Urbs Fabula Sine Argumentum Est
(The City Is a Novel Without a Plot)
by Robert Wexelblatt
Robert Wexelblatt is professor of humanities at Boston University's College of General Studies. He has published essays, stories, and poems in a wide variety of journals (including Amarillo Bay), two story collections, Life in the Temperate Zone and The Decline of Our Neighborhood, a book of essays, Professors at Play, and the novel Zublinka Among Women, winner of the First Prize for Fiction, Indie Book Awards, 2008. A new collection of stories, The Artist Wears Rough Clothing, is forthcoming.
Her mattress was queen-sized and covered by a European feather bed, then a comforter that billowed like the sea in a French watercolor. To this exotic bedding she had added a couple bolsters and ten pillows. An expensive reading lamp stood beside the bed, the kind that can be bent to any angle. Her headboard was a long bookshelf mounted on cinderblocks, four pieces of pine stained to look like cherry wood. He learned to be careful about the corners.
Her hair was dyed jet black but not so short as to be a rejection of femininity. Both of them had pierced ears, favored black leather jackets, and had taken retail jobs intended not to lead to careers. He worked at Ace Hardware; she, at the Gap. Neither wanted what their peers did, not washer/dryers, not even tattoos. They were artists. They had recognized each other as such almost instantly.
They met on the subway. He had been staring at her as she read a heavy black book. He looked later and discovered it was called Buddenbrooks. He raised his camera furtively and shot. He thought she hadn't noticed. She leapt to her feet, stepped across the car, and demanded to know why he had just taken her picture. Didn't he appreciate that this was an invasion of her personal space, of privacy, that this is what the Fascists did, the death squads? Flustered and a little frightened, he pulled his portfolio out of his shoulder bag and held it out to her.
So far as he was concerned, the great oblong of fluffiness that took up half her apartment was Omphalos, the navel of the universe. He liked making love to her. For her part, she said, she could take or leave the screwing. It might be good for their work but it might just as likely be bad; they would have to see. The important thing, she stressed, was not to confuse physical intimacy with intimacy of any other sort. Intimacy is a dangerous delusion devised by nature for our undoing. According to her, the truth of life, at least under present conditions, was alienation and to that truth she meant to cleave. She laid down certain rules. Nothing oral, no toys, no bondage. Once either of them had achieved orgasm she would be free to ask him to leave, but on no account could he stay later than 3 a.m. She added that she disliked pillow-talk and so would wear her I-Pod during sexual intercourse; however, this was not mandatory for him. He agreed to try it, though.
She wasn't finished even then. She told him that people get into trouble by thinking sex can overcome their essential solitude. They weren't hunter-gatherers, were they, cave-dwellers? They were urbanites who could claim no extended kinship group or tribe. These existed only in childhood, if then, and time had quickly abraded them away. City life could dissolve even the strongest clan in three generations, she said, even crime families.
He saw nothing to be gained by arguing with her. She had obviously thought things through much more deeply than he. It was easier to defer. He was an artist of the intuitive sort while she was a real intellectual. His work depended on a lack of premeditation, was a matter of the instant, the gut. Not for nothing were early cameras called reflexes. For her, though, everything had to be deliberate, complicated, heavy with implication and theory. It was tiresome but admirable, too. I'm the product of traditions I long to step out of and demolish. She could say things like that. In college he had read as little as he could get away with. Apparently, she couldn't get enough and had asked all her professors for reading lists. She was still working her way through them.
The first time they made love she chose the Abschied section of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. He had programmed some old Nirvana tracks, also, for fun, a couple by Beau Soleil. He had loved The Big Easy. In his opinion, listening to separate music in bed was weird but he was willing to try it. He asked to hear the Mahler but couldn't make head or tail of it. Everything was so slow and long and in German. She asked him what he thought. He told her it sounded to him like death and she nodded her approval. Chinese death, she said. Sometimes the wires became tangled or an ear piece fell out, but he improved with practice.
