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Like the Painting of a Sorrow

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Basil Hallward knew all of this was a comedy, understood by everyone except for him. A strange, twisted trick with no end in sight, in which he was the one being joked about. He never really knew anything with Dorian Gray, what to think or what to feel. He didn't even knew if Dorian was aware of what he felt for him.

(He probably was.)

Basil was sure Dorian was enjoying this. In any case, his young and handsome friend was certainly enjoying the times they spent together. Or, to be more accurate, the times he allowed Basil to be with him. Culture and corruption. Was it him that had corrupted Dorian Gray, or the reverse? That was something Basil often thought about, especially on the rare times when he and Dorian ended up together, in the same room, in the same bed, against the same wall or on the same floor- that didn't make much difference for any of them, although they both had different reasons for wanting their meeting to go quickly.

Dorian, Basil always thought, must have had so many other things to do, more interesting people to see, meet, and have. Basil, on the other hand, Basil simply did not want too much time to think about what was happening to him, too much empty space to hope and imagine that what he was living was real, that he was loved in any way. Still, on those nights, he couldn't keep himself from reaching out to some outside force of destiny, couldn't help but thank the merciful gods that allowed this insane dreaming hallucination of his to become true. He couldn't prevent his mind from forming extravagant pictures, insane paintings, all covered in pulsating colours, every single one of his thoughts numbed in darkness and light. Especially while Dorian licked his way down his body, something dark in those perfect eyes of his, a chuckle escaping him each time Basil let out a whimper of pleasure. He tried very hard not to give too much away, tried to keep the maddeningly beautiful aristocrat from seeing this hopeless and pathetic love for him. But then Dorian would press his body into Basil's, and the world would suddenly turn into an obscenely bright shade of red as all coherent thoughts left him. Basil always kept his eyes closed the whole time, so that Dorian would not see the tears that formed in his eyes as pleasure poured into him. Like the painting of a sorrow, a face without a heart.

The things one feels absolutely certain about are never true. Was it something Henry had said? Basil wished he could apply that phrase to his relationship with Dorian Gray; then he could hope that Dorian sometimes thought of him as something more than just a useful animated object, destined to be picked up whenever the fancy struck him.

Basil often wondered if Dorian ever thought about anything else than himself. He was quite sure Dorian was not a man to feel fear, doubt or shame. Was it because of his unmoving and youthful looking appearance that he seemed to be unaware of prosaic concepts such as death, loss, pain? For it was because of that very indifference to the world that Basil, who was not such a foolish man after all, had decided to deny himself any feeling of longing or hope towards his friend. Or, at least, had refused to express them in any way.

To say that he felt surprised when Dorian, one painfully cold winter evening, had let his hand linger on his, would be a vulgar understatement. Basil had felt such an overwhelming feeling that he thought he would burst, from shock and desire. That paralysing feeling, coupled with a fear that any bad move on his part could put an end to Dorian's sudden physical interest for him, made him stay completely still for the rest of the evening-just letting out a moan when Dorian, after finishing undressing him, went down on his knees in front of him and started his sensual blessing of Basil's body by applying his lips to the centre of his stomach.

(To this day, Basil was quite certain that the reason Dorian Gray had stayed that night was solely because he didn't want to go home in the cold.)

This went on for a long time. It came to no surprise to any of them that Basil could never refuse a night to Dorian, even if the occasion rarely came, even if Dorian did not often accept Basil's own invitations. Anything Basil Hallward could get from his muse, every little moment and sight of flesh from him, was enough to satisfy him.

Of course, it was obvious to him that Dorian only came to visit him out of carnal need or idleness. Idleness seemed to be something absolutely terrible for many of Basil's aristocratic friends. They would go on and on about how they felt bored all the time, how in dire need of amusement they were. Basil wished he could feel that kind of inconsequential numbness. It would probably be better than this unrelenting tension inside of him. And then, maybe Dorian Gray would hold him in higher regard, too. It seemed to work that way with Lord Henry, who was getting to see the beautiful, cruel Dorian Gray several nights a week. Basil tried not to think too much about it, but he could hardly keep the raging jealousy from rising up in his body and mind, destroying any beautiful ideas or pure inspiration for his art he ever had.

Dorian Gray will kill me one day, Basil sometimes thought. In a fashion or in another. I will not survive the painting, nor the man.

Such was the painter's self-renunciation, that he did not notice, at first, that Dorian's attitude on their nightly rendezvous had begun to change.

It started one night, as Basil innocently mentioned his painting, by whispering shyly to Dorian, half-asleep against him, that he looked exactly like he had when he painted that picture of him. Where was it now, by the way? It had been years since Basil had last seen it. He had then felt Dorian's whole body suddenly tensing up, a shiver running through it. For a few seconds of blind panic Basil thought Dorian was going to leave him right here and there, but his friend eventually looked up at him with a smile. Basil, flooded with relief, felt like the sun has been given back to him and purposely forgot to ask anything more for the whole night.

But even a loving and loyal fool such as Basil Hallward could not miss Dorian Gray's gradual descent into lust and depravity. As a lover, it meant that he had to contain his jealousy, and as a friend, that he had to swallow back the reproachful words he burned to tell Dorian. He could not afford this risk, telling Dorian what he really felt, about any matter. Not with the only thing of value he had ever achieved for Dorian probably sitting in a dark attic somewhere, gathering dust in utter oblivion. So Basil kept quiet, in pain and in pleasure. He kept quiet throughout the joy of seeing Dorian in the evenings, and the despair of seeing him with other men in some other evenings, beautiful, young, rich men that probably gave Dorian a much better love than Basil could ever conjure from his weak physical self. It was his mind that loved, and from his mind nothing could be gained, nothing else than one-sided longing and fear.

Maybe Dorian himself began to feel something of that sort in him, for one day, he suddenly stopped visiting Basil. Many long aching nights followed for the painter, nights he chose to erase from his memory as soon as the morning came. What good could ever come from contemplating those useless, empty spaces in his heart? Dorian would never come back, anyway. In forgetfulness, the painter would find the joy and peace of mind reality had always withheld from him.

One night, as Basil thought he had finally begun to forget about that poisonous serpent love had been for him, he heard a knock on his door. That was a police officer. A gentleman friend of his, Dorian Gray, had been found dead, disfigured, there was nothing left to be done and could he come quickly with him? A painting of his had been discovered next to the dead body.

Later, Basil would look back on all those nights and understand everything so much better. How Dorian had suddenly started coming to him one day, acting as if his old and common friend Basil Hallward was gifted with some magical abilities. How he had not stopped visiting him for years, even though Basil was always mystified as to what Dorian Gay could find so interesting in him, when there were so many other men with so much more opportunities ready for him. But most of all, he would understand why on the last time they saw each other, Dorian had suddenly stopped at the door as he left Basil's house, looked back at him, and, starting to laugh like a madman, had asked Basil to bless him and "smite him for his iniquities". The only answer he gave Basil when the painter had asked for an explanation, was that "he was the only just God he knew". Then Dorian Gray left, and, later, died.

All of this, Basil would understand later. But for now, he just took his coat, and followed the policeman to the cab waiting for them in the street, benumbed, heartbroken and free.