art, Literature, short fiction

Friendship

Picasso__Friendship

Friendship needs no words – it is solitude delivered from the anguish of loneliness.

–Dag Hammarskjold

***

            It was December 1922, near the end of his stay in the city as a professor of art, and Belisarius Bloch was drinking black coffee (the only foodstuff he could really afford, save for tin cans of beans). He was sketching something or another on a napkin. Even now he rolled his eyes at the cliché. For quite some time he had been starved for any sort of entertainment (wine, women and song seemed to be out of his page grade and thus out of the question). Luckily Bloch was not much for the bon vivant life. He was a reader, and books were his love, his joy, and his escape. As a matter of correction: one of the reasons Bloch could not afford much to eat was that he invariably spent most of his income on books. Reading. That is what he had been doing at the café that day: Reading and of course drinking coffee. Black coffee, mais qui a été déjà mentionné… Je vous demande pardon.

            In thought as well as in demeanor Bloch was exuberant. His imagination could not be contained within the soft confines of his brain. He had to on occasion, ejaculate his mental meanderings onto the world around him or, when he could afford it, onto a blank canvas. This tendency towards expressiveness was belied by his staid mode of speech; the man could not get through a half-decent conversation without botching some part of it with either high-faluting words or an overly enunciated phrase. This proved to be something of a liability in the classroom. The more humane students in the class saw his communication quirks as a sort of cross to bear in order to get from him the vast store of experience and knowledge he had about painting. The man had been a contemporary of, and even in some cases and intimate of, Kandinsky, Klimt and Dix for goodness sake!

            The less charitable in his class held him in outright disdain. They felt they were better than this has-been “expressionist” who fancied himself a German betrayed by geography. Belisarius Bloch was an immigrant in two senses. Born an American, he left this great “Land of Opportunity” to return (in a more philosophical sense) to the Old world. He was in many ways more German then not. He tapped almost instinctually into the inherent unrest and fury and restlessness of this great people. To be German was to be a color apart from the rainbow, a fracture in the face of the blank slate of the human expression and consciousness. To be French, let’s say, was to be a creator of art. To be American was to be perfect, and thus assume perfection exists. To be a German was to consume and to be in turned consumed by art.

            This was America, and the art they were to produce was to be of the American verity; resolute, palpable and above all comprehensible. Was there need for expression that bordered on the meaningless in a world that seemed to have come loose at its moorings? America was the last best hope for sanity in a world long since gone to seed; there was no need to import the miasmatic chaos that was the European ethos. Fools and simpletons that they were they believed that by reapplying standards, form and “vision” (whatever the fuck that was) to art one could stabilize and synthesize the world itself.

            Bloch had no time for this obscene positivist drivel masquerading as an artistic ethos. If art could feed the starving and end war then he would have painted a majestic pieta, slapped it on a wall and collected his Nobel Prize long ago. Art as a science of the “universal human ideal” disgusted him; In part because he hated the pretentious and sterile quality of the art that this philosophy produced, and in part because Bloch could not paint a pretty human form or landscape in the classical sense. As a realist and as an heir to the perfection of the Michelangelo’s and Caravaggio’s of the world he was an abject failure…But as an artist?

            Nothing comes free to the freethinker. He must struggle and strive and squirm in his well-worn trousers until he is able to arrive at a conclusion that is at the very least palatable. Expression does not come cheap. Often the price to pay for ones self-indulgent articulation was ones place in a civil society; a society that could not be made better by the thoughts and feelings of the lonely man in the lonely café drinking coffee alone in a crowd. To express oneself in a way accessible to society was to allow for the final alienation of the man as artist from mankind as recipient of his art. To be a success in his own mind and heart the true artist must be a failure in the society in which he lives, or at least to that part of it that appears to later generations to have been the arbiters of fate, taste, and meaning. Every piece that succumbs to the adoration of the crowd is another piece that must be rejected and in fact denied. The only true act of expression is that last act; alas we can never know when and where and what this will be.

            The city, it was Chicago; Chicago, one of those metropolises that sticks in the unconscious of the American mind as a sort of bastion of otherness contained within an eminently American façade. It was more Vienna then Philadelphia, more Manchester UK then Manchester New Hampshire. Even more so than New York it was a New America dominated by the Old World riff raff and the vermin of a more self-satisfied Materialistic Middle and Upper classes. Though it is to be expected that one bourgeoisie is replaced with another in a country founded and liberally crafted to be a shining entrepreneurial paradise… at least for the initiated elite. Perhaps the unique place in the American psyche taken by this “City of broad shoulders” is in part thanks to the fact that it is unexpected.

