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Read our shortlist: A Prolonged Kiss by Jonathan Gibbs

The kiss comes at the end of Act Three, just before the interval. It’s really what the play has been leading up to all along, and its high point. We try hard, but the fourth act is an anti-climax. Which is perhaps the point – new forms, new forms – but still you wish, with all due respect to the author, that it was stronger.

The kiss is the moment that all the actors, not just me and Colm, have working towards. Our job is to establish the conditions for its existence, to have it seem inevitable, when it comes. Nina, the nineteen-year-old wannabe actress, and Trigorin, the fashionable writer twice her age, have been attracted to each other since they first laid eyes on each other. She’s read everything he’s written, and has an idealised, if a touch reductively teenaged view of him as an artist. He’s bored of his affair with Arkadina, the once famous, now past-it actress whose country house they’re all staying at. Of course, the person Trigorin should really fall in love with is Masha. She’s the most interesting character in the play. Twenty years old, wears black, constantly takes snuff – that half the audience, from their laughter, seems to think is cocaine – and, famously, is in mourning for her life. Everyone I know wants to be Masha, even if they all agree that Nina is the better role. Masha has a few great lines, and one classic scene with Trigorin, in which she rants about how shit her life is and knocks back vodka like it’s wheatgrass shots. With Nina, you get the monologue in the first act, the piece of avant garde gobbledegook written by Konstantin, who’s in love with Nina – when you look at the characters’ relationships it’s comical how there’s not one fully requited love affair among them. Medviedenko, the boring schoolteacher, loves Masha. Masha, the fool, loves Konstantin. Konstantin loves Nina. Nina loves Trigorin, as does Arkadina. Even Polena, the wife of the estate manager, is having an affair with Dorn, the pompous doctor, though he refuses to elope with her. Why should he? He’s got her just where he wants her.

The scenes between Nina and Trigorin are the bright heart of the play, the only moments when love seems a possibility and things might turn out alright, even if other people get hurt. And that kiss, at the end of Act Three, sends the audience out into the interval buoyed up on a sense of hope – hope of a sort, because even if they haven’t seen the play before, they must know that a happy ending before the interval curtain can only mean pain to come. All happy endings are just examples of judicious editing, as Max puts it.

TRIGORIN: [In an undertone] You are so beautiful! What bliss to think that I shall see you again so soon! [She sinks her head on his breast] I shall see those glorious eyes again, that wonderful, ineffably tender smile, those gentle features with their expression of angelic purity! My darling! [A prolonged kiss.]

What Max wants from us, he says, is what he calls manifest contingency. Chekhov’s characters know they are bound by circumstance, which they prefer to call fate, but the fact their circumstances allow them some wiggle room seduces them into thinking that this equates to the possibility of a greater freedom. They think that because they have room to pace inside their prison cell, they can get enough of a run-up to bash straight through its walls, or leap over them. The stage is that prison cell, Max says, and the actors should move around it as if aware that that is the limit of their freedom, as if to demonstrate that knowledge. The stage is a metaphorical space. The stage, and the text, are your prison – as the characters’ social and psychological circumstances are theirs – but within those confines you are free, and should show yourself to be so. The audience, he says, should think that anything could happen. That’s the real suspension of disbelief, Max says: disbelief in the fixedness of the text, the inexorability of the plot.

Nina and Trigorin have two scenes alone on stage together. The first is at the end of Act Two, when they flirt, and he has his moment with the dead seagull, shot by Konstantin, which he uses to invent on the spot the plot of a short story that matches in detail what is happening between them, and predicts – with horrible accuracy – what will happen. The second is the kiss at the end of Act Three. It’s a short scene: he’s run back into the room from the front of the house, where everyone is getting into the carriages to go to the station. Supposedly he’s come to fetch his cane, but really it’s to see her. They have ten lines together, and then they kiss. There is a catch in Colm’s voice on the line I can’t believe I’m going to see you so soon, when his voice sort of hiccups and disappears up into the air, just as if it’s been caught on a hook let down from the flies and whipped up out of his mouth. He does it every time, and every time it sounds like he’s just stumbled, hit a non-existent step on the staircase of his suddenly material desire. But that catch in his voice is also the fly on the hook, Max says, that catches Nina, and seals her fate. In rehearsal Max encouraged us to play around, see where the characters might go. A three-minute scene became four minutes, five. The kiss is coming, and the more it’s held back, the greater the impact when it arrives.

