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Land of Milk and Honey, Don't Fail Me Now; shy kid 2x combo
Topic Started: Mar 29 2016, 03:12 PM (630 Views)
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((Cristóbal Morales continued from Hab Da Sleepover))

Cristóbal didn't normally indulge in sweets too much, but a student council bake sale on the grounds right after baseball practice? That was too good to pass up, even if it would be super crowded. He knew for a fact that there was an out-of-the-way picnic table around the side of the building that was usually unoccupied thanks to how it got chilly in the shade, so that was his destination once he got a snack.

Who knew there were so many different kinds of brownie you could make? Cristo certainly hadn't, and he found himself standing there and looking over the selection for far longer than he'd anticipated. He didn't want to hold up the line, so eventually he decided to just go for the tried and true walnut brownie and handed over a couple dollars. A little steep for just one brownie, but he supposed that was how fundraisers worked.

Sugary snack obtained, Cristo made a beeline for his hiding spot around the corner so that he could sit and savor the chocolaty goodness undisturbed while he waited for his mom to get through at work and come to pick him up. The first bite into the brownie confirmed that his money had been well-spent, and he sighed contentedly as he leaned over the table and thought about nothing in particular. Class had gone okay, and the team was shaping up well; if things kept going the way this practice had, they could look forward to a strong season.

All in all, it was a pretty good day so far, even if he had quite a bit of homework to take care of once he got home. He felt as if he could even doze off a little bit once he finished his brownie. He doubted anyone would be inclined to take his baseball equipment if he closed his eyes for a bit.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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((Maxim Kehlenbrink continued from Where The White Boys Dance ))

There he was again. Unkempt, shirt stuffed into his jeans and sporting his eternal frown. Only unlike usual, he was actually part of the crowd this time. Even though he didn't feel like it, not one bit. He was more of a foreign body in a pool of mirth, as far as he was concerned.

Admittedly, the organizers of the bake sale had picked an excellent day for the event, sun shining, baby blue sky, no clouds to be seen. Sounded like a perfect deal. Well, not for Maxim. It wouldn't have made a difference for him if it had been clouded, foggy, raining, snowing - maybe even all at the same time. The fact stood that there were simply too many people there for his taste, too many strangers, too many faces. A shame, really, but what had he expected? Of course it was going to be like this.

It was him first attempt at taking part in a bigger social event again ever since...Well, ever since the day he had sworn to become the high school equivalent of a hermit crab and embrace his loneliness as the status quo. Had worked out for him for about four months. His father had been way too wrapped up in his work to notice and his aunt - well, Maxim wasn't really sure how much of her surroundings she was aware of at all.

Long story short: He had told himself to overcome his own demons and visit the sale. At least try to get in touch with people. The sweets were only a bonus, though he had yet to buy a single one of them. Twenty minutes in and he could already draw a sobering conclusion: He was not feeling comfortable. That being said, he was by no means content with that realization, to the contrary, he felt highly disappointed.

He had had high hopes prior to the event, expecting to somehow be able to get into it. Sadly, he was simply not feeling it. And that left him with very limited options, one of them being total retreat back home. Not what he had in mind. Strangely enough, he didn't feel like he wanted to leave the premise entirely. Maybe just go offside a little, find some sort of hiding spot. A shadowy one preferably, since his body was starting to overheat, or so he felt. Too much sun for his taste.

As he started to wander off, away from the cake ogling masses, something came to his mind. What had that one guy from gym class always been talking about? Something, something, "ninja table." Bingo. Maxim remembered the story behind that rather silly sounding name: There was a single picnic table somewhere around the corner of the building, forlorn, obscured by Cochise's shadow. Reminded him of himself, somehow.

In any case, it sounded like the place he was looking for. Somewhere to rest for a bit, maybe even read a little - right, he had forgotten to bring a book with him. Didn't matter, he had made his decision.

It didn't take Maxim too long to find the place. Just had to walk a straight line and around one single corner. There it was, the fabled ninja table of dubious fame. However, to Maxim's chagrin, it seemed like another adventurer had ventured off to seek it out. The quest had apparently drained his energy, since whoever the other boy was, he was sort of hunched over the table, eyes closed.

Maxim wasn't sure he recognized him. He had probably seen him walking around the school before, but that was it. Normally not reason enough for him to approach a complete stranger. This time around, however, he felt oddly compelled to stick around. Maybe his sense of curiosity was the cause, maybe the fact that he didn't want to resign and abandon this opportunity to find respite; he didn't know nor did he care to think about it.

