I kept away from WP 468 where the Uterine Disease books were kept with their bloody illustrations. No shelving was done by me that day. Instead I thought of Virginia Woolf and my novel, that lay like an abandoned child, an orphan, in the bottom drawer where I used to keep my secret stash of baby clothes. The morning of the operation, using indelible ink, I drew a womb on my stomach. The last thing I said before I went under was: Every woman should have a womb of their own. The anaesthetist grinned. The world turned red. There was no pain, no scars. No proof that I was womb-less, womanless. My skin would become like the shell of a walnut and I would shrivel like an old prune. I wanted to wrap myself in bandages like the invisible man. I dreamt Virginia Woolf was holding my womb in her hand: ‘…a woman must have money and a womb of her own if she is to write fiction.’
A friend asked if there was anything I needed. Something to cover the windows, so I could open the curtains.
“I know just the man,” she said.
Derek fixed up the nets in no time. I made him tea and he told me about the lost love of his life. I told him I’d stopped writing when the ‘trouble’ began.
“What you need is a 4b pencil. Here.”
It was still warm.
“Ring me,” he said. “If you need anything, fixing.”
A week passed. I opened the bottom drawer and pulled out a package lovingly wrapped in the palest pink tissue. I removed the layers one by one and waiting for the tears to stop, hugged the manuscript to my breast. With Derek’s pencil in my hand, I turned the first page.