I’d done kissing before, of course, at drama school, and before, but, importantly, there you’re kissing someone your own age. Certainly, I’d never kissed anyone as old – not to mention as famous – as Colm.

It was all dealt with very correctly. The theatre was proscenium, and we’d be centre-stage, so it would be easy enough to dissemble. We blocked it in a limited rehearsal, just the two of us and Max. They were both really sensible about it. Max asked me what kissing I’d done before, how I’d felt about it. Colm reeled off a list of actresses and actors he’d kissed on stage, and on screen, where the act – the performance of it – must be made to be that much harder to distinguish from the real thing.

Though clearly what I’ve said I want, this contingency, this freedom of movement, Max said, doesn’t apply to the kiss. This is the point where professional etiquette overrides any aesthetic considerations. From the point at which the scene becomes physical – hand touches hand, lip touches lip – we do it as we block it.

So, from ten feet or so apart, on the end of our first exchange, he takes a step towards me, pauses, and I go to him, slowly, then faster, and we meet centre-stage, but not too far down, not too close to the audience. There’s a beat as we reach other and hold each other by the hands. We are restrained, almost genteel, almost kitsch, as if we were suddenly made aware we were acting like teenagers. (She still is one, of course.) You are so beautiful! What bliss to think… We share a glance, enough for the characters to confirm, silently, what they are about to do, both now and at some unspecified point in the future, and then I lay my head sideways against his shirt front, my gaze out towards the audience. This is my favourite moment in the scene, because Colm can’t see my expression. For those few seconds I can have Nina feel anything: bliss, fear, astonishment, pride, glee, sadness. Although, of course, I can’t see his expression either, his face above mine, his hand on my hair. Then he turns my face to look up at him, lays his palms gently on my cheeks, those glorious eyes, that wonderful smile, those gentle features, and his head comes down, and mine comes up, and we meet in a kiss. At first we are in profile, then, as we relax into it, our bodies pressing together, he turns me upstage, his head moving downstage to obscure mine, and my left hand comes up to the back of his head, so that, for most of the audience, the kiss itself is hidden, and our mouths can simply rest on each other, his closed, mine a little open. Our mouths aligned, merely. Contiguous. A fake kiss, what in the theatre is called cheating.

The previews went well, and the press night. The reviews were good, and there followed that change in the weather that is unique, I think, to theatre: the strange melancholy of achievement that, in the rear-view mirror, seems too easy. As if we should have made it harder for ourselves. The audiences loved it, the applause on opening night went on for what seemed like ten minutes. Everyone was there, my parents, Tia, and my phone filled up with messages as if I’d won an Olivier. Rosalind Shepherd from the school told me afterwards it was one of the best Ninas she had seen.

The next night, when Colm took a step towards me, on see you so soon, instead of taking a step forward, to take his hands in mine, I took a step back, as if frightened, like a spooked horse. He paused, and I guessed from his look that he was wondering if one of us had got a cue wrong. He held his hand out, palm down, as you might to a child, calming, placatory. I left it half a moment, then stepped towards him, and then he was stepping too, and we met, as before, hand in hand, a clasp of bodies, my head on his breast. His words. The kiss.

All we had done was insert a little space into the sequence, like a musician might let a note linger in a melody, hang behind the beat. But we had I think established a subtle understanding as to what might or might not happen. He gave me a look, as we walked off, in the blackout. It was just a glance, but it was enough to serve as acknowledgement of what had happened. I had crossed no boundary, but I had stepped near to it, and in stepping near to it I had made us both aware of it. We blocked that kiss, his look seemed to say, and the plan was to stick to the blocking, and that plan is more for your benefit than mine, so there can be no suggestion of me taking advantage, of turning a stage direction into an actual physical intimacy that is uncalled for and undesired.

If that sounds like a lot to get from a facial expression, then know that this is my area of expertise. The capturing of complex emotional states in momentary physical attitudes. I can spend – not hours, but many minutes at a time in front of the mirror, watching myself. Pulling faces, my mother says. Which I am, but really I’m analysing the external signs of my behaviour, trying to catch myself as if seen from afar, from the footlights, running through the angles.

