Postmodern Emotion: The Girl on TV

The footage was grainy, and every now and then a horizontal line of static swept across the screen. I was sixteen and getting ready for a friend’s birthday. By then I couldn’t recall ever knowing a Chelsea, let alone being so invested in attending her party. Seif leaned forward to pour us another glass of wine. Carinne knelt by the T.V with remote in hand, occasionally turning to look at me in an expression that said, ‘God, we were such losers back then.’

It had been her idea to fish out our old home videos after dinner. ‘Nothing passed 1998!’ was her stipulation. ‘Fifteen years should ensure some gold.’ It started like almost every teenager in the 90’s videos would; with a feigned surprise at being filmed at all, followed by an even less convincing request to ‘turn the camera off!’

‘Who’s filming?’

‘That’s Valerie.’ I leaned my head against Seif’s shoulder. ‘She was our neighbor. Two grades above me in school.’ Carinne looked at us and nodded, giving a stupid smile. That weekend was the first time she met Seif, despite us announcing our engagement six months prior. When we were able to catch a moment alone together she’d whispered effusively, ‘Oh My God. I love him.’

‘Sixteen year old you was a real diva huh?’ said Seif, pinching the fold in my sweater. He was right though. The more I watched the more I felt as though instead of revisiting an old moment from my childhood, I was looking in on someone else’s life. The girl on TV was fearless. You could see it in the way she carried herself. Shoulders back, and a gaze that never fell to the floor. She had a spark of mischief in her eyes, and a laugh like she knew something important that you wish you knew, too.

The teenager had wild hair and wore a bold shade of lipstick. She seemed to have a taste for big jewelry and a penchant for the word ‘spectacular.’ I looked at Seif who couldn’t stop smiling at younger me as she wriggled her fingers at the camera, showing off her sparkly nail polish. I looked at my nails, undone since a time I couldn’t remember.

‘So tell me, what do you like about boys?’ The camera zoomed in.

‘Valerie was obsessed with talking about boys.’ Carinne said as way of explaining. Seif straightened in his seat, excited to hear my response.

‘Ummm, he should be tall, and not have bad breath. He should have good taste in music, have a hot body,’ younger me paused to think some more, ‘so not a fatty… good taste in music… and umm I don’t know, have great hair I guess. —Oh and it would be cool if he had his own car.’

Carinne burst out laughing, as did Seif. I smiled along, but felt a sudden pang of sorrow for the girl on TV. Everything she said and every way she moved, betrayed the foolish arrogance of youth. The kind that had yet to know what it was like to bet everything and lose.

*Part of the Postmodern Emotion series: A series of passages that pay homage to the curious evolution of contemporary relationships; or arguably, lack thereof. For an easier access to my work while you’re on-the-go, follow @clickstories on instagram.

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