l'Esprit de l'Escalier

"You write so beautifully," she said. "The inside of your mind must be a terrible place."

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Moments

We humans often fall in love with the strangest things. We mostly fall in love with other human beings, which, though not immediately apparent, can come to be strange and baffling when we ask ourselves as to why we chose that particular person once they have left us. And certainly, it is odd to fall in love with things such as a car or money or sex. However, can one fall in love with a moment? Truly fall in love with it, that is, not just a brief infatuation of it that will be forgotten soon after the moment is over.

            There are many things I cherish in life: waking up from a nap to a sunny afternoon without feeling like you wasted precious time of the day. Or being at the right time at the right place to witness a certain building or object that I have seen so often caught in a light that makes me see it for the first time. Or that temperature that a cup of coffee reaches that makes it neither hot nor cold, perfect in that you say “no, thank you” to the waitress when she offers to pour in more. But which do I cherish the most? I believe I have narrowed them down to three.

            The first are moments with my family. A stereotypical answer, one might say, but none the less true. I love the moments that show how my mother raised me, the precious lessons I could not have learned without her. I may often have not appreciated her wisdom enough, and probably will not again from time to time in the future, but I cannot be more grateful for her showing me that the world will always be bigger than I could ever imagine. This can be frightening, but she was always patient enough to get me excited again about the worlds within this one, just waiting to be discovered. And that when I am devastated on the balcony because my love could not find the courage to brave the vast and dangerous sea with me, my mother would remind me that I am her son, brave enough to board the ship on my own.

            I love how Robert, my mother’s husband, not only loves her like I’ve never seen any other man do so, not only for works hard in financially permitting me to educate my mind or see beautiful places such as Berlin or Milan, but for being the anchor of reason whenever I was incapable of seeing it. Drunk and away from home in the Near Northside, broken down on the curb of an unfamiliar street, crying at three in the morning over something I fucked up, he would pick up the phone and let me remember that it is okay if I fail at some things, for I have not failed him.

            I love how my brother is my reminder of innocence. He is living the childhood I never had, the one I wish the world would have let me experience myself instead of forcing me to grow up so fast, and I envy him for it. If there is a place I know to require the embodiment of kindness and true good, it is this world, and may it one day realize the existence of the greatness my parents are raising. Indeed, I often worry about him, as this world can be cold and cruel to good men. And more often than not, I found myself making him cry as I tried to toughen him up to be able to fight back when the time comes. However, I am starting to see that an older brother must guide, not dictate. My forceful lessons were at times not only harsh, but also unnecessary. While he possibly may be at risk of being shot down by the world some day, he will never be hurt from wounds incapable of being healed; he is loved by three strong people who will make sure he does not.

            While these are three moments, they merely comprise one of the cherished things. The next kind are the moments of good conversation with friends. These friends have come and gone like my favorite seasons, and for better or worse, I usually have had no say in the matter. Some I have turned my back on out of my own volition, our lives having evolved to such opposites that continuing down the same path together simply became unhealthy. Other friends have left my side without either of us intending or noticing it had happened, awakening one day to realize that their need for the guidance from a man like me had at some point ceased just as my need for theirs had. We may call each other from time to time, and though it would not be the same, we are happy if the other is happy and leave it at that. These realizations are regrettable, but frankly, inevitable. Then there are some friends who are still there and shall always be. Who, after all these years of minimal interaction, are still willing and able to pick up right where we left off as if it was just yesterday. How I love to catch up with them, sharing the stories we had missed to witness in our absence.

            Staying, going, or yet to be decided, these people from various countries, lives, and cultures have given me some of the most memorable discussions a man like me could ever be blessed to ponder over. And the range of the conversations’ natures have been exquisitely broad; from the debate on whether Wonder Woman, her favorite icon, can still be classified as a feminist role model when her outfit is often scantily comical, to defining what kind of morals an ethical person can still cling on to in an anarchy ruled, post-apocalyptic world, and which they would be forced to revise or discard completely. Or even wondering about what mankind should do should they ever unlock the science of time travel. Joe believes that if we are granted the power of gods, it is our responsibility to wield it. Regardless of if I will still be in disagreement with that stance, I look forward to him elaborating it further when I see him again someday.

