September 18, 2004

“It’s you, pal, just you and me.”

Posted in books tagged , at 5:29 pm by placeinthestars

If you haven’t read A Separate Peace, it’s about boys at boarding school in the 1940s, and they know they’ll all eventually end up on the battlefields of Europe or the Pacific, but Gene (the quiet, bookish narrator) and Phineas (his brash, popular, beloved best friend [or is he?]), and how one small incident, the details of which we’re never quite certain of, can overshadow lives, become something dark and secret and destructive.

Oh, I have so much love for this book, which I’m now going to subject you to.

Or just some random quotes, really.

“It’s you pal, Finny said to me at last, “just you and me.” He and I started back across the fields, preceding the others like two seigneurs.

We were the best of friends at that moment.

“You were very good,” said Finny good-humoredly, “once I shamed you into it.”

“You didn’t shame anybody into anything.”

“Oh yes I did. I’m good for you that way. You have a tendency to back away from things otherwise.”

“I never backed away from anything in my life!” I cried, my indignation at this charge naturally stronger because it was so true. “You’re goofy!”

*

It was just a game. It was good that Finny could shine at it. He could also shine at many other things, with people for instance, the others in our dormitory, the faculty; in fact, if you stopped to think about it, Finny could shine with everyone. He attracted everyone he met. I was glad of that too. Naturally. He was my roommate and my best friend.

*

Then we found a good spot among some sand dunes at the lonely end of the beach, and there we settled down to sleep for the night. The last words of Finny’s usual nighttime monologue were, “I hope you’re having a pretty good time here. I know i kind of dragged you away at the point of a gun, but after all you can’t come to the shore with just anybody and you can’t come by yourself, and at this teen-age period in life the proper person is your best pal.” He hesitated and then added, “which is what you are,” and the there was silence on his dune.

It ws a courageous thing to say. Exposing a sincere emotion nakedly like that at Devon School was the next thing to suicide. I should have told him then that he was my best friend also and rounded off what he had said. I started to; I nearly did. But something held me back. Perhaps I was stopped by that level of feeling, deeper than thought, which contains the truth.

It’s a seminal teenage book, and it breaks my heart every damn time. It’s been too long since I reread it. Maybe I’ll do that tonight. I wimped out and didn’t go to the parents’ this morning – the weather was crappy and I overslept, and was woken by the exterminator, and had to fumble around trying to find pants to put on so I could let him in.

Yes, I overslept. May the insomnia be behind me. Please.

So instead of going to a club and seeing my sister’s friend’s band, I will stay home and reread a book that breaks my heart.

Not a bad trade-off at all.

***

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