He cleared his throat politely. Then he coughed a little longer and louder than normal. At that they turned to face him. He fainted
Come then and I will rub your back and chest with menthol oil. The tingle will help you forget your lungs; the tickling scent will make me sneeze. “Not you too?” you’ll say and we’ll laugh and you will cough. When the racking stops, you’ll rub my head with menthol oil. The tingle will help me forget the headache; the tickling scent will not affect you.
Then, oilily, we’ll make sick-people love and gasp and splutter and wheeze. Soon perhaps we’ll flop in sweat and grin and gasp and feel the sheet hot, sweat-damp, beneath us.
A shower? The hottest water is cold needles on our reddened skin and then one of us feels faint so we towel each other carefully and catch each other’s eye and agree in silence to go to bed, this time eyes closed, and sleep.