            Finally, I love moments like this. It is difficult to describe, as this moment comes in such variety. It is the moment when you sit in the back of the coffee shop you go to all the time, reading a book that nothing could tear your gaze away from, except for when the perfect song for that particular moment starts playing. You look up and stare at nothing and nobody in particular, wondering if there is such a thing as God and fate, and if they conspired to have this song play. Or it is the moment when you sit by the window of a new coffee shop you have just discovered. You have your headphones in, but they play no sound as their only role is to block out the sounds of the outer world around you as you enjoy the silence and the feeling of the cup in your hands. You stare out beyond the glass to watch the sun set, deeply saddened by how this day must come to an end, just like many of the great memories and beloved people in the past had to. But paradoxically, you are filled with a happiness you never knew could exist, once again excited like your mother taught you to be about what the new dawn will soon bring with it. It is in such a moment, a moment mixed of both of the two mentioned and many other variables, that I am currently writing this in. Feeling such a melancholic happiness, I am trying not to cry as I can barely contain the laughter that threatens to blurt my coffee out again.

            So, can one fall in love with a moment, despite their short lived durations? Yes, I do believe so. It may seem absurd to fall in love with something that not only appears for short periods of time, but also takes weeks, months, or even years for one to experience again. Yet is that not what falling in love is about? Be it with another person or with the sound of loneliness itself, true love is fleeting, fickle, and does not know or care for your schedule. Love arrives and departs upon its own will. Where does it go and how does one find it again? Well, “sometimes there’s things a man cannot know; the gears won’t turn and the leaves won’t grow”. Sometimes we can experience and learn about something as much as humanly possible and still a pattern would never present itself. We will never know everything, but it is alright; we do not have to. We can only hope that our lives will be filled with those loves on which we can reflect upon when we lie on our deathbeds, old and grey. That before we exhale our last breath, we can look out a window, able to honestly say that “even if there should be another life beyond this one, it would not matter; I fell in love with what this world and its inhabitants experienced to be the fleeting and fickle moment that was me.”

Filed under journal entry writing love searching for moments

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White is good, as pure as Heaven’s clean slate.
Black is evil, but even the abyss of Hell has depth to it.

I have become grey as purgatory,
and my hands are shaking
as I write.

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Coffee Knows

Coffee knows.

Coffee knows no sorrows. Coffee understands.

Coffee does not mind your tears; it comprehends bitterness all too well. Coffee

knows what it means to be rich and strong in character

due to being burned, broken, and drowned.

But coffee will always try to get your heart racing again.

Coffee can be as warm and radiant as your smile,

and will not blame your heart for growing cold when left alone for

too long,

as long

as you do not either.

Coffee likes the books you read with it,

and it loves the stories you write.

It approves of the date you are falling for, and will be your date

once that person has left.

Coffee will even leave you a ring

on your napkin.

Coffee is dark, yet will still show you the swirl of a galaxy when you pour milk into the cup.

It will always be sweet to you if you just give it a little sugar.

You may want to apologize

for thinking it had no depth inside that small, shallow cup it came to you.

But you do not have to,

coffee already knows.

Coffee can be found everywhere in this city.

Lattes, americanos, espressos – it may come in a different form than you are used to

or than the one you would prefer,

but it will always be there for you when you seek it. For if you know why you need it,

coffee knows you.

I love coffee.

And you are much like it;

you know

Filed under coffee writing random attempt at poetry cafe

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A Haunted Man

"I had the most beautiful dream that you and I were still together…

Thank god I woke up.”

I open my eyes. No heart racing, no hyperventilating, no screaming. Nothing of the sort, I simply open my eyes. I am not disoriented either, but I still sit up and take a few seconds to look around, making sure I am still in the confinements of my bedroom. After disappointing myself with the certainty of being in the world I fell asleep in, I lie back down. I look over to the other side of the bed to find it empty, as I knew it would be. I ask myself why I still bother; she has not been sleeping there for quite some time now. The thought of where she slept these days sickens me and I turn away to stare at my clock instead. It is 07.47am; I went to sleep just a few hours ago. I continue to stare at the clock in fear and anticipation of what I had to do today when it rings. Lying there, I think about if what I experienced would be classified as a beautiful dream or a nightmare. I think about all that has happened and how I never would have imagined it would end this way. I think about everything and nothing. Mainly, I just pathetically sulk in the misery of everything.

