Across the room, an honorable boy uncaps his water bottle, bringing it nonchalantly, involuntarily to his lips. No one looks up.
A gurgle, and he chokes, water dribbling prematurely down the sides of his throat. He sputters a little, but no one looks at him with alarm because we’ve all been there, we don’t give a rat’s ass about his momentary suffering.
She watches him out of the corner of her eye. A twisted half-smile creeps onto her face. Inside, she is laughing at his suffering.
But no one snickers aloud; people like him are known to be able to upright themselves.
On the other side of the room, she is reaching into her backpack. She pulls out 10 band-aids and lays them out on her desk, neatly in a row. I hear the crinkle in my mind; people glance over. They are curious, but not enough to ask. This doesn’t satisfy her.
She picks one up, holds it up to the light, and dramatically peels the packaging back with a gesture. She wraps a fingernail bed.
I can just imagine the sharp crunch as her fist closes upon it. She opens her hand, palm facing down; the packaging falls to the table. Still, no one asks; the curiosity is only simmering in their throats.
This meticulous process carries on. Finally, as all ten fingers are properly bandaged, she gathers the white wrappers swiftly in her hand, sweeping them off the table, closing her hand over them – crunch, crunch.
But she has lost. No one speaks, still silently reading with a curious glance now and then.
And she herself pretends it was a small ritual instead of a grand process and resumes reading silently.