I was walking on the South Bank at lunchtime, as I sometimes do. Wearing a blue dress, chatting on the phone to my boyfriend. I strolled back to the office via the book market under Waterloo Bridge. I often pick up an old paperback there for my train journey home - usually about £3, only as much as I would spend on a Pret soup but bringing me so much more joy. Many have been the same Penguin classics that I used to 'borrow' from my parents' shelf as a teenager - recently, Margaret Drabble, Doris Lessing, Fay Weldon, all my favourites.
Then a book caught my eye. 'Goodbye, Johnny Thunders' by Tania Kindersley - the same cover that it had when it was on my bookshelf so long ago.
It was one of my teenage favourites. An oh-so 90s tale of decadence, naivety and heartbreak (still among my favourite topics). Set in Notting Hill. A romantic tragedy. Bad boys drinking whisky and disappearing, wannabe writer girls smoking cigarettes and weeping. You get the picture. All set to a hot summer and a great soundtrack and the promise of carnival. Those youthful days that seemed eternal. Those seismic relationships and break-ups that change you forever. The ones you think you'll never get over. The ones you do, in the end.
When I was going through a bad break-up, years and years ago, this was the book I would read. I felt that I could have written it, or it had been written just for me. I would read it on the train and cry. I would read it at night and cry. I would listen to Jeff Buckley and cry.
It was the sort of break-up that felt so much more shattering than it really was. The sort that it would be so easy to sneer at in hindsight, once you've been through break-ups that involve a real history, a whole family (a whole world with its own secret language), and pain so deep you didn't realise even in your most melodramatic moments that it was possible. Not to mention actual fucking logistics.
Still. I was young but it was real.
Later, when I got happier again, I gave that book away. It wasn't that good and I certainly didn't need it any more. Its moment had passed, in more ways than one.
I had almost forgotten about it, until today.
I almost bought it back. I am now 34 years old, wearing a blue dress my boyfriend bought me, still wearing friendship bracelets, making plans for the future.
I almost bought it back, but then I didn't. Someone else might need it.