            When it finally rings at 8am, I throw the sheets aside and heave myself up. I slowly make my way to the shower to start my usual routine, though there is a strange feeling to it all. There will be nothing average or mediocre about today, so it feels odd to start it as such. The brick in my stomach has been my constant reminder of today ever since I made the decision. So I brush my teeth more diligently, style my hair more carefully. I stare into the inventory of my closet, contemplating, intending to dress the best as I ever have in my life. I choose a suit black as pitch with an ash black plaid vest, a two inch wide navy blue tie with grey pin stripes over a slightly lighter, tight fit grey shirt, and black shoes that are not obnoxiously shiny, yet still fashionable. When I finally look at myself in the mirror, I find myself surprised at the man staring back at me. A dapper man, one not plagued by anything and never could be. One who did not experience what I did this past year, who was not such a wreck. The image of him makes me feel confident about my task today, making me smile. It is merely the ghost of a smile, really, but it is more genuinely than I ever have since that day. Yet the feeling fades quickly and the fake man in the mirror begins to sicken me. I head down the stairs to escape his sight.

            I walk into the warm kitchen to find her sitting at the counter table, her deep blue eyes gazing serenely out the window at the people on the street. She was dressed like always from the last time I saw her: her fitted blue pants as if they were poured onto her crossed legs. Her loose beige button-up appearing like a sea of vanilla, though its slight transparency revealed the black color of her lace bra, the bright morning light shining through it to show off the curves of her beautiful figure. The light made her brown hair and pale skin glow radiantly, giving one the impression she were an angel. But I knew better. The cherry red coat that matched her lipstick was casually slung over the lean of the stool to her side. Always was a perfect contrast to my shades of grey, that girl, not just in fashion. She is perfectly still - too still , as if she were not even breathing - and only holding up a mug of coffee that was still steaming hot.

            I linger there to observe her for a moment. God, how I adore her, I think to myself. Then I take a deep breath and return to an apathetic expression. I walk over to the coffee machine and pour myself a cup. She watches as the people outside trudge belligerently through the cold Chicago winter. Entranced by the view, she breaks the silence first.

            “It’s a beautiful day today. Do you think it’ll be just as nice for Christmas this weekend,” she asks.

            I look out towards the clear blue sky, a nice change from the constant overcast lately.

            “I don’t know,” I reply. “I haven’t been checking the weather forecasts, but I doubt it will.”

            She sighs and looks at me. I keep my eyes to the sky, avoiding hers. 

            “My dearest husband, ever the cynic,” she says.

            “I prefer to think of it as being honest.”

            She smiles. “Of course, you always were with me. It’s what made me fall in love with you.”

            I freeze upon hearing the words.

            “I’m sorry,” she apologizes. “I forgot you wanted me to stop saying things like that.”

            We share a more than welcome moment of silence before she speaks again.

            “You’re dressed rather handsome today, hun. My parents will appreciate it.”

            I put down my hot cup next to hers. She tries to reach for my hand, but I pull it away and walk towards the door.

            “It’s late. I should go,” I tell her.

            “Please don’t,” she pleads, but I wrap my scarf around me in callous silence. I put on my charcoal grey coat, and open the door without looking back.

            “What will you do,” she calls after me.

            I linger in the doorway. The frigid wind stings the skin of my face, but I refuse to look at her.

            “I haven’t decided yet,” I lie.

            “… then I hope it will be the right choice, mon cheri,” she says.

            I close eyes to hold back the building tears. I sigh as I break my resolve, turning around to look at her face one last time.

            “You’re wrong, you know? I never stopped wanting to hear you say…” I begin, but my words trail off.

            The kitchen is empty. Her red coat is gone, the stool she sat in unoccupied for hours. Only my lonely cup remains on the counter table, the coffee as cold and still as the room around it.

            I need to stop seeing her, I remind myself, closing the door behind me.

            Although I’ll be with her again anyways once the day is done.