            San Francisco and New York both have Oceans (literally and figuratively) of wealth and people to draw from based on the accident of geography. For a European to also be a Chicagoan it takes some gumption. An island lost in a more ephemeral (and in many ways impassable) ocean of parochialism, self- reliance, and distrust. Indeed this region has its own character typical of erstwhile middle children.  Chicago then was not supposed to be… well so coastal. To augment this strange mass delusion there was even the mirage-like hoax of a seashore supplied by the great Lake Michigan. It was a port city, with all of the human detritus, folly, and splendor that came with it, in the middle of a vast continent. Immigrants came, and they endured the xenophobia, the fear, the economic tribulations and cultural alienation and in many cases made the city better for its struggles.

            Bloch sat in a chair at a cheap eatery deep in the German-but-quickly-becoming-Polish neighborhood of Humboldt Park that he frequented. He sat there in the midst of day laborers off to their morning grind, and night shift men coming off of an exhausting evening on the line. With the polka listing softly down the streets along with the unmistakable smell of burnt sausages one could be forgiven for mistaking this part of Chicago for an industrial town on the Rhine (that is if you ignored the courageous, but all too American, labor activists). Sitting to his right a woman silently breastfeed a child who looked like he would be more at place on a street corner playing baseball then sucking on his mother for nourishment.  To his left there was a pair of “Wobblies” bombastically arguing about the best way to organize the new stream of immigrant labor coming into the city hour by hour. Growing bored of the book he was reading, and also not wanting to grade the claptrap that was student artwork projects, he put down the book for a moment and deigned to listen in on their lively conversation.

            “Without a predicate there is no-”

            “But we have no excuse Heinrich! No excuse. Labor is a tired subject to many in this city. Who wants another Upton Sinclair? People are moving on! They want a quiet working man and not a revolutionary”.

            “And we should oblige them? Make it easy for the boot of industry to crush our neck- Oh! Maybe you want us to build the scaffold where they can stomp on us in public!”

            “You damn fool you know damn well what I meant by-”

            “Do not presume to know what I understood! Anything less than a full commitment by the IWW is a DISGRACE and COWARDICE of highest order!”

            “But Heinrich, where is the motivation? Where is the hunger? All I see are a bunch of whiny Bavarians who would trade their only son’s future for a full stein! Tiny Marx’s they are not my friend!”

            “You are beginning to sound suspiciously like a capital-”

            “Don’t you dare even finish that that sentence Heinrich. I am devoted to the cause, but I am not going to waste my energy and, yes, my time on a mob that does not want our help. Let’s try with the Lithuanians! Lord knows they’re even more hated then the Germans!”

            “Lithuanians? Hmm. Well. Better than the Irish I suppose. Or the Italians.”

            “Oh oh! Anything but the Wops… I’ll drink to that.”

            “And what is it that we are drinking eh? Coca-Cola? I hope you are buying the beer ‘cause I certainly don’t have the money.”

            “I’ll buy… I’m catching a bit of the capitalist spirit!”

            “You supply and I’ll demand comrade!”

            “Hey! Hey Georgie! HEY! A pitcher over here! How much? Ah… Two pints then. Cold if you can manage. That much? Warm is fine.”

            “A rather stingy capitalist at that. Another JP Morgan perhaps?”

            “Morgan! You calling me Scotch then? I’m a Dutchman through and through… and perhaps a bit of Polish if you count that whore my great grandfather caroused with; my great grandmother. How many Polish women did it take to screw in a light bulb?

            “About as many as took to screw your great grandfather I am thinking.”

            “I must have told you that one before. No matter. Let’s get drunk enough so that we can at least look like Wobblies. Leave the proletariat struggle to more sturdy men then us!”

            “To upright Wobblies everywhere!”

            “And to the workers… MAY THEY UNITE!”

            “And to the artists… May they do something worth drinking too.”

            The last toast was uttered by Bloch, albeit under his breath, and he said it only to fill the silence at his table, which should have been pregnant with conversation. A better man would be talking to someone and not listening in on another’s conversation. Bloch did not claim to be a better man, and in truth he would not have wanted to be one. Too much work, and too much pretense; it took quite enough posturing to maintain the rickety façade of being a competent artist. But that is unfair. Bloch was more than competent, and he knew it; he just did not like to trumpet his talent, least of all to himself.

