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Souls of Silence narrates the story of a romantic relationship between Pablo Velázquez, a professional Spanish football player, young, rich, famous, relishing the glory of a meteoric athletic career in his early twenties, and Andrey “Andrew” Gordovsky, a Russian doctor, seven years older, confronting constant financial struggle, deprived of self-actualization prospects in the corrupt realities of his industry in his country, and married to a woman. Both protagonists are closeted gay men who never fully understood their homosexuality before meeting each other — Pablo, because of rampant homophobia in his profession and his religion making him believe his "abnormal" feelings can never go beyond lust and should therefore be supressed; and Andrew, because of rampant homophobia in his country as a whole and never having met any man he found himself physically attracted to. Living their entire lives trapped in patriarchal, heteronormative straitjackets, they're unhappy in their dysfunctional relationships with women, which nevertheless look perfect from the outside. In what seems a chance encounter on one of Barcelona beaches, both men find themselves at the point of deep confusion and vulnerability in their life journeys, although their circumstances and background prior to that point are strikingly different.

Their emotional connection quickly grows beyond the limits of friendship. They don’t realize the real nature of their feelings simultaneously, but when they do, the toughest and most transformative struggles of their lives begin. Separated by two thousand miles, in the absence of physical intimacy, with time they learn the meaning of true love from each other. As their love grows stronger, their short, secret reunions for a few days in a year don't change the fact that their lives are separated by an abyss of socioeconomic and cultural differences. Their hearts belong together, but the men they think they're supposed to be do not fit together. Class difference causing regular failures of empathy and the controversies of Pablo’s celebrity life put a veto on their relationship as Andrew’s employment status in Russia deteriorates further and his marriage falls apart, due to his wife's promiscuity among other reason. Working through the shame internalized for years in his homophobic culture, he realizes Pablo is the love of his life and his most important reason to move to Spain and start from scratch, even though his professional and economic motives for emigration are also strong. He puts together the small savings made over more than a decade of hard work, and prepares to move and get a prep course for medical residency in Barcelona. He musters up the resolve to leave his most beloved four-year-old daughter in Russia, although he has reasons to doubt if his wife can be a good mother to her.

When Pablo finds out about his loved one's daring idea, he freaks out and discourages Andrew into staying in Russia, despite Andrew’s solid professional motives for emigration. Predictably, he sees Andrew’s presence in Barcelona and the possibility of their relationship being revealed as a fatal threat to his public image and his career. His fear and internalized homophobia make him distance himself from Andrew and limit their long-distance communication despite his remaining feelings. Less than a year later, Pablo announces to Andrew that he's going to marry Monica, a fashion model he'd recently met in Italy. Andrew understands that Pablo rushes into this lavender marriage because of his anxiety over the rumors circulating in the Spanish media about his sexuality, even though Pablo denies that. Shortly after Pablo’s engagement, Andrew comes to Barcelona through Pablo's invitation, as a friend with the official intention to meet his fiancée. Pablo’s parents, unaware of their son’s sexuality and believing Andrew to be just a good friend, recognize Monica’s mercenary motives in the upcoming marrige, but Pablo steamrolls with his plans regardless, driven by the need for publicity, the media's interest in his engagement, and the endorsement of his club management.

After a dinner with Monica, Andrew insists that he and Pablo go for a walk in the Montjuic park — particularly, the remote, desolate spot where a few years ago, Pablo started their relationship by declaring his feelings through shame and tears. Now, though, Pablo mocks him for seriously believing in the possibility of their relationship. Turning his unowned shame into aggression, he also trivializes Andrew's hopes for a better econimic future in Spain. Andrew is emotionally decimated as he sees his loved one use his deepest vulnerabilities against him. He rushes to leave Barcelona as soon as he can. Coming back to Moscow, he feels abandoned and betrayed by everything and everyone he’s ever loved. For a strange reason he can't make sense of, even the presence of his daughter is unable to ease his overwhelming, hitherto unexplored pain. Over the next few months, he falls into paralyzing clinical depression and hits rock bottom reliving the story of his and Pablo’s relationship and his childhood traumas on the background of losing another job and falling into yet deeper poverty. Despite the ravages of his mental suffering and the trauma Pablo inflicted on him, his love and the belief in his loved one's goodness persevere in his heart.

Six months later, Pablo’s mother calls to inform him that her son’s wife played a scheme behind his back, cooperating with his club management member, which was aimed to disparage Pablo as a dope user before a major tournament and thus ban him from professional sports for years. In the kind of mental crisis his parents witness for the first time in his life, Pablo drives away from the city and is now missing for two days. Pablo's mother wonders whether he contacted Andrew, and Andrew says he hasn’t heard from Pablo since their last conversation in Montjuic. He catches a last-minute flight and comes to Barcelona, only to find what sounds like a suicide note from his loved one the next day. Crisscrossing the adjacent countryside for two days, he finds Pablo in a roadside hotel in the midst of an overdose attempt and saves him.

