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Lean on Me

“On a rainy Thursday afternoon, just before my weekly break, we sat in his quiet corner of the common room, next to the bookshelf he’d made his own. He would go to the homeless shelter on Oak Avenue he said, and the soup kitchen down the road would keep body and soul together till he found a job. But how likely was he to find one? Disabled and deeply troubled, he made singularly unfortunate first impressions. I found myself asking him to move in with Sam and me, but I struggled with its significance because there was already a whiff of romance about us despite its improbability; a courtly romance of warm, poetic effusions in which I was muse to his minstrel. Moving in with us, however, would surely precipitate an actual relationship, which I wasn’t sure I wanted.

He recited Neruda to me on our rain-ravaged Friday night call.

Snap. Crackle. Pop. Prolonged crackle. And then a bolt, not out of the blue but still sudden. “I’ve fallen in love with you,” he said.

The deafening static consuming the line gave me time to think, to quell the panic. I did love him but not in that way. Was it in that way? I didn’t know.

“Is something the matter?” He sounded hurt.

“I love you too,” I blurted, and in saying so, it became true.”

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