That first night together she talked as if starved for talking. She laid out her theory of egoism, that the city turned people into pool balls; they merely collided against one another, caroming here and there, making deals and dates, transactions and babies. She grabbed a book from the headboard and read a marked passage. She suggested that it might serve as an epigraph for their project. For the savage people in many places of America, except the government of small families, the concord whereof dependeth on natural lust, have no government at all . . . . To his objection that the author probably meant the Indians, she replied that this didn't matter in the least, that Hobbes had achieved an anticipatory insight. Many thinkers had been psychological egoists; Hobbes was the first ethical one. He understood that people should pursue whatever they personally wanted at any given moment, that this was the only purpose of life, the famous pursuit of happiness. In America, she said, sociology was just the study of the vestigial remains of crumbling associations. Families disintegrated, being no more than merely provisional organizations founded on temporary sexual infatuation and curable economic dependence. Political life was incoherent. In the end, we were all alone. An American city was a swarm of individuals racing around horizontal and vertical grids, a vast novel crammed with characters but lacking a coherent plot. Even its crimes were haphazard. Beginnings could be middles and middles ends. Significance was arbitrary and purely factitious. This is what art needed to express.
To all her lecturing he listened patiently though with fluctuating attention. What really mattered to him was the accessibility of her body and that she loved his photographs. Her words were hard but her bed was soft.
The first of his pictures that she selected was blurred because the car, a blue or black sedan, was moving. Still, he had managed to focus fairly well on the driver's profile. The man appeared intent yet somehow oblivious, concentrating but on the wrong thing. He had the air of a successful professional, except that he wasn't wearing a tie. His gray hair was closely cropped. A persuasive, plausible man, his features inspired confidence, like a bank executive or a heart surgeon.
Three days later, with a smirk, she presented him with what she called her "initial report."
Only two months after he retired, his wife, with whom he had planned to travel around the world, was diagnosed. He discovered the lump himself, a fact which troubled him. In an act of casual tenderness he had found out the hard kernel of death. He was sixty-four, a man who had always been at ease with money though never particularly excited by it. Events moved rapidly and in one direction, the way water spirals down a drain. His daughter and son-in-law flew in from Seattle. Though each day was endless the weeks flew by. The morphine carried her far away and then she was gone. There was a period when people were solicitous. He tried to be gracious but he didn't really care for it. He still had the urge to travel but at the same time there was nowhere he felt like seeing. In the public library he found a selection of books-on-tape. He had never listened to one, had rather despised the idea of a book on tape. Nevertheless, he rented three: a popular travel book about Provence (he might want to go there), a biography of Douglas MacArthur (perhaps he should know more), and, out of a sudden access of sentimentality, a detective novel by one of those Englishwomen his wife used to read. The next day it snowed. This prompted him to make a reservation at an inn in Vermont near where he'd been to camp as a boy. He packed a bag, fetched his car from the garage, and headed north. The travelogue and the biography, while unobjectionable, were not pleasing to listen to on the road. There was no rhythm, nothing to dance to, so to speak. Apparently journeys needed plots. He inserted the detective story and found himself so enthralled that he was scarcely aware of driving. He was actually displeased to find himself at his destination with two cassettes left. Being in Vermont aroused no nostalgia and did not relieve his feelings. What he longed for was to get back on the road and listen to the rest of the detective novel. The story was set in the Cotswolds among hyphenated villages, Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold. Even more than the wish to find out whodunit, though, he was captivated by the detective, with his good, busy wife and his staunch sense of duty. His job was to shore up the moral order by finding who was guilty and who was innocent. He liked the detective's old-fashioned manners and methods, his code which was so deeply rooted that it didn't need to be mentioned, his complicated relations with his difficult, grown-up daughters, with his loyal sergeant and his bothersome superintendent. He liked the man's quirks, such as his fondness for fountain pens, and admired his penetration. So he cut short his stay and eagerly got back in his car. Later, he tried reading detective novels but didn't enjoy them that way. He bought a tape recorder and tried listening to one at home, but that proved even less satisfactory. The magic, he realized, works only in the car, in the insulated, moving space where you are free to fart and fantasize, and that propels you unaccompanied through the world, dreaming and untouched.
He told her he was delighted and said that now he really grasped her idea. I'm completely worn out, she said. He offered to give her a massage. He listened to U2 as he kneaded and rubbed his hands over her flesh. She rolled over lazily with pleasure, like a piece of driftwood in her ocean of a bed, listening to Rachmaninoff's Moments Musicaux.
Dreaming and untouched, she sighed as she fell asleep.
