Two weeks passed, and then one day I received a note to come to Mameha’s apartment the following afternoon. By now I was used to beautiful kimonos waiting for me on the futon, so I wasn’t surprised at the lovely medium-weight bright red and yellow silk kimono, which showed leaves in a field of golden grass. But I was surprised to find a tear in the back of it, large enough to put two fingers through.
«Asami-san,» I said to Mameha’s maid, «the most upsetting thing… this kimono is ruined.»
Of course I’d told Mameha long ago about the part Hatsumomo made me play when her kimono was ruined with ink, all those years ago. But I certainly didn’t want her to think I’d ruined another kimono.
«No, Miss,» said Asami. «Mameha-san borrowed it from an okiya down the street. She knows it’s torn. The underskirt is torn in the same place.»
I’d already put the underskirt on. I reached down and felt my thigh through the hole. Asami was right.
«Mameha-san was very clear that she wanted you to put it on,» added Asami.
This made very little sense to me, but I did as Asami said. When at last Mameha rushed in, I asked her about it while she re-did her make-up.
«I told you that my plan is to have two men bidding for your mizuage,» said Mameha. «You met Nobu two weeks ago. The other man has been out of town until now, but with the help of this torn kimono, you’re going to meet him now.»
The mention of Nobu’s name made me depressed again because a man will never have a relationship with a geisha if a close friend has been with her for the night. Meeting the Chairman seemed only to have put him further away from me. Mameha’s next words made me even more depressed.
«Sayuri, we’re just going to put a little cut in your skin. Just a little one, so you can go to the hospital and meet a certain doctor. You know the man I mentioned to you? He’s a doctor.»
«Can’t I just say I have a stomach ache?»
I meant this seriously, but Mameha and Asami couldn’t stop laughing.
«Sayuri, we only need to make you bleed just a little, just enough so the Doctor will be willing to look at you,» smiled Mameha.
Asami brought a knife from the kitchen and I lay on the futon with a cloth under me and my eyes closed. I bit my lip as soon as I felt the tip of the knife. A little river of blood ran down my leg.
«Good girl,» said Mameha. «When you are asked how you cut your leg, this is your answer. You were trying to go to the bathroom in your kimono, and you fell onto something sharp. You don’t know what it was because you fainted. Make up all the details you want; just be sure that you sound very childish. And act helpless at the hospital. Let me see you do it.»
I lay my head back on the futon and let my eyes roll up. Mameha wasn’t at all pleased.
«I didn’t say act dead. I said act helpless.»
I practiced on the way to the hospital, while Mameha pulled at my kimono to make sure I still looked attractive. At the hospital Mameha gave me one final instruction.
«Remember, Sayuri, we want the Doctor to see you looking as innocent and as helpless as possible. Lie back and look weak.» My leg hurt, so I had no difficulty at all with this. A nurse showed us down a long hall to a dusty room with a wooden table. A moment later the door opened and in came Dr. Crab.
Of course, his name wasn’t really Dr. Crab, but the reason for the name was obvious enough. He walked bent forward with his elbows out, in a way that made him look just like a crab.
He was obviously a very thorough man. He spent a couple of minutes closing the door, making sure he’d done a good job and that it wouldn’t open again. After this he took a small case from his pocket and carefully took out a pair of glasses. He looked at me and gave a little nod and finally he looked at Mameha. He was pleased to see Mameha; his mustache moved a little.
«I’m so sorry to trouble you, Doctor,» said Mameha. «But Sayuri has such a bright future and now she has cut her leg. I thought you were the only person to help her.»
«Exactly,» said Dr. Crab. «Now, could I have a look at the cut?»
«I’m afraid Sayuri gets weak at the sight of blood, Doctor,» said Mameha. «It might be best if she turned away and let you look at the cut. It’s on the back of her thigh.»
«I understand perfectly. Could you please ask her to lie on her stomach on the examining table?»
I couldn’t understand why Dr. Crab didn’t ask me himself, but to seem obedient I waited until I’d heard the words from Mameha. Then the doctor lifted my kimono as high as he could and put some smelly liquid on the cut with a cloth.
«Sayuri-san,» said Dr. Crab, «please tell me how you cut yourself.»
I began to tell Dr. Crab the story I’d agreed with Mameha. Finally, Dr. Crab finished with the smelly liquid and told me how to look after the cut for the next few days. Then he put my kimono down again and put away his glasses.
«I’m sorry you have ruined such a fine kimono,» he said. «But I’m certainly happy at the chance to have met you. Mameha-san knows I’m always interested in new faces.»