            There was a miraculously a woman at the door. She caught his eye. She was quite poised in an awkward sort of way. You’d have to see her yourself to understand. She held a sketch pad, and her eyes darted around the café as if looking for a place safe from observations such as Bloch was supplying for himself. He fell quite in love with her upon sight, but then again he fell in love at least seven times a day with some woman or another. To call her beautiful would not be charitable, but it would be appreciated by her. She was attractive in spite of herself it seemed: Brown hair that could have been black if it put in the effort. Skin slightly tanned, not quite the purity that Germans demanded of their muses. But Bloch was only a pretend German after all.

            Not quite knowing why and also quite confident that it would be to no avail, Belisarius Bloch motioned for the young lady to join him at his tabled. Marvelous woman that she was, she complied and walked straight over. Nonplussed, Bloch rose from his chair and went over to help the woman into hers. She smiled at him as he went back to take his seat across from her. He motioned to the waiter for two beers (though he really could not afford them) and turned back to the woman just in time to meet her eyes as she began to speak. “I know you. Or, rather I know of someone who knows of you. My brother August is in your Oils class. He talks about you a lot.” She reached across the table and patted his knobby hands with her equally rough fingers. “Don’t worry though! He has said nothing but good things about you Professor Bloch.”

            Bloch smiled. “Well that is good to hear. I thought I inspired naught but derision in my students. By the way, which of my students is this we are talking about? And who, may I ask, are you my dear?”

            Once more she reached across the table and put her hand on his. Bloch was taken aback by this immediate display of affection, but he did not recoil from her kind touch. In fact he relished it, and fervently prayed it would last a moment longer then it was fated to. The girl look straight into his eyes as if she had something much more than the identity of herself and her brother reveal.

            “Well my brother is August Newton, and I am Ruth Newton. You are Belisarius Bloch, and I am quite certain I am in love with you.” Bloch started and tried not to choke on the mouthful of beer he had just started swallowing. He tried to compose himself before answering. He failed. “Uhm…Uhm…My dear woman…Did you say…Now I must have misheard you…But damn me if I don’t think I heard you pronounce your love for me. Please do correct me if I have made a grievous error in understanding.”

            Ruth tittered pleasantly. She seemed to take enjoyment in this subtle torture she was inflicting on Bloch. “No, you understood my words perfectly Professor. My brother has spoken of your work and your words in such a way…Oh…Well I was inspired and I was moved to seek out your art. It was difficult to track down your work, but when I was lucky enough to come across pieces I was enraptured and entranced. The colors and the whimsy and the complete lack of care with which you throw aside convention and even on occasion tact, well professor it has been said that a woman can only love a man who can love himself. I see the love you have for yourself in your compositions. I see the determination to express every feeling and every urge and to in the end deny yourself the easy way out: you could cover the canvas in nothing or you could cover it in everything. You instead cover it in what you need. To love one-self is not the same as being always happy though. I can see in your work that you are sad, and at times terrifically so. I too have been sad, professor, and your art, honest and revelatory of your state of mind and mood as it is, has made me happy and has made me laugh and has made me cry. And that is one reason why I am in love with you.”

            Bloch leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath before settling down again. “Q.E.D. Ms. Newton. I have to say I am taken aback by your passion. I have honestly never had anyone claim to respond so enthusiastically to my oeuvre. Before you the most animated response I have gotten was a yawn. Even if your nascent affection for me is erroneous I am still heartened by your love for my art. Thank you my dear. You have made the life of an itinerant fool a little easier. And you may call me Bela if you so desire. I’m only called “Professor” by people who are compelled to by custom, sarcasm, and sycophancy. To his credit your brother calls me “Herr Bloch”.”

            “Ha! That sounds like him. He really does admire you Bela, and that is another reason why I have fallen in love with you. My brother has been aimless and angry for most of his young life. I have raised him myself since my mother died of influenza. Her death devastated my little Auggie: he would often lie awake in my arms weeping and calling out for her. All I could do as he grew into a young man was love him and provide a home where he could feel safe. The boy is brilliant and has real talent, but for so long the rage had against the world and against me for not always being there for him when he needed me. Oh but I was so young Bela. I was such a girl…and I wanted a life for myself. I tried as hard as I was able to, but not nearly hard enough. I failed him for a long time, and I paid for it with many sleepless teary nights waiting for my brother to come in from the streets. I still do not know what he did with his life during his youth…I don’t think I want to know.”