Slowly, he inched closer, until he stood directly in front of the table. He could still walk away, not too late for that yet. Only he didn't feel like he wanted to and thus, he carefully took a seat on the opposite end of where the other boy was dozing.

Edited by Rorick Skyve, Mar 30 2016, 01:55 AM.
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Cristo hadn't meant to actually doze off completely, but it seemed he had. He was nudged back towards awareness by that sense that you get when someone is next to you, like a brief shadow flickering past his closed eyelids. He started somewhat, but fortunately not too much. That would have been embarrassing.

Someone had taken a seat at the table opposite him. Not anyone he recognized immediately, nor his mom having arrived and come to collect him, like he'd briefly thought. Had somebody been planning to set up at this table and he'd taken it? He hoped not.

"Erm..." Cristo absently rubbed the back of his hand over his eyes to clear them as he regarded the other boy. If he hadn't accidentally stolen somebody's seat, he couldn't imagine what this guy might want from him. "Do you..." No, 'do you need something' might come off as confrontational if he opened with that.

"I mean, can I help you? I'm not in your seat, am I?"
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Now he'd done it. Whoever that other boy was, Maxim had just managed to disturb his righteous slumber, awaken him. Then again, what did he think would happen? That he'd just sit there and watch Sleeping Beauty do their thing? Of course this had been bound to happen the moment Maxim joined him at the table. And now that he thought about it, he had absolutely no clue how he was going to explain himself.

Yes, he definitely didn't know who the other guy was, it was certain now that he was able to really see his face. Looked Mexican to him, what with the tan and all. Not that it mattered in any way. There certainly was a word for this kind of situation in the native language of the guy as well and it most likely translated to 'awkward'.

The other boy had asked him something. If he could help Maxim in any way? Why, that was an excellent question, actually. He would have liked the answer to it himself, because he had absolutely no earthly clue what he had intended to achieve by taking a seat at that table. But he couldn't just answer him with that now, could he?

He was starting to feel nervous. He had only just escaped the clutches of the crowd, only to end up in yet another rather uncomfortable situation. Though the latter was the preferable one to him, no doubt. At least this guy seemed like he was a polite enough fella. Maybe he should just give it a shot, try and make his visit of the ninja table worthwhile?

Ah shucks. He could still retreat later. At least if he embarassed himself now, only the other boy would bear witness to it.

Maxim cleared his throat, then fiddled around with a strand of his hair for a moment, before starting to talk. "I, well- No, you're not in my seat, or anybody's - at least I don't think so!" A brief silence followed. What to say next? Honest approach, maybe?

"You see, I - I really don't have a reason for sitting here, except...well, except that I don't wanna be over there where all the people are. That's it."


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"Oh, gotcha." Cristóbal wasn't used to being the less nervous party in an encounter, especially when it involved someone he'd never met before, but that seemed to be the case here. Or maybe lingering sleepiness was to blame. Either way, the other boy seemed more on edge than he was at the moment.

It was hard to decide if that was good or bad; good because Cristo wasn't stuttering or making a fool of himself, bad because he was so often the unsure one that he didn't really know what to do to set other people at ease when their positions were reversed. He didn't want to just sit in awkward silence though, and he had no inclination to try and kick someone out of a seat that he himself had no claim to in the first place, so small talk seemed the way to go.

"I don't like crowds either, if that's what you mean. That's why I'm over here too, so I can just wait for my mom to pick me up." He chewed his lower lip for a moment and let his eyes drift away from the other boy as he considered if there was anything else to say. "...Are you waiting for someone?"

"Oh, and I'm Cristóbal. What's your name? I don't think we've spoken before, right?" God, he hoped that was the case. Completely forgetting someone's name and face after talking to them before would be a social blunder he didn't think he could recover from. Then again, the guy hadn't greeted him by name, so they probably hadn't interacted before. Hopefully.

He kind of wished he'd bought a second brownie so he could have something to occupy his attention while he waited for a response. His hands always felt fidgety without something to do when he was talking to people.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Interesting. He had expected the other boy to be weirded out, or at least slightly taken aback by him suddenly joining him at the table. None of that was the case, to the contrary, the guy, who was apparently named Cristóbal, had even met him with cordial politeness. Now that certainly was a welcome change of pace.

"I'm not waiting for anyone, no." Bit of a curt response. The other guy deserved more than that, for his patience to put up with a complete stranger alone. "Just...just staying here for a bit, I suppose - granted you don't mind, of course!" He had practically panted out the last bit, a hasty afterthought, thick with his German accent. Trying to be as polite as possible, as usual with the same predictably awkward results.

