I will never forget the moment I saw him. The soft breeze was tinged with the impending chill of autumn and the verdant abundance of Gatsby's garden was on the brink of decay. The calm, evasive waters belied the nightmare – the concentric ripples barely stirring the surface of the water were the echo of an unuttered scream as Gatsby floated, suspended somewhere between the world of light and shadows. The crystal depths of the water had matched the profundity of his dreams, those same dreams that had turned on him and devoured him with a redoubtable ferocity.
The shrill insistent call of the telephone jarred with the melodic tones of a bird singing. It dawned on me in an instant that never again would there be the exhilarating sound of the orchestra, or the buzz and hum of excited chattering voices as the great and good of both East and West Egg flocked towards Gatsby's mansion and descended on his hospitality. The telephone went unanswered that day for James Gatz was in a place of finality where the sounds of this world could not reach him.
It seems that fate was not reconciled to Gatsby's vision of a life with Daisy, it indulged him in his whims when he asked the gardener casually to fill the swimming pool and had claimed him ruthlessly, perhaps because Gatsby's idealism had clashed with the world of harsh speculation he had embroiled himself in.
Some time afterwards I realised that after death's pallid hand had claimed Gatsby it was impossible to think that his ecstatic and understanding smile had ever existed. My mind raced backwards to the first time I had seen my enigmatic neighbour, his silhouette merging with the night around him, looking towards the stars, denizens of a neighbourhood even more exclusive than West Egg. The green light he stretched towards fostered his hopes, as though it shined ever more intently with the force of his purpose.
As James Gatz lay there dazed and alone the world spun in a kaleidoscope of myriad colours around him. The perishable world must have flashed lurid, like the match Daisy had dropped on the ground that day in New York extinguishing Gatsby's last hopes with a blank finality.
The one, static impression in the chaos was a rose as it blocked out the sunlight in his mind and impressed upon his stunned senses its luridness. He discovered in a revelation that a rose was certainly not deserving of being revered as a symbol of love. It flaunted its gaudy red petals, its sleek stem punctuated by thorns that were exclamation marks to the touch. The opulence of the bloom mocked him, defiantly facing the sun as if determined to shun the finite troubles of man and look heavenwards towards eternity.
The ladder to the stars he aspired to was cold and inert, a pavement trodden on and sullied by others before him. Perhaps the colours began to fade next as his dream dimmed around the edges like flames devouring a photograph that sought futilely to immortalize a second in time.
The sounds of the birds singing lost their piercing urgency and became muted, their bitter sweet tone evoking a disembodied voice as Gatsby's mind wandered back for the final time to Daisy. That cherished voice which twinkled with the melodic sound of money, the soft engrossing whisper of dollar notes being counted swiftly, the ecstatic laugh of coins clattering rhythmically upon a table.
The dull sheen of the pearls glinted in the lamplight as Daisy sat at her dressing table. She was sure Tom was downstairs drinking. Every now and then she would move an object on the table reassuringly, the tangible world had a comforting solidity unlike the tangle of her thoughts. Her nerves felt frayed and strained trying to comprehend the tragic events of the day and with the tension of trying to appear unnerved, to summon her strength and put on the unfeeling guise of complete detachment as Tom had exhorted her.
Looking into the mirror she saw a stranger staring back at her. Her eyes moved restlessly about the table before resting on the pearl necklace that had been Tom's wedding present. The pearls focused her attention preventing her tormented mind from wandering into the labyrinth of pain and deceit that had wrought its havoc, the swerving car that had collided with Myrtle had diverged the path of fate for many lives that night.
Reaching out to touch them Daisy became aware the pearls were as cold and unfeeling as the money they represented. Their luminescent veneer invoked the spectre of old money, pompous in its restrained quality of respectability, each pearl bespeaking a generation of past Buchanan grandeur. Her mind raced back to the night before her marriage to Tom when she had tossed them into a bin as though they were nothing more than a cheap trinket, for all the affection they were supposed to embody she looked on them as a kind of bribe.
Instead she had clutched at sheets of paper of infinite more value in her eyes because of the sender. Her mind was in torment, pulled backwards and forwards by the opposing currents of love for Gatsby and her family's expectation she would marry Tom a rich socialite who moved in the same circles she did. Her heart had been wrenched by indecision that day when she climbed into the steaming bath, the decision she had to make loomed, ghostly, between the lines of his writing. Could she marry Gatsby? The sentiment was penned impeccably and the profusion of his sentiments expressed in his peculiar way bit her to the core, they were alive and vital on the dead paper.
Her resolve began to waver as she imagined the scrutiny of society which was a hall of mirrors distorting her intentions with their eyes and malicious gossip. They would cast slanderous remarks about her if she married Gatsby, laugh at the penury she would be reduced to after being the golden girl of high society.
His words were becoming oppressive in their honesty, Daisy lived in a world of convention and order that there love threatened to shatter. The look of recrimination on her mother's face that day she had packed her bags in desperation to head for New York lingered in her memory. Her resolve became swift and bitter as she plunged the letter which was the living testimony of their love into the water and watched in agony as the paper disintegrated, the precious words disappearing into oblivion.
Sitting back at her dressing table she had thought the severance of all ties with Gatsby final. Now she was faced with a similar dilemma; to languish secretly or make the best of what life offered. Slowly she picked up the pearls and clasped them about her neck.
The stranger in the mirror dissolved and was replaced by Daisy Buchanan, a wife and mother, as Jay Gatsby receded into the darkness of her memory.