October 11th was the birthday of a person who changed my life. We are no longer in regular contact but we still know where we are, we are still aware of the outline of each other’s lives. I met her on her birthday, October 11th 1989. We were sitting at the Bloomsbury theatre café at University College London and it was the start of an amazing friendship. When we graduated we decided to travel together for 6 months and spent many long nights pouring over maps and books planning our adventures. We set off for Egypt together on the 16th of January 1992 and spent the next 6 months travelling through Egypt, Israel, India, Bangkok and the States. She was with me when I met my husband on a beach in Dahab. In fact it was her who spotted and liked him first. It is a testament to our friendship that she forgave me and even came to our wedding.
We endured India together through the glory and the filth. We read books and talked about them endlessly. We sheltered from the heat in book shops and fancy hotels, sipping iced coffees in a haven high above the streets. We shared tiny rooms together and made the famous deal: Cockroaches we leave in the morning, Rats we leave tonight. We tried as much spicy food as possible, she won and I got sick, we explored Bangkok, met travelers, survived 19 hour bus journeys and walks through villages in the pitch dark.
Our friendship was forged long before the trip. We wrote countless essays together, studied for finals, explored all the museums of London. Once we saw a film, “The Comfort Of Strangers” that we loved so much that we immediately walked from the Cinema to a book shop, bought the book and sat in a pub all night reading the books ‘till they were finished. We discovered Ingmar Bergman and Truffault, Surrealist film and beautiful photography. Together we experienced London in a way I have never been able to since. We talked and drank red wine all night, tried on hundreds of pairs of jeans, and ate tons of pasta. We obsessed about men and our future.
Now she lives in Paris with her daughter, who is 6 months older than mine. When she called to tell me she was pregnant and we talked names, it turns out we had both picked the same name. Since her daughter was born first she kept the name and we found the perfect name for our little girl. She and I have not seen each other for nearly 8 years but we talk once a year and I know that we live in each other’s hearts.
She was 40 last Saturday and I can’t believe 19 years have passed since that day we met. I can’t believe I can even say that I met someone 19 years ago when I still feel like I am the young girl in that café a life time ago. Since that day I have got married, had two children, returned to school, become a photographer and teacher, and lived in France, Winnipeg, Montreal and Trinidad. Our lives that intersected at such a crucial moment have taken different tangents. When I think of her I see a glow of sunshine shining through a maze of blond hair, perfect legs walking up the steps ahead of me, the cigarette in her hand, the strawberries on the beach.