Penelope by TS Hidalgo

Friday, January 27, 2017
Three weeks before her wedding, a riding accident threatens to cast Penelope's virtue into question; by TS Hidalgo.

I had a riding accident at my college's polo club, three weeks before the date originally set for my wedding. A minor matter apparently and not at all uncomfortable or painful but a major setback for my impending nuptials even so: I tore my hymen.

I called my mother a bit nervously. I had to tell her the details of my mishap while I led Wood to the stables. I tried again when I walked out of the dressing rooms. She didn't answer the second time either so I left a message. I decided not to call Jordi - my finance, flamenco dancer, first generation American on tour on the East Coast, and before that in Seattle, Omaha, Nebraska, and Redwood City, California with his latest show. I went back to my apartment, a loft actually, right on Berkeley campus. I read for a while and then I started knitting bootees for a niece of mine to calm myself down a little.

I was getting ready to go buy wool at a mall when my cellphone rang. It was my mother. I explained everything and we agreed to look for a good surgeon and not tell my boyfriend a thing. He called me that very same night. He apologized for delaying his return: he would come on Saturday. Extension of his tour on the East Coast, three extra shows in New York.

On Friday we went for an informational appointment at a centrally-located clinic - recommended by the medical team that took care of my facial whitening - and we scheduled surgery for the next Saturday morning. It was a quick and easy reconstruction operation, barely 45 minutes, with local anesthesia and no counter-indications or any further treatment necessary. That's how Dr. Wilkins said it would be - promise in his eyes too: Picassean, bulging, celestial - and that was how it was. My mother and I decided to go out for something at a café downtown after leaving.

"Finished business," I sighed with relief.

I had lunch at home with my parents and older sister. She was very focused on her latest project: comprehensive renovations of the insides of old buildings from the city's obsolete historical center. Lofts. For dotcom industry offices. My father blessed the table seconds before a resounding, "Fucking hell," after burning his tongue on the first spoonful of soup. Jordi called me: plan change on the spur of the moment. In the end he was going to extend his tour by two more days - Washington - and wouldn't be back till Monday. My brother and his wife came around five with my niece. I gave them the bootees and said goodbye to everyone.

On my way to campus, I got a call from Candice, and we decided to go to the movies with another girl friend from the department. I didn't tell them anything about what had happened. After the credits rolled, we decided to go have a few gin and tonics at Studio 54. The rest, as I recall: I met Dr. Wilkins on my way to the dance floor; Jordi called, I turned off my phone, I said goodbye to my friends. In his car, the doctor inquired as to my post-op. We drank stove-boiled coffee at my campus hours later and he operated on me on Monday, this time at zero cost.

"Flat fee," he said, to be more exact.

I got out of class that afternoon just in time to pick up Jordi. I was about to turn on the car when my phone rang, "Don't go to the airport: my return date has been pushed back again: Philadelphia, three days." U-turn and call to Wilkins. "Don't worry. On Wednesday I think I can go to your office too," I replied. It's true, I really could go Wednesday. And on Friday, when Dr. Wilkins sewed me up again, after the thousandth extension of the tour: a new sponsor had signed them for a show in Atlanta, dates to be announced.

During the weekend, I tried to catch up on my doctoral thesis, two weeks from my wedding. I went with Wilkins to look at some apartments - he was thinking about buying one. I spoke to my fiance, who several times gave me indecisive and hesitant sentences in reply. I tried to coax a firm return date out of him, resorting even to the use of irony, but Jordi responded that he didn't have any shows scheduled for any city called Ithaca.

A few new shows in London, maybe, but they weren't sure yet. Wilkins, at the beginning somewhat reluctant to have the morning stove-brewed coffee, started to get used to it and at this stage of the game was already learning how to make it himself.

I had more operations the following week, and the next week, when I found out our wedding would be postponed until further notice. I took the opportunity to enormously expand my contacts among those in charge of research grants at my university.

Then Wilkins and I also took the opportunity to go to carnaval in Rio for a few days. Upon our return, the doctor changed his real estate search on the spur of the moment: instead of an apartment he decided to buy an abandoned industrial warehouse and renovate it as a loft - without changing the factory aesthetic on the outside: residential and professional use in the same space.

Two months later, Jordi appeared. I lost count of how many times I had gone under the knife. My relationship with Wilkins has since then been purely sentimental. No one would know, seeing me in the picture, that I'm a gypsy sunbathing in a Beverly Hills sunrise who had gotten married a few hours before and had gotten an A+ on the handkerchief test.


  1. Repeated hymen repairs? What culture is this?

  2. Maryangel Mendoza ChapmanFebruary 7, 2017 at 3:09 PM

    the repeat surgeries were funny. The protagonist knits booties - nice detail. I wondered why she would marry the fiancee after his extended tour and her relationship with the doctor. Touring fiancee did not sound very appealing.

  3. Hang on, I get it....Penelope, doing and undoing her work as she waits for eternally-absent Odysseus. I was a bit slow off the mark but after sitting with it for a couple of minutes I got it. :-)