The next night I hesitated again. And Colm responded the same way, with the hand held out, palm down. And I paused, as before, then went slowly towards him, but this time I went with my head down, expressionless, like a sleepwalker, so that I only looked up when I was a step away from him. I ignored the hand-holding, and instead went straight to put my head on his breast. I ground my forehead into his chest, almost butting him, like a cat butts your leg, then turned to face the audience. When he took my head in his hands and lifted me towards him, I closed my eyes and lunged, pushing myself up on my feet to press my mouth onto his.

It was rather blundering and formless, the kiss, but he dealt with it confidently, expertly, turning my head with his hands, as blocked, so his body and head were between me and the audience, and we waited like that until the lights went down. But for that quarter-second, before our lips touched, for the time it took for me to raise myself up and reach him, the boundaries were, I think, down, and the distinctions blurred.

When we walked off he looked at me again, but a few steps, a few seconds later than the previous night. He was looking ahead, as if he didn’t want to look at me, but he did, he did look at me, the same look as before, but darker, more concentrated, and I smiled at him, aligning my smile with the applause that rose up behind me and followed us out into the wings, and in my smile I told him there was nothing to worry about, he didn’t need to say anything, this was just the play, this was Chekhov, not us, we were me and him, not Nina and Trigorin, and then we went to our rooms for the interval.

That night Max put his head around the dressing room door, said how great we’d been, and that he had a couple of notes for me. Look, he said. It’s going really well, but I did want to ask. At the end of Act Three, I’ve noticed you’ve changed Nina’s approach to the kiss, you and Colm, but it looks to me like it’s coming from you, and I just wanted to check that’s what it was, and that you were happy with it.

We’re just playing around with it, I think, I said, and he said, Cool, that’s cool, it works really well. It’s just that sort of scene, it’s often easier to do it as blocked. What he didn’t say was: especially when one of the actors is half the age of the other. And when one of them is married, with two young kids, and the other one is just out of drama school and pretty as hell.

The next night, as we stood in the wings before Act Three, Colm said, Well, I wonder what we’ll get tonight? He said it wryly, as if my games were just that little bit wearying, like something you’d expect from a toddler. We were standing alongside each other, and he didn’t look at me as he spoke. I said nothing, then, very gently, I leaned in towards him, closed the gap between us for a moment – in imitation of how our bodies would close the space between us, later, just before the kiss. I imagined watching myself in the mirror, gauging the effect of this small act. Rosalind at school calls this the calculus of the stage. She says that the art of acting is knowing how to translate tiny, incremental changes in your onstage behaviour into significant effects for the audience watching.

The next night, the end of Act Three, when he took a step towards me, I didn’t move, but stayed on my side of the stage. He waited for me to take my step, I saw how his right hand rested at his side, ready to come up and make that gesture, palm down, but I wasn’t going to let him make it. I stood there. Five seconds, six. Then his hand did come up, but with the palm facing up, fingers extended and slightly parted. The gap stretched, I could feel it in the hairs on my arms and the backwards push of my shoulders, straightening my spine and hollowing my back. Arousal is not merely a state of excitation, but also of anticipation, and of uncertainty. I wanted him to come to me. That was the message I was sending, me to him – Colm – just as I was sending it as Nina to him – Trigorin. The difference was that one of them was an invitation, and one was a challenge.

In the end he came, of course he did. He had to. If he hadn’t, it would have been a catastrophe. He had to cross the whole of the space between us, which he did, in the end, quickly and resolutely and almost angrily, and when he did I rewarded him, by laying my head meekly against his chest – those glorious eyes, that ineffably tender smile – then letting my head be turned, raised, kissed. And count down to the blackout. The sound of the applause from the auditorium was like static in my ears, as if it was coming from inside my head.

A few days after that, I had an interview with a newspaper. My first one. Naturally, I was excited and nervous. The journalist was about my age, perhaps a bit younger. This annoyed me a bit, that I wasn’t worth someone more established. But she was lovely, we hit it off straightaway. She laughed at my line about how everyone would prefer to be Masha but play Nina, and I felt a little bump of pride, that that line was going to go into the newspaper, and that people would see I wasn’t just a pretty face.

She asked me about my upbringing, and I said that my mother was a vicar. Her reaction was priceless. Her mouth hung open, so you could see that little dimple in the middle of the top lip. I knew I’d be practising it in the mirror when I got home. Not even at home; I’d excuse myself and go to the loo as soon as I could, to try it out in the toilets.