            She paused for a moment and drank deeply from her mug of beer. She almost finished it with that one massive gulp. The impressed Bloch motioned for two more beers that he could not afford. It looked like he would not be having dinner that night. Good thing Bloch did not mind not eating.

            “Ruth, you claim you failed your brother but you must have done something right for him as he is a model student and young man today. He also has real talent, albeit raw and unwieldy. You are too cruel to yourself! It sounds as if your care and love did more for him than you are willing to admit”.

            She smiled at him sadly. “Oh thank you Prof- I mean Bela. I like cannot help but holdout hope that I had something to with the flowering of my brothers genius. And he is that I think. When I first saw his drawings as a child…Oh Bela you have no idea how I wept with joy! And relief: there was something that this little hooligan could do besides petty vandalism and pimping. And when he got into the institute…and talked of your interest in his work and how you treated him like a fellow instead of like your inferior…Oh that is what cemented your place in my heart. You did not have to be kind to him, you did not have to pay any attention to his talent. In fact I believe a lesser artist may have even tried to sabotage a potential rival. You did not have to be kind Belisarius Bloch, but you were nonetheless. And I love you for that.”

            She picked up his hand then, and kissed it tenderly while looking him straight in the eye with a gaze that he had already fallen in thrall to. He had known the woman for all of half an hour! He was an itinerant and unadorned intellectual with nothing but his clothing and his books to his name. His art went unappreciated and un-exhibited save for a few in a few galleries where the proprietors took pity on him as a charity case. And yet somehow this woman was here peppering his chalk stained and calloused hand with kisses that he felt he surely did not deserve. But damn it all to hell and back: it made him feel happy and even if this was all a lie or a misunderstanding he was glad to bask in that good cheer for a moment.

            He took her hand into his and pressed it to his forehead. “My dear you have no idea how light you have made my heart with your words. I will treasure what you have said now always, and I will be sure to redouble my efforts in regards to your brothers’ talents and potential. It is moments like this that validates my strange little life, and my often unheralded vocation. I find it my solemn duty, however, to let you down gently, so to speak. I may do some of the good you claim to see in me, but I am not the paragon of virtue nor of fortitude that I believe you’re looking for. I am just not the right sort for you to waste your love on.” He said all this, and he stood up from the table. He placed what little money he had in one of the empty mugs and gathered up his things. He smiled at Ruth once more and he moved as though to leave the pub. His progress was halted by a slender arm thrust out in front of him.

            “You are so very comfortable in your solitude aren’t you Belisarius Bloch? You have been lonely so long you have begun to like it! If I were a kind person like you seem to think I am then I would let you be happy enough alone. Too bad for you I am a wholly cruel woman. I am going to torment you with my affection and my company for a while more Bela. Wherever you go tonight I will go. I am determined to make you enjoy my company. Do not ask me to leave you alone, because I respect you enough to obey. It will not give me any pleasure to do so though.”

            Belisarius looked at her and could not help but feel happy. Perhaps the affinity she (and indeed he) thought he felt for solitude was in fact just a way of coping with the fact that he was so used to being alone. If that were truly the case it would not do to pass up a remedy to that state of affairs. “It would make me very glad to share your company Ruth.” He didn’t quite know what to do after he said that, so he stood there halfway between the table and the door, eyes darting from Ruth to his own feet and back again. Ruth laughed at this awkward but in her eyes touching display. “I think what you ought to do is offer me an arm Belisarius.” He blinked once, stepped forward and did just that. She took his arm and leaned some of her weight onto him in a rather pleasing way, and she half pushed half coaxed him towards the door and out onto the busy streets of Humboldt park.

            The streets were not that busy as everyone was in the pubs and bars eating, but there were enough people on the street to be able to pick out interesting examples and imagine about them and their circumstances. A city is never empty of personalities, no matter how early in the day or late at night. Walking up North Oakley the two new friends found much to delight their urban gazes; a man pushing a cart of potatoes down the street, the front wheels rusty and squeaking. A few more yards down and there was a woman walking with a gaggle of little children all in a row, each toddler tied with a length of twine to the one in front of him and all in the end tied to the woman’s wrist. Ruth covered her mouth to stifle the giggle this sight brought about. Bloch was comforted by the sound of this woman he barely knew laughing. He liked how he could feel her vibrate as she held back the louder laughter that would be inappropriate on a public street. This was the type of joviality that Bloch was unaccustomed to but nonetheless appreciated.

