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by Michael Zimmer

A man is sobbing.

He sits on the bus bench, wearing a backpack and, improbably, a pageboy haircut. Like a middle-aged Prince Valiant, but harder living. His dirt-streaked face is red and wet, and his cries are rhythmic and deep; his whole body seems to pulse in time with his sobs.

We cross the small side street separating us, continuing towards him, our pace slowing, not stopping, as we look at each other and conduct a silent conference of the kind I suspect humans have often had these thousands of years in the wild.

Next to the man on the bench is a middle-aged woman. It’s not clear whether she has known him before this moment; her clothes are clean and age-appropriate, her skin and face lack the telltale weathering of his. She looks like a mother from the suburbs.

The woman sits with the man on the bus bench. She extends her arm around him as his crying intensifies.

We watch them, our stride slowing still more. Until we stop and stand there, watching. An unspoken offer, our eyes searching for contact. But they do not look up, there is no contact. And it occurs to me we’re not trying very hard.

The man cries. The woman holds him.

They are their own keepers.

Michael Grant Zimmer is a writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. He directed the award-winning feature documentary The Entertainers, about the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest, and his fiction has appeared in Akashic Books’ Mondays Are Murder series.