We need to organize ourselves. Limits are indispensable. For example, let's say you take half a dozen pictures every day from five to six o'clock. Once I choose, I get two days to write the text. This first one is exactly 525 words. That will be my absolute limit. We can fit it on one legal-sized sheet, under your picture.
He was excited. We'll make flyers, he said, and put them up around the city late at night.
Unsigned, of course. It will be a mystery.
He proposed they could eventually collect them, make a book of them. She was dubious but he liked his idea. People will talk about the flyers; the newspapers will have articles, maybe even reprint them. He rubbed her thigh. Some of my subjects may come forward.
That could mess things up, she said frowning. A pinacotheca.
What? A pine tree?
Pinacotheca. Latin for picture gallery.
It could be the title. Okay then, we'll see, then? It was enough that she hadn't completely rejected the book idea.
She asked to see the new pictures.
Lines of disapproval scored the face from the narrow nose to the turned down upper lip. Around his eyes rage gathered, an ascetic aspect. A beard would have softened the rather mean mouth, but he was closely shaven. Black suit and raincoat, clerical collar, large ears, high forehead--forty, at most forty-five. A church almost cringed behind him.
He might have been waiting for a cab. He was impatient. Perhaps one had just passed by.
Look how furious he is, she said. Splenetic. Who'd confess their sins to him? Go away. I have to write about him.
He feels himself ever more at odds not only with his Church but all churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples. His vocation is just as strong as when he had felt its first tingling in his teens. Stronger. He was educated to serve, his mind honed by medieval scholasticism and baroque apologetics. He had researched the Albigenses, written a celebrated paper on the Arian heresy. He had read the existential theologians, often with irritation, but sometimes with ardor. There were ferociously heterodox pages of Kierkegaard he loved, especially when the Dane argued that faith is an unreasonable passion that makes one into an untranslatable language. The Unscientific Postscript. For a year he had been enthusiastic about but then rejected Teilhard de Chardin with contempt. His superiors patted his head, passed around his papers, recommended him with only the slightest misgivings. His realm was intellectual; he had never had a parish of his own. His first book had made a stir, though it was too often dismissed with the evasive word contrarian. He had achieved the editorship of a respected theological journal, had spoken at conferences the world over, held honorary degrees from the Universities of Leiden, Tübingen, even Notre Dame. But all the while his anger had been waxing, his patience waning. He had become a full moon of wrath. And now he had delivered his philippic, a screed. He was out on the street, naked as Kierkegaard mocked by the urchins of Copenhagen. He had attacked both ecumenism and fundamentalism. The former he had denounced as nothing but a gathering of the pitiful remnants of a failed business, the latter as willfully brainless counterrevolution, what Nietzsche called little bigots. Both, he had declared, were futile reactions to the shrinking of the supernatural, its dissipation into abstraction and empty forms. The ecumenists sought to propitiate science, which ignored them and in which they secretly believed, by blurring all their doctrinal distinctions in a concord so cloudy that it amounted to a fog barely concealing panic and self-interest. They talked like social workers and shrinks, not evangelists. The fundamentalists did not make the mistake of accommodation but were nostalgic for the days when Muslim missionaries could convince natives that the explosion of Krakatoa was a divine commandment to murder Dutchmen. Faith, he had said, joins us to a God we cannot understand, not to each other, whom we understand only too well. As he looked over those well-fed professional actors, all he could think of was, Here are the lukewarm whom God spits out. As he considered the self-righteous haircuts of the rollers and tongue-speakers, he was reminded of Mark Twain's account of the type: good Christians in the worst sense. Nothing, he had said, is more absurd than a congregation. Religion has become bingo on the one hand, demagoguery on the other. Now, out on the street, he comforts himself with thoughts of Rabbi Ishmael, told by a Heavenly voice that he could be spared martyrdom if he wishes; however the world would then lapse back into chaos.
When his parents called each Sunday, he gave short answers to their questions, sometimes told them a joke. It was an art to reassure while disclosing nothing; it had taken him years to perfect it. They were keen to find out about what they called his social life. He had always been a peculiar, lonely kid; they didn't understand him and had settled on a strategy of quiet concern tempered by generous support. Every conversation ended with the same question, Do you need anything?
Need is a deep question, he thought. Needs aren't wants, aren't desires. Needs aren't optional. Needs are the software that comes with the hardware.