Maxim started drumming his finger on the table. Nervous habit, just something to distract the inner demons. He had no reason to get anxious like that. Curiosity had led him here, made him stay and he had not regretted it yet. Just had to say something else now, before the pause of awkward silence got stretched for too long.

"Cristóbal, huh? That's a pretty cool name. Interesting, I mean." Not the smoothest of transitions, but something to work with. He was getting there.

Raising his head slightly, he took a moment to get a better look at the other boy's features. He liked the hair. Something delightfully audacious about it, he couldn't really tell how else to describe it. Not only that though. His entire appearance didn't seem much different than that of all those "cool kids" that he couldn't stand one bit. But Cristo didn't have that same demeanor, that sort of proud arrogance, one trying to put their alleged superiority on display. No, this guy was clearly not like them.

Maxim allowed himself to a weak smile, the best he could muster to show his own goodwill. "I'm Maxim. And yes, I don't think we've spoken before. I'd remember a face like yours - that's not supposed to mean anything, I just have a good memory, is all." He barely knew the boy and he had already gone over to not so subtle bragging. Bravo. "Anyway - nice to meet you."
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"Nice to meet you too." Cristo offered Maxim what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "I don't mind you sitting here, no. Nobody else usually uses this table, since it's so out of the way and all."

He absently tapped at the picnic table's surface, running his fingertip along someone's initials that had been carved into the wood as he considered how to continue the conversation. "Um, what do you think of the bake sale? If you've already been over to check it out, I mean. I thought it was a pretty good idea to have it after school... and after practice, too. Some of the other guys from the team are hanging around hoping for freebies from people they like." That smile was a little more genuine, born from amusement at his teammates hounding their crushes or friends for snacks.

"Oh, of course that's assuming you like sweets. Some people don't."

Maxim was a little hard to read, but Cristo got the feeling they were more or less in the same boat here. Crowds bad, privacy good. Privacy plus brownies even better, but he should probably watch his sugar intake.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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This was going way better than expected. Not only was that Cristo guy rather polite about Maxim's presence, he even seemed to be genuinely comfortable with it, granted that he was interpreting that look on his face correctly, of course. He had misjudged people before; this wouldn't exactly be a premiere in that regard. Still, his gut was telling him that this here was a good egg, as people used to put it. Not sure why he loved those outdated terms all that much, but he did.

"I'm sure there are people who don't. I'm not one of them, though." Half a jest, he was getting there. That feeling of anxiety was still there, like a rat gnawing at his nerve tracts - lovely image - but weakened in intensity. Maxim's smile grew a little wider.

"I haven't tried any of those sweets yet, though. Not sure why. I guess I just didn't feel like going up to someone and asking for them? Might be laziness, might be something else. I don't suppose it matters now." Self-pitying, not really the best way to not put people off. Change of topic needed, ASAP.

Maxim reached into his jeans pocket, uncertain about what he was hoping to find. Some miraculously convenient object to keep the conversation going, maybe? Certainly nothing he could offer the other boy, except his wallet, but that was out of the question for more than obvious reasons.

There was something else there. Small in size, rectangular, kind of coarse surface. He actually had no idea what it could be nor why it was in his jeans. Unless - yeah, had to be it. That box of matches he had found lying around at the bus station the other day. He had only really pocketed it to give it to his father later, an old-fashioned chain smoker like him certainly knew how to put it to good use. Only that he hadn't seen his father much during the last few days, him being all busy with work, so that matchbox had now taken roots in his jeans instead, faded into obscurity. Useless to him right now, he didn't smoke, after all. But maybe Cristo did?

He scrutinized the other boy for a second, as if that was going to help him determine the answer. He had no idea at what age his peers usually began to indulge in that sort of pleasure, he only knew one person that was smoking, namely his dad. Only one way to find out then.

Maxim pulled the tiny object out of his pocket, fingers shaking ever so slightly and carefully placed it on the table in front of him. "Uh...do you happen to smoke?"
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Cristóbal's surprise when Maxim set a matchbox on the table out of nowhere probably showed on his face. It was just such an odd thing to suddenly pull out of your pocket; even the people that he knew who smoked all carried lighters instead of matches. Maybe Maxim was just someone with eclectic tastes like that? The way he spoke was a little old-fashioned, but Cristo had been chalking that up to the fact that English obviously wasn't his first language. Another point of empathy there, English was still hard for him sometimes, and he'd been born in the US even.