Her eyes widened, and she said, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but are you religious, yourself? I paused, then I said, Well, actually, my spirituality is something that I try to keep private.

And that was the point in my life so far that I felt most like I was a real, actual professional actor.

Oh god yes, she said, blushing and flustered. I mean, absolutely. It’s just, I’m a churchgoer too, and the moment we sat down, I guessed that you might be too.

How, I asked. How did you guess, but she didn’t hear me.

It’s awful, she said, being Christian. I mean today, and when you’re our age. People think it’s something you should have grown out of. And there’s the people who think they can cure you of it, or screw it out of you – her eyes gleamed as she said that. By people I mean men, she said, like they might once have thought they could screw you out of being gay, or cure you of it.

Chekhov said something amazing about Christianity, I said, desperate to get off the subject. In fact, what’s so wonderful about Chekhov, I said, as if I’d just thought of it, is how perfectly he’s matched to the English temperament. It’s as if, when he died, his heart was packed in ice and flown to England, where it was transplanted into our theatre and literature. Russia at the end of the nineteenth century was a perfect donor match for Britain once the first world war had killed off the last idea of empire. The exquisite melancholy of an entire national sensibility watching itself sink into oblivion.

I felt awful as I was saying it, even as I watched the journalist nod at me as she listened, you could just tell that she thought this was another line good enough to get into the piece. Which it was. Except that it wasn’t my line. It was something that Agnes had said, more or less word for word. Agnes, who was playing Polena, and had read everything Chekhov ever wrote, not just the plays and stories, but the diaries, the letters.

The interview was in the paper two days later. My line about Masha was there, but the line about Chekhov’s heart being transplanted into English theatre was used as the headline. Everyone was already in the dressing room when I got there that night. I slunk along the wall to my place as I said my hellos. But there was the article, cut out and taped to my mirror. There was a minor flurry of oohs and applause as I sat down – ironical but also genuine. God, shut up, I said. I looked at Agnes. She was clapping her hands daintily in the air in front of her. I went over and sat on the chair next to her. Look, I’m sorry, I said. I really am. It’s unforgivable. Don’t be silly, she said. You came across really well. And anyway, there’s no journalists queuing up to ask me for my opinions on Chekhov. So it’s nice to see it out there. And you look fantastic in the photo. No, but still, I said. No buts, she said, and she patted my hand. It’s a moment. Enjoy it.

Naturally the performance that night was a total car crash. It felt as if everyone was watching me, the so-called expert on Chekhov. As if, suddenly, the whole play was about me. Not about Nina, and me expressing a part of what she was, but as if she was there to express a part of me. When it came to the kiss, I tried to be bold, to come at the scene at a tangent, but it felt desperate, a misfire. When I laid my head on Colm’s breast and looked out at the audience, all I could feel was relief, that it was nearly over. When he put his hands on either side of my face and lifted it to his, I complied, limp as a rag doll. He held my arms and pressed his mouth onto mine with a force I didn’t expect. As the lights dimmed he unkissed himself and held me there and looked at me. A severe look, almost of disdain, as if he was disgusted at himself, Trigorin, for giving in to Nina’s charms.

I’ve never enjoyed the mad scene in Act Four, set two years later, when the affair with Trigorin has turned Nina into a gibbering wreck. I just don’t think it’s written very well – Chekhov is giving us what at the time might have seemed like a credible, if adventurous, picture of mental illness, of a woman in the throes of a nervous breakdown. But it’s hard to get right, to act it as written and make it sound how someone going through that, today, would sound. The repetitions, the rubbing the forehead. I am a seagull. No, I am an actress. There was a point, halfway through, in the middle of my first long rambling monologue, when I came to myself and it was as if I didn’t know where I’d been. As when sometimes you say something, and you then can’t work out if you actually spoke out loud, all you have is the memory of moving your mouth and tongue and lips, but you don’t know if there was any sound. I didn’t dry, I didn’t lose my place, but I had no memory of having actually spoken the lines that I must have done in order to be where I was. We still had eight weeks to run, and I felt like the show was dead in the water. The pistol shot, in the wings, Konstantin shooting himself, sounded like someone putting a bullet into my career, into my love of theatre itself.

