We lived each day as if it were a page from a great novel. Our naïve enthusiasm conjured a spell that fell on everything we heard, touched and saw. Once bewitched, the world of that summer became like that in The Grass Harp. For we were living within a novel without a story; at least, not one that we, or perhaps it was just I, could detect while still locked inside it.
It was books that brought us together. English Literature A-Level to be precise. The set text for the term was The Great Gatsby. Both of us fell in love with the elegant and doomed young things that floated through it and, quite unaware of the book’s glaring subtexts or even its point, decided that we could be just like them, together.
We shared the books that had touched our souls, absorbing yet more models of behaviour from their pages as we did so. As our relationship budded, then bloomed, we struggled not to say or do a single thing that was not worthy of the characters found in the books we read. Not for us the usual adolescent pursuits of house parties or underage drinking on the village green, for they could never compare to the grand parties of a Gatsby, or the splendid and fatal intoxication of Dick Diver. Instead, we took daytrips intended to become legends in our memory; to the local airport with its Art Deco terminal, the drained lido, the old train station, a car boot sale in the rain. The mundane did not seem to be so to us. We sought beauty where there was none, and yet found it still.
Our relationship was strangely chaste, with tiny stolen kisses while we picnicked, tipsy from the day and the liqueurs she purloined from her mother. A touch of a single breast one day, and then - nothing else was offered, and nothing else was pursued. To give in to desire would break the spell, we thought, or at least I thought that we thought.
It all ended with a phone call. I had not heard from her all week, but I did not dream that it had already ended, and hoped to arrange another outing in search of impossible and secret splendours. She stopped me before I could make my suggestion, and said that she was now seeing someone else, another, more obviously normal boy from college. I could see she was about to enter the real, charmless world of drinking on the football pitch and house parties and consummated love, if it had not already taken her in.
The words she used to break it off were not those worthy of a character from a great novel, and for many weeks afterwards I went over them in my head looking for some hidden beauty, but there was none, and I found none. In that time, I sank into a state that I felt should be one of sweet melancholia, but could find no aesthetic pleasure in my despair. Stubbornly it resisted transformation into prose, until now.