’s best, framed by a touch of black lace bra.  She walked around her desk coming to stand close by my side.  She touched my arm with her hand as she listened with her stethoscope to the front and back of my chest asking me to take deep breaths. She moved  directly in front of me,   very close, her lab coat brushing my naked body.  Taking a wood tongue depressor from the lab coat side pocket she looked in my throat shining a light she’d taken from the  front coat pocket. The buttons on her white blouse were  undone. Her black bra and  cleavage apparent.  She was rather slim and tall. I’m 6 feet and she was almost as tall as I was.   

Her breasts were almost touching me as she put the tongue depressor in my mouth.  She said, ‘say ah “.  I said “ah."  She shone the pen light in my mouth before putting it back in her breast pocket.  She dropped the tongue depressor in a waste basket beside the nearby examining table.   Still very close , her breath sweet on my face, she slowly felt my throat with  fingers of both her hands. All the while she was looking me directly in the eyes.  Her eyes had a kind of twinkle.  It was if she was thinking of a private joke. If there was something funny , I was  missing it.  

She walked around behind  me then and stood for a time looking at my back side. I felt she  was looking   my buttocks and legs.  Then almost suddenly she again came around in front of me.  Looking me in the eyes, her face so close to mine, she reached down, touched my gonads and  stroked the  the underside of my penis with one long finger. She wasn’t wearing gloves.  I became immediately erect.  I’d been just hanging there. Now I was fully upright.. I felt my face go instantly red. 

She smiled smugly then. Up close and personal.

“You can’t control that, can you,” she murmured, tauntingly.  Judgementally.   She was still so close her clothes touched my nakedness. I stood at attention. Hands at my side.  A big boner between us.  My face blushing.  A moment passed. 

She gave me a look of utter disdain.  Then she turned her back on me.  She returned to sitting at her desk, crossing her long bare legs, staring straight at my erection.  I was looking away but felt her eyes studying me. 

“Get dressed, “ she commanded, finally  

I scrambled to do just that, as quickly as I could.  Gangly , awkward. embarrassed.  It was hard to get my feet and legs into my tight jeans standing. I did up my shirt watching her writing out a script.  I didn’t bother putting on my sweater or coat, just tucking them under my arm. 

“Take this,” she said, slipping the script into my hand, standing very close to me as I passed out of that room.   

I was really  glad to get out.  Glad for the prescription.  

It was Amoxicillin.  I pulled on my sweater and put on my coat on the street. A little further along I took the prescription into the apothecary.  I waited as it was filled. I paid for the prescription.   I took the first Amxocillin pill with tea I had at the corner cafe.  I sat there awhile wondering about the visit.  It felt wrong. Not good.

I walked back to the flat still feeling punk.  I put another coin in the meter and climbed  into bed with my clothes on.. I slept the rest of  the day. I don’t remember anything but getting up to pee and taking more antibiotics.

When she came home that evening I was feeling better. My throat wasn’t nearly as sore.  My voice was better too. 
She’d brought along fish and chips wrapped in newspaper bought from a  street seller.  She knew it was my favourite.

“I hoped you’d be able to eat,” she said, handing me the newspaper wrapped bundle.  

I thanked her  hugging her,  enjoying the scent of her.  She only wore perfume going but the natural scent of her never failed to excite me.  She just always smelt so good.  I didn’t kiss her because of my throat.   I hugged her close nestling my face in her neck and hair.  Whenever she was in my arms I felt I was home.

I appreciated it so much that she’d brought back the fish and chips.  I was hungry but hadn’t  paid any attention to it. We were often hungry in London.  Food was expensive. We didn’t have much money and counted every shilling.  With rent,  heat,  train fares, the cost of group and private dance lessons,  and our trying to save every pence to go to theatre on the weekends,  we never anything left over. We livd We both worked in offices temporary during the week. She took whatever overtime she could get. I worked as a bar tender weekends.

“You sound better.” She said.  “You looked so sick this morning I was worried.”    

“Did things go well at the doctor's?”    she asked

“Okay, I guess.” I said. “She gave me amoxicillin. I’m feeling better since I’ve taken it. I slept all day.”

“Did you get anything to eat.”  

“No, just the tea. I really appreciate the fish and chips” I said, eating with my fingers..

“You said, “She”.  Was it a lady doctor? And you said, I guess”. what did you mean.” she asked.

