Face flushed and back wracked with sudden spasms of pain, you are bent down from where you sit, head resting on your knees, because it just feels better this way. Damn. Hasn't been this bad since junior high, when you would nearly faint from the pain that coincided with the clots of black blood and tissue that swam in the toilet bowl that first morning. Suddenly your body is a tyrant and you wonder why you let it walk out the Attic an hour ago, medicated and underfed, to meet S. at a nearby cafe. Is anyone watching?
Too late to wonder, darling, you hafta get yourself out of there or you'll find yourself alone in the bathroom, with your bare flesh pressed against the scummy tiles. A cool hard private surface, home, is what you require.
Or so you think, until S.'s hand lies under your sweater, on the sweaty small of your back, rubbing carefully, slowly. (Is anyone watching?) This is what you need, this sudden intimacy, a friendly hand rubbing away at an agony that cannot be shared. Words don't seem to matter anymore.
The rest of the world--students in brow-furrowed discussion, the woman behind the counter, patrons of unknown occupations scribbling manifestoes or letters to elsewhere--dissipate. Whatever movement of fury and despair and otherwise preoccupation have unraveled under the force of the heat now enveloping your skin. Yes, like cigarette smoke unfurling, gone. A lingering buzz, indistinct noises, in this place where the friendly hand meets the bent back. In this place outside law, outside nation, outside gender. Deeply platonic, it is an intense and induplicable moment from which non-participants avert their eyes--or stare, idly curious, at something Daniel calls "public healing".