In a nervous and slender-leaved mimosa grove at the back of their villa we found a perch on the ruins of a low stone wall. Through the darkness and the tender trees we could see arabesques of lighted windows which, touched up by the colored inks of sensitive memory, appear to me now like playing cards—presumably because a bridge game was keeping the enemy busy.

This quotation appears toward the end of Part One, Chapter 4, as Humbert describes his first unsuccessful tryst with Annabel Leigh. He portrays the location as a fairy-tale setting, a hidden grove of adolescent love forbidden to adults. Because of the deep personal significance the event holds for him, his assignation with Annabel grows to mythic proportions in Humbert’s memory. Memory, for Nabokov, is not a matter of remembered sentences and scenes, but a jumble of emotions and images that recreate particular feelings. Humbert’s association of the windows with the adults’ bridge game reinforces the urgency of the secret encounter, as well as the ever-present threat of society’s intrusion. From this point forward, part of Humbert’s attraction to nymphets will forever be tied to the illicit nature of his desire. Additionally, when Humbert first consummates his passion with Lolita in the Enchanted Hunters hotel, he daydreams about making the hotel into a more natural setting. Though this daydream isn’t explicitly connected to Humbert’s first encounter with Annabel, the sexual connotations are clear.

Readers have often accused the novel of being pornographic because it addresses pedophilia so directly, but portraying sex explicitly was not Nabokov’s intention. Humbert’s description of his encounter with Annabel is as sexual as the novel gets. He rarely describes his sexual relations with Lolita in any detail, preferring to describe the details before and the satisfaction afterward. Though his encounter with Annabel has been romanticized in his head, his affair with Lolita is too close to his heart even to share with the reader. Nabokov, like Humbert himself, is less interested in sexuality or pedophilia than in the insurmountable nature of desire itself. Humbert describes Lolita’s shoes or skin with great detail but omits portraying the act of consummation. Desire makes him fixate upon the smallest detail of Lolita’s existence and does not limit itself to merely the sexual act. Lolita often misinterprets Humbert’s desire to be close to her as a desire for sex, which is not always the case.