… At university he cut a remarkable figure. Athletics had streamlined his physique and he became a keen dieter, partly for economical reasons, but mostly to ensure his few clothes lasted and hung from his frame at their best. He soon discovered a love for rich fabrics and quaint garbs of dress that he had not had access to before. He was not shy to borrow choice items from friends – a silk patterned scarf, a velvet-lapelled jacket, a short tweed cape. He would then wear these items to death, taking special care of them to ensure their longevity. He cultivated a thin, pencil moustache, not fashionable at the time, though he felt it leant his face a more decadent air. Whenever he spoke, he leaned into his listener ever so slightly closer than comfortable, looking him or her – pity her – straight in the eyes. When others spoke he listened intently, appeared to devour their words, toying with them luxuriously in his handsome head before smiling enigmatically and offering sparse words in response: ‘Marvellous’, ‘What a triumph’, ‘How terrible that must have been for you’, ‘How fascinating. And then what happened?’ Whilst some initially mocked, Somersby displayed such nonchalance that soon his close circle began emulating his quirks. None could quite carry them off with the same aplomb however, they had been cast too firmly in their birth-given moulds. And there was an extra inimitable element to Somersby’s allure, the gnawing hunger for greatness blazed intensely through his dark green eyes. It was a condition his peers had no reason to ever possess; their youth and social position provided little reason to ever come into close contact with such fervour. Somersby’s college peers regarded him as an eccentric – exotic and compelling, thrilling to know. The promise of drama hung about him, invisibly though somehow noticeably, breaking up and scrambling random atoms whenever he entered a room. People’s postures changed, corners of eyes were refocused towards him, personalities suddenly became larger, overly eager to impress or at the least be noticed, either by Somersby himself or by those surrounding him.
Of course whilst Somersby devoted disciplined energy to his social life, he spent every other spare moment writing his poems. They received regular publication in the university magazine and some small literary journals. He became something of a local celebrity. When introduced to families of his peers, the mothers and sisters were quick to fawn over him, checking that he had the best seat at Sunday dinner and tittering over his stories or asking him to recite some of his latest work. Rumours of Somersby’s genius wafted in the air wherever he went and he discovered how much he enjoyed it. He found that his pre-birth prophesy had a life of its own and was snaking around his being, becoming entwined with every waking thought; there was diminishing distinction between ‘himself’ and the growing greatness of Somersby the boy genius. They were becoming one.
Somersby and his set became known in the college town as the local bards. They formed a little crew of over-dressed, under-slept, gregarious types; polite and affable up to a certain point in the evening, thereafter the last to be asked to leave the drinking dens and causing a ruckus around the town. They were young and their rakish behaviour created unsupportable whispers amongst polite folk. But they were such romanticists, it did not seem possible that dear young Somersby could be causing the trouble, he wrote such heart-searing words of love and beauty that most people go a lifetime without experiencing. Surely not Somersby. Perhaps some of the other boys, but not the chief bard himself. So the boys’ antics grew wilder. There was scandalous talk involving the housekeeping girls, a certain college master’s daughter, even one of the set’s widowed mothers. But this was all hearsay, none of it substantiated. But then there was the police caution. Followed by the incident of the opiates and the expulsion of two boys, which caused one of the student’s fathers to step down from his seat in the House of Lords. It was all rather embarrassing, but thankfully none of it touched Somersby directly, he didn’t seem to be the root of any dishonor and in fact the stories served to fan the heat of his appeal wider….
Copyright 2018 Joon Haque. All rights reserved.