When I saw him, looking at the stars, I could have sworn there was a twinkle denoting tears. When he heard me approach, his gaze coming down from the heavens upon me, his quirky smile, with the right lip curling up, appeared instantly. He said, with a note in his voice, “How are you this evening?” With a sniff and a casual rub at his eyes in the late hours, the twinkle was gone, replaced by the blue brilliance everyone knew him by.

“Fine. There are things here and there, but all is well enough.” I looked up at the stars, trying to divine what it was which took his fancy so.

“Loved ones at home always make those trials easier.” The grin mellowed for a moment. Then he lifted his shoulders to get his coat’s collar to reach just a little higher, and he shivered. “It’s cold out.”

“It is.” I looked at him keenly, while he looked this way and that, as was his habit. Then I asked, “You have up a guard, but sometimes it falters. What’s underneath your exterior?”

He nodded. “You go home. You have loved ones to lift you up.” Then he shrugged. “It’s rare someone lifts me up. I don’t have the opportunity of letting the inside out, or it would pour out and I would have no one to help me dam it up again.”

“There has to be something I can do.” This man of inspiration, this man of words, this man of love. There had to be.

“There is, but no one will do it.” His smile returned in full vigor and he began walking. I walked with him.

“I won’t blow you.” I knew his perverted little mind. His base desires and what fulfilled him.

But he laughed, a full belly laugh, until the cold air caught in his lungs and he cough. Then he said, “No, not a blow job. But thank you for thinking of me.” He paused a moment, then said, “Just someone who stays when everyone else leaves.”

He walked up to his place. The lights were still on, but there was only a mess left behind, of empty pizza boxes and empty red cups. Beer cans were scattered and a picture hung crooked. He paused, his back to me, his foot just on the edge of entering his home.

I felt as if this was a moment, that I could have done something, that all I had to do was reach out, or take one step. But before I could, he was past the threshold, said, “Good night,” and the door was shut, the lights were off. I walked back home, to where someone would hold me, and I would try all I could to forget that conversation under the stars.

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