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The ulcer was small, painless, easily hidden beneath my clothing, excluded me from no activity. Every night I gauged its depth with a small metal ruler and I saw nothing to be alarmed about; the minute changes I observed were probably due to fluctuations in the pressure I applied to the ruler when I inserted it into the wound. And yet when I showed it to people they would stare indifferently at my bare chest, perhaps ask if it hurt much, but they were reluctant to give their opinion and appeared anxious to change the subject; I also noticed they seemed to be looking not at the ulcer but rather at my pointed finger. I don’t know, maybe they saw nothing there, or maybe this was their way of telling me I needed to fix the problem on my own time. But from then on I made a point of asking for practical advice, even from people I knew were not qualified to give it, just to reassure them I was not looking for sympathy. This seemed to break through their reserve, somewhat. Of course the advice I received was impossible to make sense of; I still tried to follow it, less with the object of healing the ulcer than of maintaining my ties to the community. Though I’d not yet benefited from them, I didn’t want to lose those ties at any cost, and I was fairly sure that making the effort to follow people’s recommendations would keep them on my side; I did my best to generate the impression that I was applying their treatments with encouraging results. Sometimes I suspected these lies had caused the ulcer, but they also appeared to halt its progress, and I did not look forward to the day they would be discovered.



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