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He inspires me.

How long has it been since I could say that about anyone - about anything? He shows me a world beyond Montsou, beyond the depths of Le Voreux. A world of words that make the blood pound faster within my veins, of shadowy dreams made ever sharper by the growing candle-flicker of hope. Syllables, in leaving his mouth, become reality in the air. It impossible seems feasible. Change seems unremarkable.

He moves me.

He's not like us, not one of us and yet he is our whole. He leads us from in front and from within, guides our thoughts as he does our actions. And we surrender our lives - ourselves - to this man and his utopias. We march behind his war cry, let him take our imaginations and thrust us forward to the end. And I would die for him. For him, for his cause, and for us all.

He warms me.

From our first meeting, I have felt at home in the blue embrace of his hardened eyes. Quiet words with frosted beers clasped within blackened fingers become moments to cling onto. Even when speaking of irrelevancies, huddled over a flickering candle, he makes me someone through his nearness. And I find myself living for a rare smile, aching for the brush of hand on hand as we part for the night.

He thrills me.

Illicit kisses beneath the sooty shadow of Le Voreux become the hourglass of my days. The unfamiliar brush of beard against cheek is covered by the oily darkness, just as the shouts of the workers and the grinding of the lift cover voices raised in passion. And, even if I close my eyes, I can forever see his face.

He enlivens me.

For the first time, I feel whole, with his unwavering form at my side. Knowing that he's there shows me a strength I never knew dwelt within me. Now every breath is for his cause - our cause - just as every breath is for him. For the first time, my life holds meaning beyond the endless clank of steel on coal - beyond the poverty, and the hunger and the ceaseless immutability.

He completes me.

4th March 2001