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Beautiful People

He would not have understood, but she first wanted him for his blandness. He had been attractive solely by virtue of not being ugly. Naked and asleep, he faded into memory's fabric of innumerable lean male forms, hair and eye colour interchangeable: all his character he wore in his clothes.

She could have told him that all men looked alike. Men had told her that all women were the same.

Age betrayed him, fast.

The face was a blank canvas, life wrote him liberally. The vertical script on his cheeks represented an austerity the gleaming garments masked. He must not smile as much as it seemed he did for those commas were scarcely graven beside his lips, while worry writ deep above his brow. The feathered lines at his eyes were the only ones she found appropriate to both his life and his self: gaze ever forward, he strained to see further, truer, through the lies of flesh and fabric both, even as he wore their discriminating mask.

Now when he slept he could not hide the life on his face, characterisation writ in lines of caring with no contradiction of with flippant words.

To think, she thought him bland.

Her hand curled through his. His spotted knuckles rivalled the growing translucence of hers.

She could not have understood, but he first wanted her for her sameness.

Like a bad joke, he walked into a bar, masculinity so new it squeaked. Judgmental eyes, his own, saw a room full of risk, she the safest bet by virtue of her unattainable cheerleader beauty. But there was no joke; he had thought women looked the same, hair length and dye colour interchangeable, the uniformity of beauty a camouflaging strategy to protect the greater whole. Like schooling fish, any one could replace another.

The punchline came: he gave his name, she gave her own.

Thirty years later, he still spoke it in his dreams.

It surprised him to wake with her close. He had thought she would not change, but his morning eyes could see truth beside memory's jaded tint. Age touched those perfect cheeks with a papery translucence. He could see the smile that wanted to claim her lips before it arrived, deep in the shadow of creasing lines.

He should have been pleased to know her so well, but sweetness came flavoured with rue. Life consumed them even as they lived.

He could not know why she had chosen to share his life. He did not know how to feel that she looked ready to share his death.

He tightened his fingers around hers.

May 2013

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