Sunday, June 02, 2024

 Flash -2 (Overnight, Day One)

From a College Window 

He rowed well, climbed the Alps in summer, was the kindest and most loyal of friends. In the mountains he seemed almost to chase death (though he always denied it) but then, just as suddenly, above some chasm, he would pause, his face, like the mountains, touched with the pink glow of the early sun; a deep love, but also melancholy, in his eyes.

There is a photograph of the two of us at Magdalen. We are serious, stoic, monastic, even. Beside him, I look like an old bear, whereas he is beautiful with a smoothness of skin almost suggesting effeminacy. Even then a scent of scandal seemed to follow him, he innocent, but drawing to him men such as I, hopeless, yearning. 

He, of course, loved every moment.

His melancholy was rooted in the past, France, his soul brutally trampled at Mons, Ypres. He had sailed there cheerfully (like too many other fools) with wonderful visions of his dash and daring, and had there been a death, his, a fine one.

What happened to our century? How could so much hope have become the mud of Flanders, the dust-bowls, the Reichstag, the camps, Hiroshima, Nagasaki?

His father was a mad priest, hating every sound, every movement of the female mind, his five part-mad sisters ruined by the belt (none to ever marry), their mother dead white in red bath-water, and this one, so beautiful boy alone, at sea, oft whipped within an inch, without any kind of love, should have been a monster.

I saw him on his first day, clearly a freshman despite his age, thin as air, pale, still recovering from France and hepatitis. He had been climbing in Europe with other young men, all not long-since schoolboys, and I suppose now, the dangers they embraced were the point, the physical expression of his, and their, every being. They were already dead. There was just the next adventure.

Had he lived, I suppose, there would have been the usual - marriage at twenty-eight, a single child, some sort of fling at forty-three, and a smooth progression of some kind, chambers, or something in the City (he was never donnish). Instead, for three years he managed to never miss a tutorial while he became, it seemed, an inexhaustible copulating machine.

As he once beautifully explained, whether an accommodating girl, Charles, or the North Face of the Eiger, one generally arrives back in time for tea. 

That, in the end it was a mountain, the greatest mountain in the world, that claimed him, did not surprise me. He could not grow old.

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