Filed under writings fiction short stories haunted

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Thoughts In My Humanities Class

I break off a tiny piece of styrofoam from my coffee cup. I look at it, study it, scrutinize it - judge it. It’s jagged and crooked at its tears, smooth and straight at the edge from the part of the cup it was removed from. I examine its every trait and find myself mostly interested in its frailty. Held gently between my forefinger and my thumb, the thought of how easy it would be to crush it floods my mind. How easy this fragment can be obliterated almost completely by next to no effort on my end. How I could end its existence as I currently know it. Not because I particularly want to, but simply because I can.
So I crush it.
I feel its minimal resistance against my fingers, a futile resistance. I feel it weaken, and I feel it crumble from my strength. However, once its destruction is complete, once it is an ugly, mere remnant of its previous [and to some maybe even graceful] form, I realize how my interest in it has ceased to be. And as is common with us humans, we have a habit of discarding what we have no use or interest for. I release it from my grasp, from my demonstration of superiority over it, and apathetically watch it fall to the ground. I am done with it.
Still, recalling how it involuntarily bent and contracted into its new form of my design, having folded under my power over it, I remember the feeling of joy I experienced in doing so. It was only a small joy, for it was a small, inanimate object after all. But I begin to wonder as to what else my superiority extends to. As to who else… Then a new thought overtakes my mind: After all these years, I have failed to change one bit.

Filed under random thoughts cathartic writing

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Let me guess, you were one of "the others" once; good grades, captain of your sports team, dated the prom queen, a future all mapped out. You probably broke a lot of hearts in your day, but you were ignorantly happy. One day, you met someone, someone unexpected. Someone who made you realize that there could be so much more to you, and you were no longer contempt with what you were.
Then something happened, and she was gone. NO warning, no way to brace yourself - just gone.
It felt like the earth stopped turning, leaving one side to freeze over in apathy towards everything and everyone… and the other to violently burn up in a raging desire for retribution, leaving behind a trail of hurt and destruction. So when you woke up one day and saw that person in the mirror staring back at you, you packed your bags and disappeared.
How am I doing so far?”
Leto looked at her, trying to maintain his stoic face.
He did not answer her, and asked her in return instead, “Don’t you want to know what happened? What I’ve done in that time of destruction?”
“I’ll listen,” Althea said, “but would it change anything that happened? Would it change anything for you right now?”
Leto did not answer again and simply stared into the void of the lake, but his silence said it all.
“The day you realize your demons your demons have become stronger than you could ever fight off,” she continued, “that’s the day you realize the only two options you have left are to throw yourself into their arms wide open, or hope you can run faster than them.
Lucian G. Ott. Je Suis Encore Perdue.

Filed under excerpt writings story i'm writing still a working title

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A Confession

Excerpt from “The Honorable Heart of Henry Holloway”.

Criticism welcome.

+++++++++++++

“Oh, by the way,” she said, breaking the silence, “I found one of your short stories that you forgot at my place before I left for Paris. The one titled ‘Hello, My Name Is Hollow’.”

“Ugh, please tell me you didn’t read that one.”

“I did, and I thought it was really good! Depressing, like most of your stuff, but I always told you you’re quite talented.”

Henry scoffed. “D’you smell that? I think I smell smoke from your pants catching fire.”

“I’m serious, Henry” Alice exclaimed. She paused and took a deep breath. “… and Cameron thinks so too.”

“Who the fuck is ‘Cameron’,” he asked.

“Cameron Swanson, my Fictional Literature professor from last semester.”

“Wait, you showed it to your professor at UIC,” Henry asked suspiciously. “… Why?”

Alice continued, ignoring his question. “He pretty much had the same conclusion as me, that it was dark, but brilliant. He even asked me to ask you if he could meet you sometime. He was really impressed.”

Henry noticed how Alice was dabbing at his wounds nervously now, trying to act like nothing was wrong. He gently took her slightly shaking hand and looked at her sternly.

“Alice, why are you telling me this?”

Alice swallowed, and pulled out the book from her back pocket. “Because he decided to publish it in the university’s annual creative writing magazine.”

Henry remained still as he stared at the book in Alice’s hand, but she could see his jaw line tighten and how he started breathing faster. He got off the counter, throwing his hands up in the air.