She was always astute. Sensitive, insightful, attuned to any nuance, picking up on every little shift in mood. It was like living with an emotional telepath.  A times it was  annoying.  Right then I appreciated it.

She’d sat down on the bed beside me and waited as I ate the fish and chips. 

I told her the whole story. The old ladies.  The mother. The little boy.  The office. The stripping naked. The doctor looking  in my mouth and then her stroking my penis. My erection.  What she said. My dressing. The apothecary and my coming home.

“Do you think that’s odd?” I said.  

“It’s most peculiar! “ she said.  “Was she good looking?” 

“Okay, Nothing like you.” i said.She smiled.

“Older lady, slim,  tall,  comfortable shoes, not bad looking.”

“Well she certainly was getting off on you.  I think she wanted you to fuck her and when you didn’t she was miffed.  Crazy horny English bitch.  I hope I never become like that.” she said.

“Do you have to go back to see her.” 

“She didn’t say so.”


After that we settled down to read our books. We loved reading novels together. Made trips weekly to the library.

" Do you think you’ll go to work tomorrow.”  she asked.

“I think so”

I don’t remember when I fell asleep. Early, I think. I do remember her crawling into bed beside me. Her body was something incredible. Every curve and crevice special.  She flowed like warm lava.   Feeling her next to me, the two of us spooning in that little bed, in that chilly  room,  in that foreign city, all was right with the world.  She made me feel like home  wherever she was.  It was indescribable how comfortable and good I felt with her.  My life was perfect when she was with me.

it was many years later. Long after the divorce.  We’d come back to Canada. She danced out east. I’d gone west.  I  spent a life time studying medicine, living in laboratories, surgeries, call rooms  and libraries.  I had learned all the clinical medicine and skills a doctor must learn before it  dawned on me.

I think I was an intern doing a routine examination for a sore throat when it all came painfully tumbling back. I remembered her smug words , the disdainful look. “You can’t control that, can you?"

My skin crawled. For a moment I felt physically ill.  Dirty, humiliated.    Ssed.  It was a sudden.  An exact realization.  The opening of an old wound. An abscess popping. Pus leaking out. I don’t think I cried. Men don’t cry.

There was no way that examination had been ‘normal’. There was no ‘justification’ for what she’d done. There was simply no way in hell that any doctor could consider such an examination when presented with those symptoms. There was no way that was the way anyone was taught to do examinations.  I had to become a doctor myself to know that.  I knew. Beyond any doubt I knew.  All those years I’d given her the benefit of the doubt.  No more. I was angry. Crazy horny English bitch!

More years passed.  I delivered alot of babies, did surgery and examined countless bodies.  I worked in universities, hospitals,  my own  practices.  Another divorce.  The psychiatrist I was seeing for psychoanalytic training asked me in passing. 

“Do you think your marrying a female physician was ‘identification with the aggressor?” I’d told him about England. I’d  told him about my shame.  We’d talked for hours on end for several years about relationships, family,  love, lust,  work. He knew me better than I knew myself in some ways.  

There was no couch. Just comfortable chairs in a low lit room.  He was a soft spoken older man. I’d chose him for his brilliance and wisdom.  I’d admired his work with patients. His compassion. I wanted to be the kind of psychiatrist I knew him to be.

“Identification with the aggressor?” I asked.

“Yes, like in the Stockholm syndrome. You know.”

“I do. But I just never thought about it like that.  It was never that important.  Just a passing thing.  I told you my wives were brilliant and  beautiful.”

“I know. I don’t doubt it.” he went on.     “But there was the shame. The humiliation. You remember it . You talk about it. Not just once. It’s come up again. “ he said, looking at me, 
intently, caringly.

“I guess so.” I said.  There was silence then.

“It wasn’t that big a deal.” I said.

I tried not to think about it again.  I’d already told him my divorces were all my fault.  There were no extenuuating circumstances. I was a man. I was responsible.  I was always to blame.  That’s what being a man was. Being accountable.  Adults were accountable.  Life served lemons. Make lemonade. 

“Are we done for today,” I asked.

“If you wish,” he said.  I left then.  I took my jacket and the sweater I’d taken off  under my arm. I  didn’t put them on  until I  was out in the street.  I didn’t want to think about this anymore.  I didn’t like being reminded of it either. 


Anonymous said...

for a sore throat

Sandy Van Eysinga said...

Definitely a hashtag me too moment. Not just for women.