Today I came across a photo of 19-year-old me, taken before the ubiquity of digital cameras, social media networks and sophisticated mobile phones. It was scanned and posted by my college housemate and friend in a shared online album. The year Sara took that photo, both of us hadn't kissed anyone yet, or fallen in adult-love. Sara was fond of klezmer music and arthouse cinema, I loved Angela Carter and Hernandez Brothers comics. Together we frequented flea markets, hung out in bookshops, and haunted diners at midnight. Bill Clinton was president, the first internet boom was barely a blip, and rent in San Francisco was affordable for people with decent middle-class jobs.
In the picture, I'm standing in her bedroom in the house we shared in Berkeley while she must be on her bed, looking at me, camera in her hands. Wearing a thrifted Hawaiian hibiscus-printed gown from the 1960s, I am grinning, shoulders bare, my middle finger hoisted and casting a stark shadow on the ceiling and the white wall behind me. The glee on my face! Just happy to be alive, and free, and in good company. What more could you want?! It feels a century ago, rather than two decades.
I couldn't concentrate all day. Instead of feeling guilty, I watched the clouds drift across the hills. I read poetry, ate fancy chocolate, and watched a short documentary on the 1990s ice skater Surya Bonaly.
Bonaly's a fave: stunningly athletic, a rebel, ever herself. Black and muscular, she wasn't your typical "ice queen princess". Watching Bonaly's powerful babyblue-clad body perform her fabulous (and "infamous") backflip, I felt a small, sharp spark, something like rapture.