Devil’s Child

In order to reach the clinic, if you could even call it that, Sima and I had to take four taxis and one bus from our dorm at Tehran University to the city’s southern slums. Although the journey took more than two hours, we barely spoke. We did not discuss what had happened or where we were going. We had known each other since freshman year, forging an intimate bond the way young girls do when they are far away from home and everything that is familiar to them. Sima took me to my first underground party and handed me my first drink, bootleg vodka with pomegranate juice. I introduced her to student activists and marked articles she should read in reformist newspapers. Our friendship and activism blossomed side by side. Despite everything Sima and I had been through together, a sense of shame and guilt now drifted between us.

We got off the bus and I followed her as she walked down a narrow, winding road toward a three-story residential building. It had rained the night before and small children, in tattered clothes and plastic slippers, played in puddles.

“This is it,” she said, pressing her finger on the buzzer for the basement. A female voice asked if we had the password.

“Gisele,” I whispered to Sima, then said it again louder. The gate opened and we entered a dark hallway and tottered down a flight of stairs.

The doctor’s secretary wanted to know who the appointment was for. We hesitated; the pregnancy was not yet obvious but for anonymity’s sake, we had made a pact not to reveal which one of us was with child. The secretary raised one eyebrow, adjusted the blue scarf on her head, and noted with a hint of sarcasm that the doctor would not be performing the procedure on both of us. Soon it would be time to strip naked, lie down on the bed, and be covered somewhat modestly with a white sheet. I imagined the doctor gently lifting the legs, placing the feet flat on the stirrups, and then pricking a needle into the arm. He would then erase this wound, at least from the body.

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