What do you need? he asked her one night in bed after she had taken off her earphones.
She shrugged. The basics. Sustenance, shelter, freedom. A few appliances. Heat in winter. A credit card. My body to function. Music.
Two college girls came into the Gap. One of them was holding the flyer she had just torn from the pole outside. She watched them read it. He looks just like your dad, one of them teased. Not even a little bit, protested the other indignantly. My dad's like totally bald. But he takes a lot of trips, doesn't he? You're such a bitch. My mom's not even dead yet.
It was a chilly night. He was tired from unloading stock and she had come down with a cold. Stay away, she warned. Just show me some pictures.
Just, one of her favorite words. She discarded a dozen. I don't like any of these, tearing another tissue from the box on her lap. Her nose already looked like raw meat.
Why not, Rudolph?
They're not right. Not truthful.
What do you mean? I caught them at the wrong moment?
Well, yes, I suppose that's part of it. For me your pictures work when I look and suddenly I just know the subject, when the person's revealed--I don't mean in general--but to me, just me. What I'm trying to say is the truth isn't in your pictures but in how I see them. That's true for the whole pinacotheca, by the way. Half a picture isn't worth five hundred words, you know, if they're the right ones.
So it's all about you? You're the artist?
You too, everybody. The brain isn't just film; it's an editor. Your pictures are my donnée; I have to do something with them. Despite the cold she was getting wound up.
Look, she said, human relations emerge from non-relations and then vice versa. Empedocles' Eros and Eris, love and strife. The universe runs by gravity and entropy. Everything comes together and everything falls apart at the same time. Only the atoms survive. I don't know, maybe not even them. By nature everybody's related and we're all isolated. We're all somebody's child yet zipped up in these bags of skin.
So you see my pictures as just a bunch of separate skin-bags? I can understand that, but how can you see them as related too?
Easy. For example, they could all be carrying the same deadly virus or casualties of the same terrorist bomb or victims of the same serial killer. Or, if you go in for what passes for a happy ending, they could all be guests at the same wedding.
That's not unity. That's just accident.
In my opinion, unity's always an accident. Didn't we meet by accident? Weren't we born by accident? Planned parenthood, there's a laugh. People concentrate on the thin scum of choice and forget the ocean underneath. Then along come the intellectuals brandishing their skeleton keys and holler there are no accidents, that it's all economic determinism or libido or whatnot.
I think my pictures are unified by me. What holds all these people together is that I happened to take their pictures. I think the city does have a plot, lots of stories. Stories of how people need each other.
You can see it that way if you like. People build up dependencies, but the more stable everything looks the more precarious it is. Just take the cops out of your sentimental city for two days and what do you think's going to happen?
Maybe the pictures are wrong. I mean misleading. Maybe it's wrong to take only individuals and I should start shooting people in groups.
That would be even more misleading. In my opinion.
You really believe what you write is true? Truer than the pictures?
She sneezed and shook her head impatiently. Neither more nor less, she said, wiping her nose. Your pictures are really marvelous. Really. I mean it. I couldn't do without them. For me they're the catalyst that crystallizes things. I never wrote like this before. They're true together--your pictures and my writing--apart, not so much.
Until he met her he had felt incomplete, yet, even here in her apartment, he didn't feel entirely whole either.
Look, it's in the mind, in the solitary mind that things really happen. That's where the truth gets made, so it's both relative and absolute. Everyone's absolutely convinced but of different things. She sneezed three times then moaned.
Poor baby, he said, and took out the last picture. He had snapped the woman on the subway, just as he had her. Mousy, in a beret, knees tight together, a tote bag on her lap. Wisps of hair, thick glasses, tweed skirt, sensible shoes, nothing attractive about her. Had he thought her repellent or simply sad? One more bruised pool ball, another bitter pill? Curiosity and love both try to penetrate. Was photographing her an aggressive act, a violation?
Oh yes, she said with a rheumy drawl. I want her.
