Because we were teenagers

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It’s many years ago – sometime at the end of the 80’s – and I’m listening to that song. The one with the mournful synths, the one with the words seemingly plucked from some place inside me – the words I would share with you if only I could be sure you’d understand what they all mean. In my living room it’s a bit cold, we just welcomed autumn, a shiver runs down my back and the cat gives me one of his contemptuous looks for no reason at all. I start the record again, the needle trembles, settles, the record cracks a little, just like firewood in the old chimney – I sit back down on the floor, I could listen to this record a hundred times and more.

The phone rings, a strident siren, nobody in 2019 would ever be able to stand it but back then, as with all the other big, clunky, loud 80’s machines, we were used to it. It’s still ringing – I swear it could wake up the dead – I answer it because I have a feeling it’s you. Yes, it’s your voice, I was right – it’s a sign.

“Don’t speak for a bit, listen to this.”

The phone is plugged into the wall, I pull the cord as far as it will go, and hold the receiver next to the speaker.

“Are you there? Now, listen.”

It’s an order. it’s a prayer.

The shiver returns though I don’t feel the cold anymore, I’m nervously twisting the phone cord around my fingers – halfway through I stage whisper: “this bit coming up, you gotta love it.” I don’t know if you can hear me over the record player.

There – the song is over. I let the silence stretch for a number of seconds so I can pull myself together, I’m hoping you fell in love and need time to recover.

“Well?…”

An agonising beat

Wow…yes…wow.”

I hear hushed wonder, the tone is right, you got it – my gift wasn’t wasted.

The next day there is a kiss, and we’ve got many more phone calls ahead of us. But it was the music, the synths, the words – it was the record player that did the trick, that really started things.

Forget Spotify and the über modern hi-fis, forget instant sharing, forget digital and iPhones – none of it has ever been as intense – as real – as the old record player and the ugly clunky grey phone stuck to the wall.

And it wasn’t just because we were teenagers.

Do you remember?

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Do you remember?
I used to wear candy pink for a dare, play the part of the prom queen for a day.
You never took ice in your drink, you liked to drop obscure hints.
We thought we’d be forever linked.

We lit innocent hearts plucked from unlucky bystanders, kindling in our palms we’d quickly discard and throw on the bonfire.

With the tip of our fingers we’d pick up the smouldering embers, watch them slowly die, and
laugh with the cruelty of youth… that has no regard for consequence & can’t comprehend the pain of absence.

There was so much love still to drink and no one had yet clipped our wings.

Do you remember?
We looked for art everywhere, prized intellect and quoted Voltaire, performed pirouettes, pretended to be the precious heir in a play by Molière.
Who did we think we were, all attitude and complicated words.
We thought we were deliciously sarcastic, delightfully ironic, we were – really – pathetic kids verging on the moronic, with impossible standards and a bad case of folie des grandeurs.

Do you remember?

As the violins cried behind the hills, we tried to imbue the bartender with the charm of Michelangelo’s David, but even the power of wishful thinking has its limits and we were left with nothing, not even a pale copy, not even an apprentice’s underdrawing, because the bartender, far cleverer than we were, had scampered with our tenners.

We made our memories and tore them into strips, scattered them to the wind, unable to believe that one day we’d want them back, if not intact then at least some kind of scrap.

Do you remember…
My purple eyeliner left streaks over my face. We still had to learn nobody ever wins this particular race, and that the best you can hope for is to reach the end with some kind of grace.

First posted July 26th 2016

Nostalgia

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Oh for the Halcyon days
On which we lavish so much praise
Forgetting they are only
Untrustworthy memories
No better than
Long ago forgotten melodies

Nostalgia is a magic wand
That
Rubs away the rough edges
Makes less and softens the woes
Imbues with a faint glow
Renders souvenirs
Pristine as unspoiled snow

And so,
We dream and hanker after days
that never, in truth, existed
Such is the human race

Painting: “Concert in the Tuileries” by Edouard Manet – source: http://www.manetedouard.org