The pain, in person, is me at 13 or 14, sitting in one of the recessed doorways of the building on the corner of Walden and Poplar streets. There were three doorways: one was a bar. I don't think the other two led to anything. The pain is curled up, knees pulled up to chest as tightly as possible, head down on knees, arms wrapped around legs -- bare legs, bare arms, she wears shorts and a T-shirt. I never see her face. she keeps it down. she doesn't speak. she has bruises, and there's blood, but she doesn't let me look at the wounds. she doesn't want to be touched -- she flinches == but she won't run away, no matter what you do.
I sit next to her, close but not touching. I love you, I say. no response. I don't know why you might need to be forgiven, I say, but I forgive you. and I'm sorry, so sorry, for whatever landed you here, mute and bloody in a cold doorway that's open to the world. come, I say, let me take you away, but you shake your head ever so slightly. run, I say, go somewhere anywhere, but I know you can't move, can't talk can't get away. so I stay and sit with you, and I am you and we shake from cold and fear and we try to talk but words don't form. I would listen, I say, I will hear you but I know that you have no words, that you can't explain it or express it, and I'll sit with you for hours in therapists' chairs looking for words and finding none. we take deep in-breaths, but let the air out slowly and guardedly without a sound, without a sigh. no relief, just space for the next breath.