            The sun was fast falling from its perch in the sky, but the streetlamps cast enough light onto the streets to see by. Neither felt any sense of fear at being out so late however. There was a sense of safety inherent in company; a pleasant security that came from being able to say to yourself that you do not need to worry about facing the travails of the world alone. “I enjoy walking with you.” Bloch said this without really knowing why he said it aloud. He did not necessarily want to say it, and it did not need to be said, but then again much that does not need to be said is, and the world is often more interesting for the expression. “And I enjoy walking with you Belisarius. You are good company.”

            “We are almost there. My apartment is right across from the Josephinum academy.”

            “That is the Catholic School? My mother almost sent me there. She converted when I was in grade school.”

            “Your brother mentioned that once. He seemed to suffer under the delusion that my quiet demeanor and general meekness meant that I was a man of the Lord. I set him straight on that point.”

            “You do not believe in God?”

            “You do?”

            “No.”

            “Then I’ll settle upon the general consensus.”

            “You are a diplomat.”

            “I am a pragmatist. And we have arrived.”

            They came to a staircase that led up to a door with an old-fashioned but faded brass knocker. There was a post box next to the door that read “Greg—Propert—“. The painted words had crumbled off from neglect. The property was not even owned by a “Gregory”. No one who lived in the building had any idea why it was so labeled. They progressed up the stairs and through the door. The parlor was nothing but another staircase and communal water-closet. Belisarius led Ruth up the stairs and up 4 flights to the top floor. There was only one room up there, and it had the number 12 scrawled in chalk near the top. Belisarius took a small key out of his pocket and put it in the lock. He opened the door and ushered Ruth into his sanctum.

            “Let me clear off a place for you to sit. Sorry about the mess. I don’t spend much time here save to paint occasionally. Here, I think this is a chair!” He pushed a stack of paper and spare canvas from the chair onto the floor and Ruth took a seat. “You have so many paintings on the wall! Are these all yours?”

            Belisarius took off his coat and threw it onto the corner of his bed near the headboard. “Most of them are. A few are by my students. I bought a few off of them when I could afford it so at least they could say they were purchased artists. I even like a few of them.”

            Ruth laughed. “Are they all that bad?”

            Belisarius shook his head. “Of course not. Most of them are much better than I am, and will go on to make a good deal of money in the commercial trade. It is just…few of them paint in anything but the fashionable way; cubist, fauvist, a few even subscribe to realism.”

            “What is wrong with being fashionable”

            “Absolutely nothing. But…I have always felt that if one wants to strive for art, live for art, one must at least try to advance the cause, to move the line further than you found it. Good God I sound like a snob.”

            Ruth laughed. “Yes you do, but it is rather endearing. What about my Auggie? What style would you attribute to him?”

            “That is the thing. He has no style, no school. He is a true artist in many ways. I hazard to guess he will never sell more than a dozen paintings in his entire life, if he is lucky. But someday they will be writing books about him and thousands of young artists will yearn to be derivative of him. I have never seen a talent quite like your brother. It is really affirming for a teacher. I was to flippant before when I said he was raw and unwieldy…That is his gift, and of course in his lifetime it will be his curse. I have never seen an artist understand the limitations of color like he has…and then go on ahead and blithely defy those limitations. He is my personal hero. I can only hope to be remembered through what little influence I had on his technique.”

            Ruth sat with her hand over her mouth, and tears falling over her fingers and onto the plain wooden floor. The drops of salty water made strange imprints and spots in the dust on the floor. Belisarius was taken aback by this show of emotion. “I…I have a painting of his if you would like to see it. It is his latest work. I haven’t had the chance to talk to him about it yet as he missed class today, but I am sure we will be able to catch up tomorrow. Where did I put it…” He looked around under piles of cloths and behind other canvases. He finally came upon the painting and he handed it to Ruth, who took it and held onto the corners gingerly as she admired the composition. She smiled and whipped her nose on her sleeve. “Oh…I recognize this! He had some sketches of this composition in some of the journals he left at home. This form here…” She points at a blueish-gray slash across the canvas. “It looks a bit like a man with his arms outstretched. I wonder what he was having him reach for?”

