Joan Watts: Series 0-5, 2002, oil on canvas, courtesy Charlotte Jackson Fine Art

Rory’s hand ran through a field of sown hair, gently, almost fearfully, raking the warm, pale soil. Dry sobs heaved from the body below him, earthquakes sending each strand of hair into a shaking frenzy.

“It’ll all be OK,” Rory cooed, desperately attempting to calm the man lying at his side. A broken voice breathed out a reply.

“I’m not worth it …” It was the voice of a tormented heart. A heart that hadn’t seen sunlight in days.

“You know you are.”

“I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.”

“I’m not.”

“You aren’t going to convince me otherwise.”

The sound of silence blared, rebounding off the walls, only broken by the weighty force of breath into the tear-soaked pillow. Soon the puffs of salty air were lulled to sleep, turning into smooth ribbons of breath. With one final, anxious stroke of the garden of hair, Rory rose with a small groan and exited quietly. He slumped to the floor as his palms found his face, as if trying to keep his eyes from hearing him.

“What am I going to do with you, Mark?” Rory asked solicitously, but the only listener was the still, numb hallway. He chuckled slightly, but the laughter soon deteriorated into a smooth, delicate sobbing.

“What am I going to do …?” he repeated. Yet again, only a silent hallway responded.

He felt a tepid hand fall on his shoulder, and his organs jumped. The hand fell away, only to be replaced by a warm, soft hug, scented like newly dried laundry.

“I’m sorry,” Mark’s voice brushed against his ear, sending his skin cells into a small jig.

“I’m sorry, too,” Rory replied.

“Well, let’s call it a draw and be sorry together, huh?”

There was no need for a reply. Just two souls, clinging gently to each other, yet so determined not to let go. Just two loves like a duo of gnarled, swaying trees with roots curling together.