“What the fuck, Alice,” he asked furiously.

“I know what you’re thinking-“ she began to explain, but he cut her off.

“No, you fucking don’t know what I’m thinking! Why the fuck would you do that?!”

“Because you’re talented, Henry! You have all these amazing stories at your place, just waiting to be published. But instead, they’re just lying around catching dust!”

“So you go and publish one behind my back?! How did you even do that? Don’t you need my consent or some shit,” he asked in disbelief.

Alice looked down at the floor. “… I may or may not have forged your signature.”

Henry threw his hands up again and turned away from Alice, shouting a long line of German swear words into the room.

“Look,” she said, thrusting the book into his hand, “your story is the first one in the book. I’m not lying when I said that my professor was impressed with it, and his number is written in the front. This could be a really good thing for you, Henry.”

Henry leaned against the counter with the book rolled up in his fist, letting his head drop. He stopped swearing and closed his eyes, taking slow, deep breaths to calm himself down. When his breathing returned back to normal, Alice went over to him and turned him towards her, his eyes remaining shut.

“You had no right to do that, Alice,” he said, almost inaudible to her.

Alice closed her eyes as well and took his face into her hands, leaning her forehead against his.

“I know,” she whispered, “and I’m sorry that I didn’t ask you first. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t know what this would do to you; I know how personal your writing is to you. But Henry, I’m not sorry for finally getting your work published like it’s meant to be. I truly believe that you are talented, and you have no idea just how much. Your writing is so beautiful and inspiring; I couldn’t just stand idly by and let your talent go to waste.”

Alice leaned her head back and Henry opened his eyes to look at her, finding that she was already looking at him with that expression that usually made him feel uncomfortable. But something was different this time. Despite that their bodies were already pressed against each other’s, her expression made him want to draw her even closer. Her face was so close to his already that he could feel her soft breathing on his face, making him feel intoxicated from the scent of rum and coke in her breath. The party in the next room faded away and the rest of the world dissolved around them as she closed her eyes again, slowly closing the distance between her slightly parted lips and his. He remained still, incapable of deciding if he should pull away, or lean into it.

Filed under Excerpt The Honorable Heart Of Henry Holloway writings

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Adventurers

Sometimes you ask someone to embark on an adventure with you and their eagerness is overwhelming. You travel the great beyond for a while, but then you reach the harbor and the person starts to realize that the sea is vast and unpredictable, full of dangers unimaginable.
You may be disappointed, but you must not be upset with them, for everyone has their limits of how far they’re willing to go. So when that time comes, you say your farewells, thank them for the time you shared, and watch them as they turn around to walk back home. Then you get on the ship, and continue your adventure.

Filed under words of wisdom

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- Ghosts and Reconciliation -

From The Honorable Heart Of Henry Holloway

*  *  *

“So Jenny, I’ve been meaning to ask, but what’s with the conservative fashion these days? Did you turn Amish or something?”

Jennifer turned to Nathan, a sarcastic hint to the questioning expression in his face as he looked her up and down. She glared at him, unnerved in having to put up with her co-worker’s arrogant remarks before she had even fully walked through the door. But she was already late for her shift and relied on his mercy to not rat her out to Karen, so she decided to be nice. Or at least, as nice as she could.

“Exactly, so lucky for you I can’t touch a gun or anything and shoot you.”

“Actually, the Amish can’t touch anything electrical, so traditional firearms are still okay.”

“Shut up,” she snapped back, focusing on tying the apron around her waist.

Nathan mockingly held his hands up in defense. “Touchy! I’m just saying, ya know? You won’t be getting tipped as much as when you had cleavage and a flirty attitude. But your boyfriend’s back; maybe he’ll oblige you.”

Jennifer paused, still fixing her hair band. “Boyfriend?”

“Yeah, table three.”

She turned to the direction Nathan nodded to and her heart fell when she saw who he meant.

“Anyways,” Nathan continued without noticing, his eyes fixed on a middle aged lady gesturing that she wanted the check, “Professor Cougar over there has been tipping me like crazy all week and it’s about time I make some moves! Wish me luck!”