"I don't smoke, no. But if you do, you can go ahead." In truth, Cristo found smoking to be a distasteful habit, be it cigarettes or other drugs, but this was public property and all. His personal aversion to it was largely because of what it did to the body, but it wasn't his place to lecture someone on their health and habits.

Still, he couldn't help but picture those photos of diseased lungs that the anti-drug seminars they had in school loved to show. He shuddered a little bit at the thought of it. As an athlete, a part of his body getting destroyed in that way was one of his worst nightmares.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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He didn't smoke. Of course he didn't, why did he even ask in the first place? Stupid of him to assume that, or even consider the possibility. All had gone well so far, but he just had to bring in the awkwardness, like always. Now Cristo probably thought of him as a chain-smoker, or something to that effect. Nothing good, that much was sure.

Maxim struggled to find his words for a second, his fingers still lingering over the tiny box on the table. He had to clear up the misunderstanding, right? Only logical thing to do here, better than to let the subject float in the room, or on the table. Not sure where he had wanted to go with that metaphor.

He set his hand down on the matchbox, firmly grasping it. "I see. Sorry for asking, I just- doesn't matter why I asked, really, too complicated to explain. In any case, I don't smoke either. Probably doesn't seem very believable after such a question, right?" Erasing the doubt by tackling it head-on. Best strategy he had.

"My father's a smoker, so I guess that's why I had those in the first place." He demonstratively waved the matchbox around, causing muffled rustling noises. Could one call that rustling? Maybe clattering was the correct word? There he was again, trailing off. Had to focus on the matter at hand.

"So anyway, I just wanted to clear that up, alright? I have actually told my father to quit this habit more than once, for years now. To no avail, sadly. Suppose there's nothing I can do about it."

He tried to smile at Cristo, going for a natural one, though the final result looked rather helpless. Maxim looked back at the box of matches in his hand. Suddenly, he felt an irrational hate for it rising within him. This thing, it represented that habit of his father that would kill him sooner or later, he was sure of it. Not only that, but now it was the reason for his conversation with Cristo to derail, make him feel insecure again, just as he had grown comfortable around the boy. He began to apply more pressure on it, tried to crush it with his hands. To hell with it.

He looked back at his table partner, avoiding eye contact at first, but finally found the courage to look him straight in the eye. "Hope you don't mind if I do this. Just don't be frightened, okay?"

With that, he raised his hand with the box, only to swing it forward and release his grip on it, sending the tiny object to fly. He had aimed for no specific direction, just anywhere away from Cristo. Maxim didn't even see it landing nor did he care to know where it had landed. He simply was glad to be rid of it.

It took him all but one moment to regret his action. That certainly didn't help in making him look any less strange. The other boy probably wanted him to leave now, they always did after he did anything unusual. Maybe he should just up and leave by himself, before Cristo could ask him to? Spare himself the embarrassment? He wanted to, but he couldn't. Something kept him glued to his seat and so all that was left for him to do was sheepishly stare at his new acquaintance, feeling like a wounded rabbit in front of a snake.
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...Well, then.

Cristo turned to watch the matchbox sail away, eventually landing in some unremarkable patch of grass. Maxim had quite the throwing arm, it turned out. He wasn't sure what to make of the other boy's erratic behavior, but he felt responsible, in a way. Maybe this was the way that Abby felt all the time, with the animals and people that she took it upon herself to care for. All of that "What Would Jesus Do" philosophy, though she wouldn't call it that herself.

Well, he knew what Abby would do in this situation.

He turned back to Maxim, considering his words carefully. He almost backed out of saying anything, but he forced himself to go through with it. He supposed he was responsible in a way, since his attempts at putting Maxim at ease has clearly fallen flat, so now it was up to him to smooth things out again.

"Please don't take this the wrong way, but... is something going on? Are you okay? I know it's probably not my place to ask, but if there's something you want to talk about, I can listen." Cristo made sure to keep his voice even and soft, not pushing too hard for Maxim's response.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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That was new. Yes, it most definitely was, that usually didn't happen when he behaved strangely. Someone actually reacting with genuine interest. People just ignored him most of the time, made some offhand remark, but he knew, he always knew when they wanted him gone, he could see it on their faces. And he could see it in Cristo's face right now- that was not that same dreadful look. That was the face of an honest young boy, as far as he could tell. Which didn't say much, but still, it was something to start with.

