Two of the people rubbing my stomach were actors. The third, in a white tunic, may have been a doctor, though not a medical doctor. He quoted Schopenhauer before starting the video recorder.
Needless to say, my screams went unheard by anyone outside the brutalist gallery where we found ourselves.
The actors tried to quiet me by stating it was for a worthy cause, that art was the worthiest cause.
“Yes,” said the doctor, “art redeems all suffering.”
But the question kneeling in the back of my mind was what kind of art was this, and why was I in it without my consent?
“Your questions have merit,” the doctor said. “But answering them now would delay the result.”
The actors continued rubbing my stomach. They rubbed it hard enough not to tickle me, and yet not hard enough to damage any organs. Pain, I did feel pain. But psychological pain superseded any pain caused by the actors.
The doctor said that if I wanted this to go faster I needed to stop screaming. It was only a reflex, he noted.
In other contexts, this reflex kept me from being harmed. It startled the bear about to ransack my campsite. It frightened off the coyote rooting around my backyard. It alerted police to the arsonist torching the building across from my house.
“Some functions work, some don’t,” said one of the actors, handsome in his way.
“He thinks you’re cute,” said the other actor, a blonde fellow with a cretinous hair style.
I wanted to ask them why they were rubbing my stomach, but I knew I wouldn’t get a straight answer.
“Let’s just say you’re unwell,” intoned the doctor.
“But you’re not a medical doctor.”
“That’s right,” he said. “I’m a doctor of philosophy.”
“That’s rare,” said the handsome actor.
“He’s smart,” said the other.
“How will he help me?” I asked.
“He already has,” said the handsome actor, holding up his hands and wriggling his fingers.
“And this is all for art’s sake?”
“That’s right,” he said, digging his thumbs into my ribs.
Image Credit: Carlo Scarpa (architect) and Daniel Boudinet (photographer), Brion tomb (20th century)
Salvatore Difalco’s work has appeared in a number of print and online journals. He lives in Toronto.