B.A. Smith College, M.L.S., Simmons. Childhood by L. L. Bean out of John Cheever. Summer place in Pemaquid, Old Greenwich day school, a silver-plated drinks table. Her brother aspired to be just like their father, leaving her to pick up the dropped Oedipus Complex. She had not always been asexual. Experiments with both boys and girls commenced at twelve, out of duty more than curiosity and sans finesse. At Smith three lovers, one each year excepting the fumbling first. An English major with a public allegiance to the Romantics and a private one to Gene Derwood and Mina Loy. She was thought pretty then, even interesting, in her way. Waspish pedigree, waist, and wit, someone said of her. Between semesters, a bleak January in the great house that looked perfect from any distance. Brother scheming to ski and fornicate, Mother using too much toilet paper, Father's face too red too early. Secret phone calls after midnight. Oh, horrible beyond words. If only you were here. The summer escape to Europe, thanking God and grandfather for ill-gotten old money. Loved libraries the way perverts do school yards, ghouls cemeteries. So, faute de mieux, she chose her vocation. Just until you get married, naturally, Father said offhandedly, perhaps even without irony. Labored for a couple years in a university library and nothing changed except that she became plainer every day. Then she fell in love with a girl who had pre-Raphaelite hair. It ended quickly and badly. She was hurt. Work was salvation. More than proficient, she attained professional sprezzatura. Desperate to get away from Boston she applied for an important job at a famous private library. What with the recommendations and her looking like the collective unconscious' archetype of an archivist, the trustees snapped her up. It was in this temple that she came on the complete papers of Edith Moorhouse Salazar (1895-1957), donated but uncatalogued. EMS, unjustly forgotten author of scores of poems, a couple of plays, three novels, correspondent of the clever, bedfellow of the celebrated, had eloped with an Argentine diplomat's son during the Spanish Flu epidemic, returned seven years later with two children and a trunkload of mss., just in time for the hysterical crescendo of the Jazz Age. All her free time went to cataloguing EMS' papers, editing her correspondence, and writing the first critical biography. Her favorite poem is Pinacotheca, set in the Prado Museum. Toldeo spreads herself beneath the storm / like DanaŽ's still golden, fly-blown corpse. Father early dead of a heart attack, Mother mindless of everything but her resentment in a high-priced salle d'attente, brother guzzling away his days and trust fund in Santa Monica. She gives a lot to the Opera, the Philharmonic, UNICEF, eats simply and takes the subway. She is alone and not happy yet infinitely nobler than Edith Moorhouse Salazar or the pompous academics who sneer at and rely on her. Bad poetry, she believes, hides from life; good poetry, just the opposite. She takes up as little space as possible. Her one indulgence is the two-bedroom apartment in a decent building off Park Avenue, magnificently furnished. She has an eye, has crammed the place with fastidiously chosen first-rate paintings she will someday leave to the Museum of Modern Art. She has a horror of being noticed, let alone photographed.
Oh, I like TV, he said. I just don't like watching it.
In college I knew this girl. She'd been a serious ice skater, you know, the Olympics? Started when she was about three, never got to the top but her childhood was devoted to it--practicing, competing, endless traveling. Apparently she took plenty of cocaine but never saw any television. She was like some Greek who'd never heard of Zeus or Athena, couldn't catch a single allusion, totally clueless. It left her detached.
Maybe we all watched too much back then. Overdosed on sit-coms and cartoons. They weren't all that funny.
How do you get your news? For me, it's radio.
Mostly TV, I guess. Though I can't stand all those laxative ads.
Radio's better than TV. Sometimes after you leave I listen to news on the radio, NPR, BBC. Bedtime stories like the Grimms', only worse. Today Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and Briar Rose were all buried in a mudslide. The rigged election in the Black Forest was pronounced free and fair. The musicians of Bremen were squatting in the warehouse that burned to the ground. Child soldiers on drugs cut off Goldilocks' hands and raped Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother.
TV was supposed to kill radio. Funny how people think the new is always going to make the old obsolete, although I guess it often does. Buggy whips and clipper ships.
Rose hips and collagen lips.
He pointed to his digital camera on the table across the room. People still use film. I love black and white. Hell, people still paint pictures, I mean portraits.
The new reveals if there's something unique about the old, anything irreplaceable.
There are some shows I tape, he admitted.
Really? Like which?
I like the ones set in small, imaginary towns.
The global village. These days even the art of belonging's secondhand.
Hey, is this Edna Moorhouse Salazar real or what?
She is as far as I'm concerned. What? You didn't try Googling her, did you?
He knew better than to answer. He lay back and changed the subject. What is it you like best about my pictures?
