If a story needs an arc, a pleasing symmetry, then consider the rainbow, to be literal about queer symbols for a moment. A rainbow is irresolute, it has no beginning, no end. Patti LaBelle understood this. In one of her live renditions of “Over the Rainbow,” she ended by singing:
If a teeny weeny bird can fly,
Oh tell me why,
tell me why,
“The skin is all cut up,” says the first of many doctors, her rubber-gloved finger prodding at my anus. A knife-sharp pain shudders through me with each of her clumsy jabs, and her expression, as she nods in recognition of my distress, says This is not good (a look I believe all doctors should practice avoiding). Having moved to New York from Melbourne only months before, and needing medical attention without any health insurance, I was already distressed enough without her added alarm. Before I can even get my pants back up, as she moves away from me and snaps off her glove, she continues with similar tact by asking bluntly, “Are you gay?”
Yes, torn open by a lover; the price of my promiscuity.
The doctor’s recommended treatment for this condition — anal fissure the medical term — is bath-sitting. Every day, twice a day, I will sit in the bath. Other remedies are equally quaint, apothecarian: a salve of coconut oil, tea tree oil, and witch-hazel is applied daily. Sometimes a doctor seals the wound by poking it with a burning ember, blistering the torn flesh. I learn to have the bath already drawn before shitting, which I do while biting down on a towel. I am told not to worry, that the wound will heal within a month, maybe two. A month passes, then two, then twelve. Sometimes there is less blood, sometimes no pain, but all healing repeatedly reverses and there is no better plan than to return to a slow, watery recovery — sentenced to bathe.
I do not fit in my bath so I bathe in two halves: first I sit upright in an L-shape — legs extended in front — and then I tip…