The next day, when I was alone in the dressing room, there was a knock on the door, and Colm’s head appeared around the side of it. He took a seat along from me and said, Look. I wanted to apologise for last night. I was a bit off, Mary was in. Mary was his wife. We’d met a couple of times, but mostly she was at home with their kids, one of them still really young, barely a year old. He rubbed his head at the temple. Either she’d read something, or someone had said something to her, about the kiss scene, he said. He grimaced, a sickly half-smile. I mean, she’s wonderful, I love her, but she does have a bit of a problem with jealousy. It’s silly. I mean, it’s not like she has anything to worry about, right? And he looked at me, as if for reassurance.

As if for reassurance, he looked to me.

So what I wanted to say was, if I seemed off, then that was why. It’s okay, I said, and he shook his head. It’s not okay. You’re a brilliant actor, and I love doing those scenes with you, but part of what makes it so good is the danger, he said. The danger on stage, I mean, It’s always dangerous, that kind of thing. You know what I mean? That doesn’t sound stupid?

It felt like he was trying to be honest and open with me, but at the same time was stopping short. Was being as obvious as possible about what he wanted to say, without coming out and saying it. No, I said. You’re not being stupid.

He stood up. You are so brilliant, though, he said. You should be proud of what you’re doing. Honestly, when I watch you, when you’re on, or when we’re on together, I’m gobsmacked. I’d be scared by our scenes if I didn’t think you know what you’re doing.

I don’t know what I thought would happen next, but what did happen was that he laughed. Will you listen to me? he said. Fucking Chekhov.

He looked at me, his lips pursed, then he said, Don’t worry. It’s nothing. And in that moment I understood what he meant.

You are so brilliant, he had said. With exactly the same delivery, the same weight and intonation, as, every night, he told me how beautiful I was. You are so beautiful. Fucking Chekhov. He had screwed with Nina and Trigorin, those hundred years ago, and he was screwing with us now. The sheer genius of it – to make characters on the page, who to all intents and purposes are a step away from cliché, and turn them into living, breathing people. And to take real, living, breathing people, and turn them into clichés.

That night our Act Two scene was fast and fun. It was as if we were both wittier and cleverer than we are – or Trigorin and Nina are – and we got laughs in places we don’t always get them, and they were laughs not so much at the lines, as at our general demeanour, the spark we seemed to find in the characters we weren’t just portraying, but representing – like an ambassador represents a country, as if our job was to be the best Trigorin, the best Nina, we could, to find their most perfect expression.

In Act Three I went to him as I used to, and it felt as though there were a new tenderness to the encounter, how it played out. On These sweet features he brushed back a stray lock of my hair and tucked it behind my ear. And then he bent to kiss me.

The next night, as I waited offstage for my re-entrance, I loosened a strand of hair from my hairband, so it fell over my cheek. Again he brushed it back. That ineffably tender smile. I lifted my mouth to his, and his hand came up to cup and shield. Those gentle features. My darling! Again and again I loosened my strand of hair, and I looked out at the audience, and I lifted my face.

I began to see how a performance changes as a river does in its floodplain, in increments, imperceptibly, never remaining the same for long. But, no sooner established, new habits start to loosen, looking for some way to lose themselves.

One night I let down the strand of hair and he failed to tuck it back. The next night I didn’t let down the strand of hair, and it was not missed, and I was happy to see it gone, behind us.

But it was the kiss that we were working towards, night after night. It felt like all I was doing, all day, was working towards it. From the moment of waking, it was only a matter of time until I thought of it. From the moment I got out of bed, all motion was movement to bring me to the start of that final walk across that raked wooden floor.

My friend Tia lived not far from where Colm and his family lived, and I used to think of that when I went to visit her, which I did often. She could easily be persuaded to go for a walk, or for a coffee. When we headed back, I’d leave her at the top of her road and carry on towards the tube station, but often I’d turn off to the side and go in the direction of where he lived.

I never went all the way there, but in any case I already knew what his house looked like, from finding the street on the internet. I liked getting to know the surrounding area. I’d walk past the cafes, pubs and shops that were maybe ten minutes’ walk from his street, and imagine them, as a family, using them. I glanced in through the fences of the primary schools, wondering if one of the children playing in the playground was theirs.

