Thursday, 15 November 2012

Epitaph for a Broken Dream

You know how it is. We were having a little chat about university days today, and it took me back a quarter of a century to those salad days of my youth.

I found myself thinking about that fellow-chemist I went out with. Anorak as worn, taste for real ale, an interest in Dungeons and Dragons - he was in many ways a typical specimen of the species. It was a fleeting romance, really - eyes locking over the Bunsen burners, a surreptitious squeeze by the lab coat-rack - but I had to finish it. Some romances burn too hot to last - like a Bunsen with the air supply fully open, they burn blue-hot. Not this one, though. I just realised he was as dull as a Claisen condensation. It would be fair to say there was no chemistry. So I dumped him.

Unfortunately, he did what so many geekymale students did in those days when rejected. Found solace in Marillion. We'd be waiting in line outside the Dyson Perrins, only for him to look over his shoulder towards me and cry. Being a male chemist, he'd never actually tell me - he held his peace forever - but you could tell he was struggling to answer "why".

In the end I had to take more direct action. It was just so embarrassing - him sitting on the grass in New Quad, chewing on daffodils. The croquet-players were getting really annoyed. And being a Genesis fan myself, I knew where it could lead to once grumpy croquet-players got really riled.

So I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and told him. It was best, anyway. The parents in the Playground of the Broken Hearts were starting to get a bit alarmed at his presence. I shouted at him - "It's too late to say 'I love you'. Too late to restage the play. Abandon the relics in your playground of yesterday".

But he was overdosed on sentiment and pride. Just stood there like a martyr, carved with twisted smile. Whenever I saw him at lectures after that, he wasn't really paying attention to the blackboard. He just say there and examined the shadows on the other side of morning.

You know the worst? He never actually went solo in the game. Three weeks after that he met up with some biologist called Kay Lee. She kissed her prince and found her frog.These days he's a stable wage-earner with an expertise in polysaccharides, and she's still at home with the youngest. And I'm the ageing Miss Havisham - promised wedding now a wake. I look at Burton sometimes, see that dumb, adoring look in his face, like a disappointed Labrador. And I need to exorcise the silent scream before hitting him with the cricket bat. Sharing the geekiness, lack of personality and self-absorption of my former love he's like the epitaph to a broken dream. Sometimes, looking at him, I remember the jester that showed me tears - the script for tears.


  1. Oooh stop, my cornflakes are all soggy and salty.

  2. Good old Marillion - 'Garden Party' is in my top three best ever ever ever tracks. Reminds me so much of coming up from the fens into Cambridge and going to pubs and parties with friends from CCAT, then waking up on the floor of strange flats and wandering round the backs with hangovers. Ahhhh....

    1. In Cambridge? Did you have no ambition?

    2. It was situated conveniently nearby! And we didn't have a car.

  3. Did anyone ever write more pretentious lyrics than Fish?

  4. Just remember: Yesterday starts tomorrow, tomorrow starts today. Wiser words were never uttered.


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