Nathan did not wait for a response as he walked off, and Jennifer was not listening. She took a deep breath, grabbed one of the coffee pots, and started walking over to the table where Henry sat alone, simply staring at his empty mug. He was like a ghost; transparent and unnoticed by everyone, even by her when she walked in. And yet, he was still there, emitting a chill down anyone’s spine once they finally did set their eyes on him.

Jennifer had not spoken to him since that fateful night, making sure she was working in the back when she knew he was coming, or switching sections with Nathan when he was already there. But she knew she had to face him sometime, and now was as good a time as any. She felt nervous, her hands sweating, and she feared the pot would slip out of her hands as she closed the distance between them.

“Want a refill on that? On the house.”

Henry looked up at Jennifer. His eyes with their deep bags underneath seemed surprised and confused to see Jennifer suddenly standing next to him. Not a confusion out of some form of dislike or grudge towards why she of all people would dare to approach him, but out of the honest belief that he would never see her again. Still, she could feel her heart pounding faster, threatening to break through her chest, as he remained staring at her with a blank expression. He remembered that she worked here at the Pick Me Up Cafe now and, noticing the panicked look in her eyes, changed his demeanor, forcing himself to appear lighter to make her feel less uneasy.

“I didn’t know you guys converted into a diner with free refills?” he asked jokingly.

“We didn’t, it just seemed like you could really use it.”

He smiled, genuinely this time. That beautiful half smile of his that Jennifer loved so much since the first time she saw the beat up version of it by her front yard at the party. Completely asymmetrical, but not crooked; it was a half smile that likely every girl fell in love with, and that he was so unaware of even having at all.

“Yeah,” he sighed, “I s’pose I could. Thanks, Jenny.”

She poured the coffee into his mug and returned the smile. A cold breeze moved through the coffee shop as the front entrance swung open. Henry’s head immediately jerked up with anticipation, but was quickly overcome with disappointment when he saw the unknown girl walk in. Jennifer knew who he was hoping to see come through the door, and she was immediately filled with guilt. She knew that, to some degree, it was her fault for his misery.

“She’s not coming, Henry. She hasn’t come back here in several weeks,” she told him in a soft voice. “I miss her too.”

He did not say anything, his weary eyes still fixed on the door. Jennifer wanted to leave him be, beginning to think that this encounter might not have been the best idea after all, not in his current state. She wanted to walk back towards the register, but knew she had to finish what she started. She took a deep breath once more and felt her own eyes suddenly feeling hot and teary.

“Henry, I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! That night… I-I didn’t mean for this to… I…” Her voice trailed off. She wanted to say so much more, apologize for so much more, yet she could neither seem to find the words nor the courage. Yet Henry did not need more, he understood. He looked at her as kind as any person could in his situation and nodded.

“I know.”

Their moment continued for another second or two when she noticed the girl who walked in raise her hand to order. She wiped away the tear that had forced its way out, and returned Henry’s nod.

"Thanks for the refill," he said. Then his eyes grew empty again as Jennifer walked away, and he returned to staring at the cup in his hands, the black liquid left unmoved.

*  *  *

Filed under writings short stories The Honorable Heart Of Henry Holloway

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Watching her sit there, her knees to her chin and her eyes staring forward, talking about how tired she was of being tired, Henry finally realized that the time of being a coward had to end. That he couldn’t let Alice tap in the dark on how he felt about her anymore, but he also realized that the time for believable words with her have passed as well. Thus, Henry did the only thing he knew to do; he kissed her. Henry has kissed many girls in his life. However, never like this. No, this time, he wanted Alice to know that he did, in fact, love her more than even he thought he was capable of loving someone. And as he held her face gently in his hands, he poured everything he had into the kiss. Every repressed feeling he was too scared to admit, every inch of the little bit of honor he had inside him - everything he ever was and ever had, he gave it to her in that moment. One that felt like just a blink of an eye, as well as a decade.
So when Henry slowly pulled back, opening his eyes to look into her’s, his heart fell deeper than it ever could, for hers clearly answered that everything he had was not, and never would be, enough.
Lucian G. Ott, The Honorable Heart of Henry Holloway

Filed under Henry Holloway Writings Work in progress too cheesy?