One day I went to see Tia, but she was periody and not feeling like hanging out, so I made my way to a nearby park, with my sunglasses and a book, to find somewhere to sit and read. It was one of those spring days when you first feel the heat of the sun on your face as a palpable thing. I had my head back, my eyes closed behind my sunglasses, my book held open on my lap, when I became aware of someone stood near me. I opened my eyes and there she was: Colm’s wife, Mary. She was pushing a buggy, with a child asleep in it, bundled under a blanket, and as she stood there she moved the buggy to and fro on the path.

Hello, she said. You’re Sophie, aren’t you?

Yes, I said back to her. Mary, I said. I took off my sunglasses. I smiled at her, but she didn’t smile back.

She was in t-shirt and jeans. Her arms were tanned, and the hairs on them glinted in the sun, and her short, dark brown hair spun up in tight bouncing curls from her head.

Do you live near here? she said, and I replied that I didn’t, but that a friend of mine did, and I’d been visiting her. Do you live near here, then? I asked her, hoping she wouldn’t guess I already knew the answer. She nodded her head in the direction of the house, and named the street. How are things going, then? she asked. Are you enjoying the play?

Oh god, yes, I said. You can’t imagine. This is like my third professional production. It’s surreal, being in a show with people like Colm and Agnes. I’m more used to watching people like them from the stalls.

She moved the buggy to and fro. The baby had begun to stir, and I pointed this out to her. He’s gorgeous, I said. What’s his name again? She leaned over the buggy and carefully pulled back the folding top to peer down at him. Then she pushed the top back and carried on rolling the buggy to and fro. She didn’t answer. Instead she said, So what’s it like kissing my husband, then?

I laughed and shifted my position on the bench. It’s fine, I said, squinting up at her, as if what she’d said had been a joke, or meant as a joke. He’s a good kisser, I said – pretend-seriously, as if we were talking about someone entirely separate from both of us. She didn’t change her expression, and I wondered how expert she was at knowing when a person was acting. I wondered if you got good at it, if you lived with an actor. No, really, I said, changing my tone. He’s lovely about it. And Max, you know, the director? I was scared shitless when we had to rehearse it for the first time.

I’ve seen you, she said. The two of you on stage.

She spoke quietly, still pushing the buggy to and fro. The baby, too, I could sense, was watching me, but I couldn’t look at him, I had to hold her gaze.

Well, then, I said, speaking clearly and calmly. You’ll see what good actors we are.

I see that, she said. I can see exactly how good you both are. In a sudden movement she pushed the buggy towards the bench, then turned it, so the boy was faced away from us. Her face was fierce. Even as I watched I could feel the muscles of my face move, or flex, in response, to ghost out the same expression, but invisible, unacted.

Hey, I said, trying to sound aggrieved, but she shook her head. No, she said. I’ve seen you. There’s, what, five weeks more of this show. And – she leaned in and lowered her voice – I’m not going to sit by while you waltz into my marriage and fuck it up. How old are you? Twenty? Twenty-one? He’s fucking forty-three years old. He has a family. He does not need girls like you pouring themselves all over him on stage every night, in front of four hundred people. I don’t know if you know what you’re doing, but if you do know, if you know what effect you’re having, really having on him, then you’re a fucking little bitch.

She straightened up and pulled the buggy violently back around. The boy looked at me, his dark eyes all pupil, and his doll’s mouth pulsing slightly, so the dimple in the top lip rose and fell, rose and fell. I looked at him now, while my head rang and my ears began to burn, and I thought it was possible to hold the gaze of a child indefinitely. There was no challenge in it, no information at all. Or it was a one-way exchange of information. He was taking in everything I sent out, but sending nothing in return.

I looked back at his mother. Look, I said. I don’t know what you mean. I mean, I know what you mean, but I don’t know where you got it from. There’s nothing like that happening. Nothing at all. I blinked my eyes, and saw how my voice was dry, how I found it hard to form the words.

Well, good, she said, her voice a touch softer after her outburst. She started pushing the buggy up the path, then turned back. Slowly and deliberately she said, I’ve been your age, she said, but you haven’t been my age. Just think about that. Try to hold it in mind, alright?

She set off down the path, and I watched the back pockets on her jeans lift this way and that as she went. I blinked my eyes again, and mouthed an answer, but without voicing it. I tried to imagine my face, how it looked. How I looked. How my mouth was, my eyes, the set of my jaw. I imagined myself back home, in front of my mirror, working on my expression, the expression I had now, trying to find it again. I had no idea if I would be able to. I had no idea if it would do me any good if I could.

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