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they call it lonely digging

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Scott was a man then who looked like a boy with a face between handsome and pretty. He had very fair wavy hair, a high forehead, excited and friendly eyes and a delicate long-lipped Irish mouth that, on a girl, would have been the mouth of a beauty. His chin was well built and he had good ears and a handsome, almost beautiful, unmarked nose. This should not have added up to a pretty face, but that came from the coloring, the very fair hair and the mouth. The mouth worried you until you knew him and then it worried you more.

— Ernest Hemingway, on F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

 

It was not love at first sight; in fact, it started off as nothing at all. Joyce might disagree, but there is nothing at all notable about thinking Scott Fitzgerald beautiful.

Scott is beautiful. It is not an admission, but a fact. There is no denying it. I met him in the spring, and there were cherry petals that he hadn’t bothered to brush out of his hair. He was twenty at the time, and I nineteen, and it was not love at first sight, not at all.

That came later.

 

 

 

Scott shows up at Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Halloween party dressed as a fairy, laughing at his own joke, and to all appearances he is himself again — Ernest doesn't make a habit of worrying over his friends, but even for him it's difficult to forget the three days Scott had spent on the floor of Ernest’s dorm room.

But he’s shining now, eyes bright and smile wide and skin coated in glitter the color of a hummingbird, with no trace of exhaustion in his face. Ernest watches from across the room, not quite careful but definitely not confrontational, and hopes that he’ll stay that way.

 

 

 

His girlfriend’s name was Zelda Sayre, and I met her after four days of knowing him. She did not appreciate people who laughed at her name, so n aturally I made sure to do so whenever the opportunity arose.

Scott clearly loved her, as did almost everybody else. I thought she distracted him from his writing. If I felt inclined to be fair, Scott might have been distracted anyway, but usually I did not feel so inclined and so was free to dislike her as much as I wanted. I'm not sure that Scott ever knew that; I certainly never made a point of telling him — but I am not at all certain that he didn't.

 

 

 

“Hey Ernest,” Scott says, looking over Ernest’s shoulder, “while you’re up, can you grab me something to drink?”

Ernest doesn’t need turn to see what he’s looking at; Zelda just walked into the room, her flapper costume glittering like a star in miniature in Ernest’s peripheral vision. “Sure,” he says, as if it means nothing, and when he gets himself one of the shitty beers that are only good for getting drunk on he also gets the kind of ridiculous semi-milkshake with flavored vodka that even Scott can’t physically drink more than one of in a night.

He doesn’t make a habit of worrying over his friends — but Ernest will make an exception, for Scott.

 

 

 

I was not happy when Scott and Zelda fell apart. Perhaps I should have been, but I was not, not when he was so clearly unhappy.

Scott arrived at my dorm room at four in the morning with dull eyes and a hoarse voice, not smiling at all. nd no trace of the ever-present smile I loved. He slept on my floor for three days, crying over her; I kept sniping to a minimum and did not say out loud that Zelda didn’t deserve it.

 

 

 

Usually, Scott doesn’t get weepy when he drinks. Ernest has seen him drunk a hundred times, and has never seen him cry before.

Scott is crying now, and Ernest has no idea what he should be doing about it.

Normally he’d pawn him off on James Joyce, but James isn’t here. For a brief moment Ernest thinks of giving him to Zelda, but just in time he remembers exactly why that isn’t going to work.

“You don’t usually get weepy like this,” he says, not really expecting that it will work — but it does, somehow.

“You’re right, I don’t.” Scott is quieter than usual, but that isn’t really a surprise. He wipes at his eyes, takes a shaky breath, and raises his chin. “Let’s go have fun,” he says, like a general declaring war, and even if it’s just to get him to stop crying, Ernest agrees.

 

 

 

I kissed him for the first time after a year and a half of knowing him, when Scott was just drunk enough to be close to me and I was just drunk enough to think it sounded like a good idea. I kissed him for the first time on a dance floor, under red-and-blue lights and surrounded by music so loud I could barely hear it.

I kissed him for the first time and I did not regret it.