Their silence. The little cages they trap people in. Their imperfection.
He nudged his nose into her hair and took a deep breath.
Time to go, she said. Show his eyes, and grieve his heart; come like shadows, so depart.
Stealthily at dusk the hunter steps through the forest of the city. Snap.
The man he shot was slumped in a doorway. His clothes--suit, topcoat--expensive and filthy. His face resembled soldiers' from the Second World War, unshaven, lean, eyes focussed on the far side of the universe. Strung out, still young but ravaged. He had no doubt been handsome once, perhaps like Señor Salazar when he had swept Edna Moorhouse off her feet and out of the northern hemisphere.
Hey, fuck, don't take my picture.
Chill, man. Cameras don't steal your soul.
Everything can. Anyway, isn't that what you want?
She said nothing when she saw the picture, just drew in her breath and held it up to her eyes, went over to the reading lamp, studied it some more.
He felt uneasy. Chelsea, around five-thirty, five-forty, he said You can almost tell from the light. He needed her to say something. I take it you like that one?
What do you say we order pizza?
I still don't feel well. No appetite.
What ? You want me to take off, then?
She's still clutching the picture. I need to sleep, to write. Write and sleep.
Look at this Puerto Rican girl. She has this wonderful hair.
Leave it. Okay?
No answer on her phone, her cell, to his e-mails. Silence when he knocked on her door at eight o'clock. Are you in there? Are you all right? The next day he took a long lunch break and went to the Gap. Sorry. Not here. She called in sick today. He was really worried. Then, as he was leaving, he saw the new flyer taped to the pole outside. The ruined homeless guy with the thousand-mile stare.
Like Dylan, like Fitzgerald, he was born in Minnesota but meant to leave it. Comprehensive ambition impelled his bountiful adolescence, seasoned his appetites which were at once commonplace and impossible. Want, desire, and need fermented to a promiscuous brew of juvenile exhilaration. He yearned to gobble the country entire, garner galaxies of experience, perforate his generation with a billion pinpoints of insight. His enthusiasms lacked discretion; he loosed his libido on species, books, epochs, on string quartets, cornices, ferns, clapboards, railroad depots. He was passingly passionate about DNA and the national debt, Dada and Napoleon, Dickens and Napier. Children followed him though he was a child himself, fated never to achieve unequivocal adulthood. He was his own church of natural religion, a locomotive of skepticism, juggler of concepts, trickster of delights, conjurer of beauties. He sang in a choir, debated, cooked, criticized, celebrated, spent whole nights in the backyard peering through an eight-inch telescope. He wished to know everything but never knew what to do. College brought him East. Gatsby in a peacoat, Raskolnikov with a guitar. He was Endymion, gorgeous goddess-meat. They met in a required class, calculus. Though proud of her practiced invulnerability, icy and lunar, she fell for him on sight, threw herself at him, couldn't bear not being with him for more than half an hour. Thus, using a certain calculus, she courted, bewitched, seduced, enchained. Let's get married, she whispered, shrewdly choosing her moment. That nobody approved gratified her, not suspecting he might not either. After graduation they moved into urban squalor that she joyously labored to make picturesque, bohemian. They took crappy jobs and contemplated their assault on the aeries of culture. She applied for grants to write poems while he began his first novel, the opening sentence of which was Let's go faster. He made friends who played frat-boy drinking games, others who smoked too much, began to oversleep, lost his job, wore out a thesaurus-worth of synonyms for depressed. Once there was an old man who, informed by an eloping couple that they planned to live on love, ruthlessly replied, Love and nothing else is soon nothing else. By the time she finally threw him out, changed locks and filed papers, she couldn't stand his reek, his pubic hairs in the tub, his bare feet, whiskers and whining. What kind of bad joke is it when the happy ending comes first? At the last he cursed her and dove into the savage, pool-ball city. She snubbed her friends, ignored her family, yet was surprised when the city abruptly emptied out. Even thou, who dost thy millions boast / A village less than Islington wilt grow, / A solitude almost. She gave up writing verses and grants to write more of them and, out of spite, took a job at the Gap. She became an eight-ball. One day this geek took her picture on the subway. He snapped lots of pictures, one person at a time, each divorced from all the others. Just like this one. She saw the truth in these pictures, these separations. Then she understood. This is the truth.
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