Oh, lord love you, Stephen. How I admire your arrogance and rage and misery. How pure and righteous they are and how passionately storm-drenched was your adolescence. How filled with true feeling, fury, despair, joy, anxiety, shame, pride and above all, supremely above all, how overpowered it was by love. My eyes fill with tears just to think of you. Of me. Tears splash on to my keyboard now. I am perhaps happier now than I have ever been and yet I cannot but recognise that I would trade all that I am to be you, the eternally unhappy, nervous, wild, wondering and despairing 16-year-old Stephen: angry, angst-ridden and awkward but alive. Because you know how to feel, and knowing how to feel is more important than how you feel. Deadness of soul is the only unpardonable crime, and if there is one thing happiness can do it is mask deadness of soul.
My own less mawkish take on the History Boys – almost a carbon copy of my own, often miserable, gay youth – is here:
A line it from the lonely gay schoolboy was almost too much to hear: "I'm Jewish. I'm homosexual. And I'm in Sheffield … I'm fucked." Somewhere in my mind in those teenage years was a similar refrain: "I'm Catholic. I'm homosexual. And I'm in East Grinstead … I'm fucked."
But I wasn't fucked, of course. And not-to-be-fucked, not to turn into the tragic homosexual figure, memorizing "Brief Encounter," constantly chasing unrequited love, seeking refuge in the great worlds of Hardy or Larkin or Auden as a substitute for life: that was my goal.