Invert, Collate, Transverse
Anna Yulevic looks at her hand, really studying it. Grime is etched in each fold of skin, under each nail a black line of filth. She looks at the other one, holds it up to the light – same thing. A line of drool slips out of the corner of her mouth and slides slowly down her chin. She does not notice.
How different her future had been planned. How different her life had been. She had come to London a prominent doctor in her field – disorders of the skeleton. It was the summer of 1911.
One short month ago…
“Dr. Yulevic, tell me again do, where should I put the x-rays from the patients who have this Paget’s disease of bone?”
“Set them aside Susan, if you will, into a pile. The information will be collated into something coherent for a presentation by the director – or his secretary I would imagine.” They both chuckled a bit at that.
The next patient to come in was a young socialite, wrapped in furs, her expensive perfume announcing her presence in front of Susan before she had fully entered the room. Amanda Wilkins.
“I say, I must see the doctor.” The young lady demanded, barely looking at Susan.
“Doctor is occupied, Miss Wilkins, can I make you an appointment?” She drew out the appointment book and set it on the desk. The young lady sniffed.
“You may not. Please tell the doctor that Miss Amanda Wilkins has arrived and is no better for being left on doctor’s doorsteps!”
Dr. Yulovic stepped out of her office, bringing more papers for Susan to file. “I will need these to be listed alphabetically, only invert the order here,” she pointed to the names. “Putting their last name first and first name last. It’s easier that way for me to find them.”
Susan nodded and was in the process of turning to introduce the young lady when Miss Wilkerson stepped around and tossed her wraps on to the desk. “One might take a persons cloak, and for heaven’s sake a cup of tea could be offered to your guest!”
Susan’s temper flared, but Anna took it in stride. She gently ushered Amanda to the inner office and offered her a seat. Susan whispered “Her Highness,Miss Amanda Wilkins,” with disgust.
“Now Susan,” admonished Dr. Yulovic.
“What, there’s nothing ailing her except her mind, why she’s in here twice this month and treating me like a servant!”
“In her house I daresay we would both be servants, Susan.” Anna smiled, “I will go in there and convince her yet again that she will live another week. Would you be so good as to prepare a draught?” Now Susan was in an ill-humor as she prepared the amber medicine bottle. She stoppered it with a cork, brought it to the doctor then resumed her place at her desk.
One week later in front of the magistrate…
Susan came by the office Monday morning. A notice on the door said “this office closed by order of the magistrate.” Today was the trial of Dr. Anna Yulovic, for the murder of Miss Amanda Wilkins. Susan twisted her hands nervously, she was quite beside herself. Everything had happened so very quickly.
There were several buggies standing in front of the meeting-house. The horses tails swished and steam came from their nostrils as they stomped their feet in the snow. Susan took a seat in the back of the room.
“I did no such thing Mr. Wilkins!” Anna was exclaiming angrily. “Your daughter was in perfect health when she left my office!”
“Well what about her…”
“Sir. There was nothing wrong with Miss Wilkins when she walked in the door either. As sure a case of hypochondria as I’ve ever seen.” Mr. Wilkins started to rise indignantly from his seat. Anna continued with haste. “As with any hypochondriac, Mr. Wilkins, your daughter was not ill. The draught I gave her was only made of water and sugar, made so that she would think it was medicine. It did not harm her.”
“Be that as it may, Miss Yulovic, my daughter is dead after visiting YOUR office and I mean to have justice!” He raised his voice, looking around at the other men as they murmured their assent. A woman, as a doctor? Preposterous. Such things were unheard of in England. Women were much better suited to decorations and running households. A doctor, BAH!
With little more discussion Anna Yulovic was convicted of murder. When she heard the sentence, she began to cry hysterically. She caught sight of Susan in the room and pointed at her screaming. “She mixed the draught! It was all her fault! I didn’t do it! She was mad at her, she did it!” Anna fought madly against the policemen trying to restrain her. She was whisked out the door and taken to Bethlehem Royal Hospital, the one that would later give rise to the term “bedlam,” for its horrific treatment of patients.
The next thing she knew she was strapped down to a table and a doctor was giving her an injection. The needle was very large and painful. When she woke she was in a dingy white room, by herself. Strapped to the table, she could not move. There was a bandage on her head; the doctors had made a transverse incision above her forehead in order to perform a lobotomy. Some weeks later Anna was transferred by the staff to the general ward. Her incision had healed but most of her mind had been left behind in the operating room.
Susan visited her on more than one occasion, guilt and relief etched on her face every time she came. Guilt, because she knew that she had mixed up the bottles and prepared the wrong solution, and relief, Lord forgive her, for not having been caught. She would give anything to have that day to do over, but what’s done is done. Eventually she gave up trying to visit Anna, as she could not convince her to talk or even acknowledge her in any way.