The more I read of Marcel and Albertine, and before that of Swann and Odette, the more I realize the importance of the opening to the novel, the goodnight kiss. It is the source of his lifelong agony
…the anguish that comes from knowing that the creature one adores is in some place of enjoyment where oneself is not and cannot follow…Those inaccessible and excruciating hours during which she was about to taste of unknown pleasures…(I,40-41)
And the agony cannot be dissolved by knowledge.
It struck me that if had just won a victory it was over her, that I had succeeded, as sickness or sorrow or age might have succeeded, in relaxing her will, in undermining her judgement; and that this evening opened a new era, would remain a black date in the calendar. (I,51)
But of late I have been increasingly able to catch, if I listen attentively, the sound of the sobs which I had the strength to control in my father’s presence, and which broke out only when I found myself alone with Mamma. In reality their echo has never ceased…(I,49)
Their echo is heard again when the despairing Albertine leaves his room without giving him a good night kiss.
As in the old days at Combray when my mother had left me without soothing me with her kiss, I wanted to rush after Albertine, I felt that there would be no peace for me until I had seen her again, that this renewed encounter would turn into something tremendous which it had not been before and that–if I did not succeed by my own efforts in ridding myself of this misery–I might perhaps acquire the shameful habit of going to beg from Albertine….I returned to my station outside her door, but the crack beneath it no longer showed any light. Albertine had put out the light, she was in bed; I remained there motionless, hoping for some lucky accident which did not occur; and long afterwards, frozen, I returned to bestow myself between my own sheets and cried for the rest of the night. (V,141-142)