"He clutched his chest with both hands, in an attempt to quieten his heart. But you cannot muzzle a heart as you would a hound. And even a hound muzzled with two hands - to prevent it from barking unbearably - can still be heard growling."
— Gaston Leroux.

Those thoughts of a young traveler, which went unsuited for the diary and for conversation, instead settling firmly within the chasms of the heart.


2. II. The First Capital

It was with little fanfare and thorough regret, that I went into the bar where I was intent to spend my last night. My head was pounding still, the city had been everything but kind to me when I had opened my heart towards it. My bags were full of failures and half-truths, empty of promises and budget. Why I had failed to be able to see anything in this place, which seemed to enchant everyone around me, was maddening, infuriating and, all at once, painfully lonely.

The sun was setting, now low enough to not be ignored as it cut into my eyes if I dared look outside, if I dared attempt an existence in the light amongst the smiles and laughter of my fellow men. Sluggishness marked my movement, but not enough for the monsterous shaking in my voice to be dampened to irrecognizeability. A glass was acquired nevertheless; a steadying remedy, and as I braced myself against it, I dared to take in those other inhabitants of this, my final place.

Then I saw him.  

I looked at him and I felt at once struck by both wonder and terror at such a beautiful young man. I could not speak, and did not dare to cast him more than a few looks on the sly, when I was sure he could not see me, as I was sat in my corner with my worn dark clothing and my everything in disarray. I at once saw the picture of us, as we were, me, the bedraggled artist full of ills and melancholy slumped over my table and him, the wondrously clean-cut waiter who seemed to float like an angel through the room, the sunset lighting up his features like a halo.

Years laid themselves before me, where our paths crossed; I, the regular at the bar, and him, who put up with my endless chatter about all beneath the heavens. We would endear ourselves to each other, profoundly so. He would tell me of his life, his dreams, we would walk together underneath the quiet night at a hellish hour, when he got off work and I could never sleep. Growing together, we would seem to others to function perfectly, with just the right amount of contrasts and complements.

But the world would keep turning, and we would keep growing and contrasts would deepen into valleys and gorges, and it would become too much for him. We were both struggling, but he could not understand my dogged independence regarding the support I was offered, and I could not understand his disgust for his working-class life which I horribly romanticized. And so, it ended before it even began, and we returned to our places; at the table, at the bar.

At once, nothing and everything had transpired, and I looked up from my corner, meeting the golden rays of the sun, which only served to intensify the stabbing pain behind my eyes. It ceased momentarily as he walked past, still stunning, still wonderful, still terrifying, and I saw again in him the years ahead in an impossible future where I was still here, where I was not leaving the country come morning. The country whose city had put my head spinning and then shown me an angel; nothing was real here, not for me. Like a man at the threshold of a fairy circle, I knew I had to leave and that I was a horrid stranger, unfit.

As the sun finally dipped below the buildings, leaving the room in a cooler light, the angel had gone. He had been replaced with another young man who was entirely unremarkable, and I wondered briefly if I had imagined everything, before I paid and went out the door to never return, somehow feeling that everything would disappear as I left it behind me, or that my existence was only conditional on the observation of others. I left with a buzzing head and a persistent image, like an icon, of a beautiful and pristine young man framed by the sunlight, almost too brilliant to dare look at.

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