I grew up next door to a young girl named Alisa Rosenbaum, who would later write under the name “Ayn Rand” as a adult. She lived in a grand old house on a shady piece of property. From my window I could often see her playing in the yard with this little blond-haired boy. He had a beaming smile, sublime and bright under the sun. They were best friends, always conspiring and scheming, scratching at the dirt under the bush, dodging between the sheets hung out on the clothes line. The boy’s name was John Galt, and some day Ayn would base a character on him.
But the real boy’s life was cut short by a pointless accident involving a rotted porch railing. The railing had given way beneath John’s weight as he leaned against it, and he had fallen and hit his head in a rather unfortunate way on a rock in the garden below. Young Alissa blamed her parents for neglecting to fix the railing. And she blamed everyone for not grasping the magnitude of the light that had gone out of her life. She became dark, sullen, brooding. Autumn swept the leaves from the shade trees and she spent long hours sitting alone on a plank swing that hung from a bare branch. I woke so many mornings to that slow, awful, creaking of the rope.
She kept a journal. She made up her mind. She would tell the world about John. She would tell them what she had lost, what the world had lost, when he died. She would keep him alive in some small way. She would find the words and the ideas, the principles and premises, that made him what he was. She would refashion him from the clay! But it never quite came off. She would never quite capture that spark, that essence, that boy smiling confidently against the railing in the August haze. She would never quite get it right.