The classmate who found the picture dug it out of a shoe box in her parents’ home. There were apparently two versions - one suitably posed and demure and this more studiedly shambolic specimen. She remembers all of it, of course, or her version of events anyway. To me it was a mild surprise that the image exists at all, although I gather that it was taken to commemorate the end of Sixth Form, the end of our school careers and time all together. That is when such photographs are taken, after all. Yet...
More time has passed since the picture was taken than any of us had been alive at that point. That is an exceptionally peculiar thought, just as hard to believe although the calendar and arithmetic and my memories of the years in between tell me that it is so. I know the names of every girl in that picture, can hear their voices still, can recall what they were like. Then the fact that I had forgotten this picture being taken makes me doubt myself.
This is not me any more. This is not them.
How strange we were then! How young!
It strikes me just how much of a uniform most of us adhered to, although we had dispensed with actual uniforms two years before. Jeans twinned with chunky sweaters or cardigans for the most part. Sarah is wearing a floral blouse, which is odd. Although you can’t see it, Nikki is wearing a pencil skirt with her sweater, because she always did. My wearing a plain grey T-shirt does not count as a difference, as I probably would have just left my cardigan slung over a chair somewhere. It’s funny to observe how very much most of us seemed to want to conform and also how obvious it is that none of us knew it was photograph day.
This girl was a royal pain in the bum in pretty much every regard, but she has calmed down a great deal, not that any of us would have believed it back then. These two are still the best of friends and very much involved in one another’s lives, from weddings, to children to holidays. This girl could hardly wait to leave our school, had detested every second of lessons and we all lost track of her a couple of years later. I wonder what happened to her? This girl now runs a bar in Spain and this other girl has been all over the globe. Me?
I remember a time marked by a lot of rushing around and diligent labours. Exams, exams, exams and other serious business before we were to be released. I remember hot chocolate and cookies out on the fire escape and a desire to evade all internecine politics, of which there was a lot. I remember a flurry of parties and the necessity of drinking strawberry wine in a taffeta dress. I remember my prodigious spider plant and my self-important dictionaries and the mild annoyance of being dragged away from both. I remember our sunny, tiny study room decorated with posters of our choosing and the giggling and the angst. I remember the last day when we sang the school hymn, when some of the girls wept but I found myself laughing in relief.
In many ways, I could be there now, I am sure of it. But I do not remember this picture being taken, so it must truly be over after all.