When I was a teenager, my mother and stepfather became obsessed with my virginity. I was sexually abused as a child, so I hadn’t been a virgin for a long time, but no one wanted to talk about that. They wanted to talk instead about the boys they insisted I flirted with — most of all, Reza — all of whom I’d done absolutely nothing with. But my parents’ suspicions only increased.
One day, when I arrived home late from school, both my mother and stepfather were at the front door waiting for me. My stepfather shoved me into a cab next to my mother and climbed into the front passenger seat. They were taking me to a clinic in Shahsavar, they said.
“I can’t make him stop this craziness,” my mother whispered in my ear. “We’re going to see a doctor and get a medical note confirming that you are a virgin.”
Panic set in. I kept thinking of the man in Qom and what he did to me when I was very young. The doctor will know, I thought. I remembered stories I’d heard in religion class at school about girls who were stoned to death for having broken hymens. Who could I explain my situation to? No one would believe me now if I told them, and even if they did, they’d think it was my fault anyway. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I stared out the window. Then I noticed that the trees were waving their branches. They looked like people in a theater clapping their hands, and the sound of the wind rustling through them sounded like applause.
You’re an actress, I thought. A wonderful actress. Your performance makes everyone happy. Sink into the role. Feel the applause.
My stepfather opened the back door of the taxi. We were parked outside of big sign saying Shahsavar Medical Center. I was shaking, and I think even the taxi driver knew what was about to happen. He looked at me with pity as he rolled his little window up and drove off.
The clinic was a little, run-down white building with lots of cars and ambulances parked out front. Inside the front doors, I noticed the space was very clean and nearly empty. There were lots of young men, probably there for drug rehab, loitering around the main hall, smoking cigarettes. My mother approached the head nurse behind the counter and asked, “Are you Ms. Mohamedian?” A young woman with a sweet smile said yes. Apparently the two had already had a long conversation on the phone.
Ms. Mohamadian came closer to me and introduced herself. “I am glad to meet you, Atash,” she said. “That’s your name right? I’m the nurse here. The doctor is with a patient, but come with me into the back and we will try to have you out of here as soon as possible.” I was surprised at how nice she spoke to me. I expected a witch to pick me up, throw me around, and tear my clothes off, like the old ladies who scrub you at the public baths.
My mother tried to follow us into the back, but Ms. Mohamadian stopped her with a smile and gestured to some armchairs toward the front of the office.
Twenty minutes later, I was sitting in an examination room facing the doctor. He was a fat, hairy man with glasses, but he had a kind smile. As soon as he said hello I started to sob. “Please let me go,” I cried. “I was hurt when I was a little girl by the man … I was hurt and my parents …”
“It’s okay, dear,” he interrupted me gently. “Here, have some orange juice.”
I took the orange juice but didn’t drink it. “I was hurt when I was a kid,” I continued. “I can’t be a virgin, there was a lot of blood.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” he said. “How old were you?”
“Young. I was very young. Please, I don’t want to take off my clothes,” I said, and began to cry louder.
“You don’t have to take off any clothes,” he said, “Does your mother know about this?”
“Yes and no. It doesn’t matter. She blames me for everything anyway.”
“Okay, then you need to keep a secret. I became a doctor to help people, not hurt them, you know.” I looked at him and realized what was going on. My tears didn’t stop and I started a long and loud round of hiccups.
“But my mother wants a note,” I said.
“She will get her note,” he said. “But now I want to talk to you about sex.” He began to give me a long lecture about safe sex, speaking in a low voice so that people outside couldn’t hear. I had never heard a doctor talk like this before in Iran. I don’t really remember exactly what he said, because I was so overjoyed about the note. I wasn’t planning on ever having sex anyway, so his speech didn’t concern me.
“Finally,” he said, finishing his sermon, “I want you to keep this doctor’s number on you at all times. For emergencies.” He wrote a woman’s name and her telephone number down on a piece of paper. “She’s a surgeon,” he said. “She helps girls like you. If they need to be sewn up again.” I understood what he was saying, but I couldn’t believe he was talking so openly. Then he asked me, “Do you know how to act? Like an actress in the movies?”
“I don’t know,” I replied.
“Well, here is your chance,” he said. “You just got an examination on this table, right? You didn’t like it. No one does.” He paused until I nodded my head. “Hopefully next time when they get suspicious they will bring you here and not to another clinic,” he said. “But only if you make them think this was horrible.”
We walked out together, the doctor and I, and I put on the unhappiest face I could. He asked me to sit in the waiting room while he talked to my parents separately in the room next door. I could overhear them, however:
“I’m very sorry to say this Doctor,” I could hear my mother saying, “but I think you made a mistake. Are you certain about this? Can you examine her again?”
“Are you questioning my credentials?” the doctor asked.
“Come on,” I could hear my stepfather saying. “We got the note. Let’s go.”
“She can’t be a virgin,” my mother kept saying out loud. “She can’t.”
“Ma’am, you are playing a very dangerous game right now,” the doctor said, his voice rising. “And frankly, I’m beginning to believe it’s you who needs to see a doctor, not your daughter.”
“Come on!” my stepfather said again. I could hear through the wall that he was getting angry.
On the way home, my stepfather looked straight ahead without making a sound, but my mother kept smiling at me as though I had just won an award. A moment ago, she wanted to throw me to the wolves. Now, armed with a doctor’s note, even a fictional one, she was using it to get on my good side.
“I always told you she was a good girl,” my mother beamed from the back seat. My stepfather said nothing back and neither did I.