I sighed, and with the breath I released, I also let go of a tentative trickle from between my legs. It didn’t take long to lose one’s dignity, I thought.

I reached for the handicap bar with my left hand. My littlest finger followed my stronger fingers and thumb onto the bar for support. My gold band clinked gently. I used to wear it on my ring finger, but now it would only fit the little one. In the sixty years or so on my hand, the band had dulled. Small scratches covered its curved surface, but on the inside it was shiny and quite smooth, polished like new against my skin.

I sat on the toilet, thighs open wide, right palm on my right thigh for support. My shalwar was around my ankles probably soaking up the droplets of the one who sat on the toilet to give a urine sample before me. I kept my eyes on the band on my little finger, thinking of its better days, trying not to notice. It was a nightmare, this urine test.

The bathroom wasn’t dirty. No, that wasn’t it. The lab was one of the best, cleanest and most reliable in Karachi. My dutiful son had brought me here for the routine tests the doctor had ordered. But my hands shook and my knees trembled, and I was slow and stiff. I couldn’t possibly urinate in that little cup on my own. He reasoned, in a gentle, controlled voice, that I had to, because we were here for this purpose. I felt like chuckling at his coaxing. Tell that to my knees, my hands, and my balance, because I’m fine, I wanted to say, it’s just that these parts of me are refusing to listen.

Instead I said in the happiest possible way, “It’s alright, son. I feel fine. We can skip this test.”

But he was a good son, and knew well the saying that heaven lies beneath your mother’s feet. He would care for me, do what’s right. And the urine test was the right thing to do.

So, I sat on the toilet looking at the gold band on my little finger, thinking of its better days and trying not to notice the young, beautiful head between my thighs. She had offered to help. She was another patient waiting for a blood test, and she said to my son that she would help. I was horrified, but he was a good son, and she was a good stranger, so it was decided.

The kameez I wore was gathered on my lap, but she didn’t move it aside. Instead she kept her eyes down as she squatted in front of me, holding the cup in her left hand, her right hand on her knee for balance. My trickle was a stream now, wavering like it always does, splashing her hand. She let the warm splashes direct her to move and fill the cup. It was a nightmare, this urine test.

As I continued to examine my gold band with my head turned to the left, I saw her stand up. She put the cup in the required plastic bag, set it on the counter and washed her hands. The water from the faucet covered the sounds of my last few drops. She was crying, quietly. The tears just rolled down.

If I moved, or attempted any words of comfort, I think I would scream. Maybe I could be stilled into invisibility instead.

She turned towards me, and I stayed a statue facing the handicap bar. “I’ll just step outside while you…”

My son must have been waiting just outside the door, because I heard them too clearly. And he must have seen her tears.

“Did my mother say something?” he asked.

“No, not at all,” the beautiful head said, not wanting to place blame, and then added, “She didn’t say anything.”

“I’m so sorry. She can be like that,” he said. “I thank you very much.”

Such a good son and such a good stranger.


Photo By: Ejaz Asi