August, 1999. Thessaloniki.
It was an exhaustingly hot afternoon of an exhaustingly empty summer, and there was nothing that gave out something was about to happen. In fact, it was the sort of time that convinces you that nothing will ever happen — and indeed, nothing really did. And yet every time I look back my thoughts stop on that day, and every time I realise it changed my life.
To say thank you for helping out at the shop, he gave me a CD, fresh out of the parcel I’d carried back from the post office. It was called ‘Try a little sunshine,’ and it claimed to be a compilation of the ‘Greek indiepop scene’ — whatever that was. “Take this,” he said. “It’s better than all the Belle and Sebastian records put together.” I didn’t believe him for a minute. What could be better that all the Belle and Sebastian records put together?
And yet. The compilation came with a poster, and the poster read —
“This is a compilation about love, fun, cupid, sweetness in chocolate, romance, innocence, lollipops after the pain, melancholy, dreams in the city, happiness, sunsets from the rooftops, water and bubble pistols, southbound excursions, stars in the sky, sky in her eyes, journeys, doo be doo, bicycle rides, dives in the lake, buried treasures, clouds, postcards, ocean rain, lovers, lunatics, giants, suncastles in the shade, moonflowers, lost friends… magic.”
And I thought it was the most beautiful, evocative, touching list of words ever possible. I was inspired: I put the poster on the wall above my bed, I lay down underneath it, and I dreamed the best dreams I had ever dreamed. I imagined a life lived in a world more like the one described by those words and less like the one I saw around me every day, and that thought was enough to make me infinitely happy. I felt like I’d just found something I’d been looking for all my life, something I’ve always known about but had forgotten, and I was just realising how much I had missed it. So amazing was that feeling that when I went out to walk around the city in search of ‘something as colourful as these words’ (which is exactly the way I thought about it at the time) I really believed I would find it.
I didn’t. Of course I didn’t. The world looked as grey as it had done on the morning, maybe a little greyer even; although I spent the next few days waiting for something to happen, I was feeling let down. But in the end, that didn’t matter: the magic that made me wander around town on an otherwise uninspired and sweltering evening was so strong that it never let me forget. To this day it is behind all my dreams of happiness, and every gratuitously romantic attempt to make them come true — even the ones that work.
It’s good to have something to show you the way.
If you think you’ve read this before, you have a very good memory. A longer, more detailed version of this story was originally published (in Greek) on Mic and (in English) on Friends of the Heroes in September 2003 — such a long time ago.