"Me? Talk about something?" His surprise hadn't worn off yet and his tone showed that. Little bit of accent thickening as well. He wondered if even that perpetual frown on his face was gone for the moment. Because now, he was sure of it, that crushing feeling of anxiety was no longer omnipresent. It was still there, somewhere deep within, but not the prevalent one among his feelings. No, what he felt now was...gratitude?

Maybe, yes. The longer he looked at the other boy, the more he felt that way, felt grateful. He had allowed him to sit here, when he could have easily sent him away. He had answered his inquiries, tolerated his quirks, he had suggested to him that he was welcome.

Maxim could feel a slight itch in the corner of his eyes. Was he tearing up? Now that was just silly. No need to get all sentimental here, really. Besides, Cristo would get the totally wrong impression if he did that.

Turning his head slightly, so the other boy wouldn't notice, he began to speak again. "Not...really. I mean, not about the thing that just happened, you see? That was nothing of importance, best to ignore that. Sorry."

Was that all he wanted to say? Strangely, no, it wasn't. Maxim suddenly felt the urge to tell the other boy a great deal more, make him see how he felt. He felt he owed him that. Not only out of gratitude, but because he felt like he could trust him. Even if that trust was to get betrayed, possibly, he didn't care. Right now, he wanted to share. And so he would.

He turned his head back to face Cristo directly again, even managing to smile a little, his eyes still glistening slightly wet. Didn't matter. "Well, you see...I don't mean to be all that aloof, yes? Truth be told, I'm just scared, okay? I didn't think you'd be happy about me sitting here in the first place, or anything I would do or say. So, like...I wanted to thank you, I guess? For being patient with me and all. Yeah, thanks."

Maxim was quivering slightly, but still smiling. He was actually being hopeful for once.
Edited by Rorick Skyve, Apr 18 2016, 08:00 PM.
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There was something there, yes. Maxim was dancing around the subject, but there was definitely something going on under the surface. Cristóbal wasn't sure if it would be right for him to try and dig for it, but he felt like he was making progress on some front all the same.

"You're welcome, I suppose?" He didn't sound so sure of it himself. "I mean, of course you are, but I didn't..." Didn't what? Didn't think he was doing something worth thanking him for? He supposed that was true, though it was still nice to be thanked for trying to help. Cristo shook his head. "I don't really know what I'm saying, sorry. But I don't mind you being here, really. Don't worry about it."

He tilted his head to the side, thinking. There was a conversation going now, and he had to keep up the momentum. He wasn't sure what was appropriate and what wasn't, with whatever was going on in Maxim's head. He seemed fragile, and Cristo wasn't used to being the one who had to coax others into comfortable interaction.

"...Talking to people is hard, isn't it?"
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Maxim's eyes lit up the moment Cristo had finished his last sentence. There, that right there was his entire existence in a nutshell, or so he felt at the moment. This guy here knew, he understood. Maybe he had suffered through the same hardships as he himself had? Maybe they had even more in common, even more beyond that.

He let out a sigh of relief, closing his eyes momentarily. Hell, he knew fate was just some made up fairy tale, something to lull little children and religious nutcases, or some people like that. But this here, the way this entire situation came to be, it felt like some higher power had intervened on his behalf. That was bogus, of course, absurd. He had simply gotten lucky. But even so, it all worked out for him. Some days, getting out of bed really was worth the effort.

"Tell me about it", he responded, chuckling lightly, only to immediately raise his hands in a defensive gesture right after. "Oh, I didn't mean that in a sarcastic way or anything, yes? Just meant to approve of your statement, to, uh - to show I agree with you. I made that clear, right?"

Gee, he really needed to simmer down again. He had no reason to get anxious like this. Cristo understood him. He understood him. He understood. For a few moments, he repeated those words to himself in his head, his lips silently shaping them as well. It was like he was muttering to himself without really muttering, almost mantra-like.

Finally, the procedure bore fruit, and his mind returned to a state of ease. He looked Cristo back in the eyes, wearing a rather self-ironic smile. "I pretty much just proved your point right there, didn't I? I'm a real piece of work, I know."
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"You're doing fine."

Three words that meant a lot to Cristo. They probably meant a lot to anyone who looked out on the world and found it full of obstacles, day after day. That was why he offered them sincerely, with a smile.

"I think... everyone has their own issues, you know? So you shouldn't feel bad about whatever yours might be. I try not to, and sometimes it works." Self-deprecation felt like the right way to go, maybe set Maxim at ease more if he got that this was something unusual for both of them, striking up conversation with an effective stranger.

"But we don't have to keep talking about that, if you don't want to. If you were going to get something from the bake sale, what would it be?"
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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