Helen

Dr. Rivas saw her on a gurney in the corner of the clinic. She was curled up under a white sheet and looked familiar. Was it Helen? She hadn’t seen her in months since she last came here, happy about her life. 

“Helen, what brings you in?”

“I’m hurting,” she replied, pushing on her lower belly.

“What happened?”

“I would like testing for STDs,” she added.

“New man in your life?”

“No,” she replied and looked away. “Same man.”

Helen had a round, pretty face and soft eyes, about twenty four years old now. She remembered the man. He was older? Or did he just look older, hard and fake-smiling? 

Helen used to come here often with the ups and downs of their relationship, sometimes asking for STD checks and more often, saying little beyond her sad expression.

She used to tell her husband about Helen, not by name, just her story. “That’s the problem with women, Joe. They get the anger whipped out of them.”

He did not like it when she became angry. In their long marriage, they now “talked early and often” about issues between them. In the early years, he often lost his temper with her. And she with him.

Joe was persistent when he fought. Maybe, that is what made him such a fine lawyer.

“I have no regrets about my anger,” she told him recently. “Sometimes, it is the only thing that gives me strength, as a woman, to stand up for myself.”

“You could be quite the wrecking ball!” he replied, remembering a few family members and former friends who they no longer saw often.

“Its OK,” she sniffed. “You are right I could be more gracious about it. But those people weren’t our well-wishers anyway, or cared about us, or would be there for us or our children if we needed them. Why put perfume on those pigs?”

“Lipstick you mean,” he corrected her.

“Whatever! I was never one to live with the elephant s__t in the room. The truth can be ugly sometimes but it sure doesn’t stink like that. Whatever… things would have ended up the same with all those people either way.”

Now, she looked at Helen’s young face. She had often tried to tell her the truth about her man, gently, and then, when Helen told her they were finally happy together, she wanted to believe her.

“What happened, Helen?”

Helen looked away, always graceful. Dr. Rivas called the assistant to set her up for an exam, who pulled the curtains around the space.

She worked in this charity clinic Thursday evenings; they said Helen had called to see when she was there before she came.

Could she teach Helen to be angry, she wondered?

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