Surviving what happened, Pablo is finally ready to reckon with the truth. He no longer believes God can hate what he and Andrew have. There’s no more point in denying who they are to each other. He tells Andrew that he's ready to come out and, if necessary, quit his professional athletic career. During his days of solutide, silence, and detoxication in the private clinic of Barcelona, he makes plans about their future together in Spain and Andrew’s better future as part of it. But, still stricken by severe depression, Andrew no longer believes in his own dignity. He no longer believes in the possibility of having a better future, whether with Pablo or not. More than a decade of trauma, imploding in the recent months of terminal clinical depression, has taken its toll on his self-worth. He believes his role in Pablo’s life is accomplished and he has to leave.

Right on cue, his mother-in-law calls from Moscow and breaks horrible news to him: his wife and daughter are severely injured in a traffic collision caused by his father-in-law driving under influence, so Andrew urgently buys a flight back. As his daughter needs a blood transfusion, he becomes aware of her blood type and, with the knowledge of his own, realizes that her blood type rules out his biological paternity of her. The memories of his wife multiple affairs come crashing upon him as he steals the girl’s blood sample from the hospital for a genetic test. He remembers that his child was the only anchor that kept him from emigration and divorce for so many years before. He doesn’t share this with Pablo and his mental illness aggravates as he cannot summon up the courage to open the results of the test. He comes back to work in the same university clinic where his career started a decade before. Again, he faces the terrible realities of Russian healthcare that over the years shaped his decision to emigrate: ubiquitous corruption, underfunding, embezzlement schemes, and instituionalized malpractice.

Through working there, he quickly gets back in touch with the truth — the overwhelming feeling of how much he doesn’t belong in this system, in this country, in this cultulre, and in this marriage. His worsening depression feeds on his dark experiences and, instead of allowing them to wake him up to critical awareness, it forces him into settling for misery and believing that he deserves it all because of who he is. As fate would have it, he witnesses suicides of two residents as a result of homophobic bullying they were subject to for what was perceived as a relationship by their colleagues. This further drowns him in self-hatred. Pablo’s attempts to regain his trust and encourage him to finally act upon his dreams and move to Spain no longer break through the mist of his insanity. He gives up on himself as delusional ideas about God’s rage and suicidal ideation start haunting him.

In Barcelona, Pablo succeeds in resolving legal conflicts with the club management and continues his career. In the background, he understands his loved one is in mental disaster thousands of miles away, and his guilt for what’s happening increasingly weighs him down. Back in Moscow, one day before what Andrew scheduled as his suicide, he opens the results of the genetic test, which confirms that he's not the biological father of the girl he has been raising for five years. Strangely, he doesn’t feel any pain. The next morning, unable to believe it, he realizes that the symptoms of his terminal depression recede. He waits for another day, just to make sure that the illness he already thought was incurable is now going away, and to his great surprise, it is. He starts making legal preparations for definitively moving to Spain and finally making his dreams happen. He emails Pablo to share that he's coming in one week.

At this point, one might expect a glorious finale about two souls, broken and healed, consummating their love under the Mediterranean sun and living happily ever after. Alas, Pablo doesn’t respond to his emails and doesn't take phone calls over two days. Andrew gets increasingly anxious and proceeds to calling Pablo’s parents. He learns that after a sudden heart attack in a coaching session, Pablo was brought to a hospital and got diagnosed with dilative cardiomyopathy, a fatal cardiac disease for which there is no cure except a heart transplant. Andrew moves to Barcelona in two weeks, and understanding Pablo’s grim prognosis decides to use his lifetime savings to make one of Pablo’s dreams come true. Without Pablo being aware, he collects Pablo’s semen during the first and, as it transpires, the only physical intimacy they've ever had, and substitutes it for his own in a surrogacy procedure that he confidentially applies for at a private fertility clinic in Barcelona.

Despite the implantation of a pacemaker and other supportive treatments, Pablo’s condition aggravates rapidly and no compatible heart donor can be found due to his rare blood type. In five months after being diagnosed, Pablo needs in-hospital care on a daily basis and opts to stay in there, instead of allowing his parents and Andrew to watch him wither at home. Andrew is devastated as he can’t move on with his own life and career, but Pablo encourages him to do it for the sake of his long-deserved better future. The footballer’s diseased heart stops beating on the day when his baby girl is born. This is how the novel ends. Three years later in the epilogue, Andrew is shown making a successful career at a major hospital in Barcelona. He is raising Pablo's daughter together with Pablo's parents, who, whether or not they realized nature of their relationship, now have effectively become his family. Grateful for the little infinity of his and Pablo's love, he guards it in his heart and is hopeful that one day he'll meet Pablo in the afterlife.

Full Text: Epilogue

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