Nostalgia Rules

Tonight, over dinner with my best friend, we took a stroll down memory lane and revisited our memories of the family holiday we spent in Corsica when we were 15 (dare I even speak aloud that was not too shy of 20 years ago now?!) On a recent visit to her family home she found a wallet of photos from the holiday, and we spent a good couple of hours poring over them and recalling all the funny moments we had shared and the people we had come across during our time on the island.

Whilst the nostalgia trip was in itself a wonderful and long overdue experience, what interested me most was that we were able to remember things that had long since been consigned to the depths of our memories – so much so we thought they had been lost forever, when, in actual fact, they had spent all these years gathering dust in boxes at the far recesses of our minds.

The prompted recollection of names (like Ingrim, the lifeguard who rescued us three times from sea when our newfound windsurfing skills failed to render us proficient enough to turn around) and occasions (like the time we found a litter of kittens in our luggage on a previous childhood holiday to Italy, or the time we blagged our way into a Corsican nightclub foam party) has triggered so many other, related memories in my mind (did I really wear underwear from Knickerbox as outerwear?!), which has sprung open like Pandora’s Box.

It’s comforting to know nothing in life is lost, but rather pushed aside by other, newer and more relevant memories. And that all it takes to recall what’s been forgotten – and remember what it was like to be in those long forgotten moments – is some visual prompts and an animated conversation with a good friend.

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Drifting apart

When we were eight everyone said we were “thick as thieves,” though we didn’t really know what that meant. Even though you were a tomboy for my ninth birthday you bought me a Forever Friends locket with your pocket money and kept half of it to wear around your own neck. Everyone was jealous of our friendship, it was such a precious thing – like gold.

But when we started secondary school things began to change. You stopped wearing the necklace, saying it was embarrassing and childish. I told you I’d stopped wearing mine too but I hadn’t-I just hid it beneath my shirt because I couldn’t bear to take it off.

You started hanging around with what my mum called “a bad crowd.” You got your tongue pierced, cut your shoulder length brown hair short and dyed it blue. You were unrecognisable to me as Sarah, let alone as my best friend. When I called you said you were busy, eventually you just stopped picking up the phone.

Because I wasn’t sporty or pretty or funny I found it hard to make friends. I wasn’t like you, with the “gift of the gab” as Auntie Lou used to call it. I ate my lunches alone. Sometimes I would catch you looking over at me with an expression that looked something like regret or sadness – perhaps guilt? – on your face, but no sooner had it appeared than it was gone again, hidden behind the tough girl mask which emotion could not crack.

I wasn’t bullied, at least. Why would the bullies be interested in me if nobody else was? I just existed in a perpetual state of nothing. And that hasn’t ever changed, perhaps unsurprisingly. When your life is a blank canvas what is there to excite you? I did the ‘normal’ things, of course, went to university, got a degree, moved to London, got a job. I even had some boyfriends though I wasn’t really interested in boys.

I often wonder this: If you’d known the path my life would take after you turned your back on me, would you still have done it? If you hadn’t taken off that locket, if you’d only loved me back in the way that I loved you, we could have been happy, you and I. But you did turn your back on me, and now I’m finally finding the strength to turn my back on you.

I will not send this letter, but rather burn it right before I cast my half of the locket off the bridge. And when I climb over the rail and follow it into the murky abyss, Sarah, I will take my leave of this world, of you. And I will be free.