When I was 10, I received The Complete Stories of Lewis Carroll. The magnificent tome was a mighty 800 pages thick, of which I had only heard of Alice in Wonderland. Though beautifully sketched, the Alice stories were too fantastical for my taste. Skipping over, I came across a story which piqued my interest called Sylvie and Bruno.
A story about fairies? or pixies? My memory recalls not the details but only the emotions of those times. I was enthralled, to put it mildly, with the titular characters. Sylvie with her maternal touch and Bruno the rascally imp were so endearing and innocuous, that this shy, wary girl, for the first time, fell headlong in love, hard and deep.
Every moment of boredom vanished in anticipation of where I would go and what I would do with them. And such merry frolics we scampered into, with Bruno leading me on. But I was unafraid, for Sylvie would take care of me.
In school or at home, not a moment was spared in my devoted attentions towards them. I lavished all my indulgent love, locked in my cautious and fragile heart until then, on the cuddly Bruno and adored my fascinating Sylvie, free of all fears of being wounded by them. No obtuse word was an obstacle too high, to be one with them, in time, mind and spirit.
But alas! all stories must come to an end. With the greatest dread, I ventured into Sylvie and Bruno Concluded. I remonstrated with the author, at his cruelty for wrenching away my dear ones from me, at his unwillingness to indulge us further and his willingness to deprive us of all that was bright and sunny. However, I plunged on till I reached the conclusion.
And this I remember most clearly. In my incredible and indescribable woe, I went and sat beside my mother, in the hopes that her presence would afford me some comfort. But my despair only deepened and I burst into a torrent of tears and loud sobs into her lap. My world had ended, my friends had left me and I was abandoned, all alone with no respite from this pain. All that was joy and light was snatched away from me, my heart hurt as if it were dragged over a thousand spikes.
I cried harder and harder, and my mother’s alarm grew. But what coherent answer could I give to my ever-practical mother? It was a sorrow none would understand, as none had ever walked in such glorious friendship or passed through such wrench – with fictional characters if I might add wryly.
At her wit’s end, my mother finally questioned my sanity and scolded me into silence. And my sisters, rightly confused but a little dispassionately concurred with her. I had to leave and mourn my sorrow in solitude.
Traumatised, I blocked my friends forever from my mind, and have never touched that book since. I had been touched, delighted and fascinated by characters before, and loved and adored many since, but never again did I dare to give myself away so completely and wholly. Nor have I ever beheld again such kindred spirits in love and companionship.