Blue Corals for Green Amber
The red haired woman is leaning at the window sill, the woman with the unkempt hairdo is sitting on the imitation leather chair. A third woman in the neighbouring bed, a very young one, is putting the headset on the curls of her corn-yellow wig and is listening to hard rock music with her eyes closed so that she will not see any more the gleaming metal infusion rod and the siege of her veins by the transparent tubes. She does not want to talk with anybody, not before her end, she prefers doing a bit of soul-searching for not withering away.
The red-haired woman opens her bathrobe a bit and looks at her right breast, with the glance of a mother looking after her sleeping child before she switches off the lights.
"How much did they cut off?" the woman sitting on the chair asks.
The red-haired woman remembers the rough outline of the surgeon: One quadrant. Answers: "A quarter of a circle. And you?"
The woman sitting does not dare to look at herself, her finger points at the scars running vertically and horizontally: "All of it! My husband felt I was perverse without any breasts, one month later he moved out." “Where are your two fruity quinces?” he had mocked me before on a paper that he had glued to the big mirror in our cupboard in our bedroom. “Not even a windfall!” You know, we had a fruit plantation in the south," she explained the origin of those physical images. "And your husband?"
"He came to me three hours after the operation, completely sloshed, he rumbled along and gesticulated wildly in the air with a ruler: Now, Missis Doctor, now we will measure the new radius of your breast with the highest precision. Trust the teacher of mathematics!"
"Why did he call you “Missis Doctor?”
"Because I am a doctor. Before I married him seven years ago, I had been treating many diseased and wounded patients in many countries, in Mexico, in India, in Papua, in the Ivory Coast and in Bethlehem."
"You have traveled so far?," the fruit farmer wondered. "My farthest journey ended in South Tyrol. A present of our daughter for our wedding anniversary. My husband loved climbing the mountains and playing the alphorn, I preferred milking the cows. You know what I don’t understand? I am a farmer, but you, why didn’t you notice that your breast…?"
The doctor leaves her place at the window and sits on the edge of her bed. Her red hair splendour falls on the pillow sprinkled with lavender. "I think those insidious cell monsters would not even spare God if he had the breasts of a woman," she says. "My husband said that all that happened because I had no idea of the code of my own body, he said I had been too lavish and had robbed it too wildly. His mathematic theory of life: Everything must be measurable and calculable, the equations must be kept intact."
"I do not understand these sophisticated sentences. What is an equation?"
The doctor knows the definition only too well, as he had articulated them like a litany, to the point of vomiting, no matter if there had been a reason or not. Even during coitus. The bumps adapted to the rhythm of the sentence, precisely to comma and full stop: linking two mathematical terms that have the same value but are different in form by putting an equals sign.
But she answers: "Here we have an equation, for example, if I get 12 infusions in three stages and you get them in only two," she explains and writes into the air: 4+4+4=6+6."Now I understand," says the farmer. But this does not apply when a man and a woman kiss, as then they are not two any more. That happened on a winter evening, when the Russian ship captain presented her with the green black amber ring. She holds the ring between thumb and forefinger and writes just like the doctor before: 1+1=1.
"Is it good when you remember it?," asks the doctor. "Does it make your life simpler?"
She is waiting for the love story to be continued, but the other voice only pursues its own path.
For a while only the humming of the CD player interrupts the silence in the room. The poison is noiseless when it merges with the young woman’s blood.
"Let’s have a drink!"
They shuffle with their little metal trees across the stone floor and take their seats in the cafeteria at the table with the orchids. The doctor wants to clink glasses with her bed neighbour, kiwi green with grape red, when a clamp gets loose from the hook. The infusion bag falls down into cigarette ash and stubs. Now the orchids are ash pale.
"Do you mourn your quarter breast?"
The doctor nods. "A little." Then she whispers, more to herself: "My tits were kneaded like bread dough, moulded in clay, painted on the shields of a dozen Don Quixotes. On them there streamed sperm, children of nothing, and champagne words: your meerschaum, Aphrodite…"
"What are you talking about? Aphrodite, is that your name?" The glances of the farmer, shy up to then, glistened with curiosity; she was not used to such tirades.
"That’s what I was called once…. I also was Undine, Vesuvia, Allegra…"
"Oh!" She was amazed. "I have always been called Melanie, even in my mother’s womb. What did your mathematical husband mean by overexploitation? That your exploited body now takes revenge on you? Were you a bit of a tart?"
"No, no. But I have always been in search."
"Your ring is beautiful!," Melanie remarks after a while.
"Yes, the blue coral. I collected it from the Egyptian ocean. And your amber?"
"Did your ship’s captain steal it from the czar’s palace?"
They are both laughing and dangling their legs.
"Can you imagine taking off your clothes in front of a new man? To have your breasts caressed again?"
A question like a shower of hail on their emotional centres still sore. The doctor twiddles her red hair, throws it back, after a while she winks at Melanie: "By somebody who loves asymmetry. A sculptor, perhaps. And you?"
"Me? I am standing at the quayside, the siren of his war ship whistles farewell, he sees me through his binoculars, leaps into his boat and then he takes me among the dunes, builds castles of sand on my skin and decorates them with shells."
"I meet him every Thursday in my dreams."
For the doctor, who until then had believed that she knew what happiness and grief are, it is almost like in a film. For her it is no effort to imagine her secret. How Melanie’s downy skin felt two decades ago and how the dunes’ sand on her vulva lips and her clitoris tasted for him.
She could have told her more about it. “Because I saw them!” She smiled. “ I was the sea swallow that swaggered on their heads.” Instead, she asked: "A piece of cherry tart, Melanie?"
"Yes, Aphrodite! And another kiwi juice! Cheers!"
"On our scars! And on our rings! Shall we swap them? Blue coral for green amber? Or vice versa? My name is Beatrix, though."