            Belisarius was about to supply his opinion when Ruth began to weep and held the canvas tight to her chest like one would a small child. A bolt of dread shot through Belisarius, and it was with great trepidation and fear that he asked his next question. “Is…is there a reason that Auggie did not show up to class today? Was there some sort of tragedy in the family?” He took a blue handkerchief out of his left pant pocket and handed it to her. She wiped her eyes and to his surprise she laughed ruefully. “You know, there was actually. My aunt died over the weekend, and that was actually why I had come to the city to see Auggie in the first place. I couldn’t find him on campus so I asked around and visited his usual haunts he is always talking about in his letters and calls home. He made an effort to find a public telephone so he could talk with me once or twice a month. It was so expensive but he did it anyway because he told me he wanted to hear my voice. I never asked that he do that for me but I was delighted that he wanted to.”

            “He sounds like even more of a lovely young man than I had thought.”

            “Oh he was Belisarius. Anyway…I walked to a local pub thinking I could at least get some lunch before continuing my search down by the lake where he occasionally liked to paint. I went into one right off the campus and I saw a table of young men and women all drinking heavily and singing songs I didn’t recognize in French. I didn’t pay them much notice at first, and my French is only passible at best. But I did recognize when one of them raised a toast to “Augustus”. That was what my brother called himself when he was feeling in a rather playful mood. It was a joke he only ever shared with me and a few of his close friends. I went over to the table and introduced myself. One of the young women, a pretty little thing with red hair, stood up and fell into my arms weeping and saying  “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!”. I asked her what in the world was wrong and to looked rather surprised. She looked at a young man with a black goatee and he gasped. He told me to take a seat and I did. He then related to me how my brother had gone down to Adams Street the other afternoon with a satchel full of rocks and bricks. He spread out his arms and he jumped into the river. He cannot swim, and as he was weighed down purposefully he sunk like a stone. The redhead had witnessed it all, and had been powerless to stop it as she could not swim either. The police were called, but the only thing they could do was fish out the body. They say he looked peaceful. I could not bring myself to look at his body at the morgue.”

            She hung her head and placed her face in her hands. “I sought you out because he talked so much about you…He spoke of you in such kind and reverent terms. He seemed to think that you out of all the adults in his life understood him, and appreciated his talent. I thought if I sought you out I would be able to see a little bit of what he saw in you…And I have! You are a wonderful man, and you obviously cared for my Auggie. But I think more than that I wanted to find some piece of him left behind in you…He claimed that you influenced him more than anyone else, and I wondered what must that man be like who brought out such joy in my little brother? I see that you are no more a less a man than he was, and while that is I suppose disappointing at  some level, it is also a great relief to me. I said I loved you Belisarius Bloch and I meant it, and I still mean it. I think that fell in love with a man who my brother talked of as a father. I, his mother in all but name, was enthralled and enchanted by this, and I felt I knew you more than was really possible. I do hope you do not see me as silly or naïve, though I am both. It would ruin me I think to have to think less of me for my strange fixation and affection for you.”

            Belisarius stood up and threw his arms around Ruth. He was weeping silently and he whispered into her ear. “I could not think more of you if I tried. Your brother was like a son to me, even if I didn’t think of it in exactly those terms at the time. I wish I had seen the pain that led him to take his life…I blame myself because I think that my own sadness and loneliness blinded me to its manifestation in another. I feel so sorry that I did not have the chance to get to know him even better. I only have his art now, but luckily for both of us it is a profound imprint of his mind and heart. Maybe we can both learn something about him through it…But I would not dare try without your approval. If you do not ever want to see me again after this moment I will be glad for the time we have spent together and I will be able to live feeling like I had some sort of a positive impact on the world. But if you choose to stay…I promise you I will love you and share what little expression I have left in me.”

            Ruth took his hands into her own and she looked into his eyes. She leaned forward and kissed him softly, and he kissed her back. They stayed like this for a while, a few moments really, but it was an important moment for both of them, an important connection. It seemed to clear up quite a bit of sadness and shame and fear and apprehension. They did not feel happy after they ended their moment of affection but they did not feel devastated anymore. The sun had now fallen and the street lamps cast their strange shadows on the street and into the room where they sat. It was amidst these shadows that the two unlikely lovers held each other and sat silently. Neither needed to say anything more.

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