May 1999. Thessaloniki.

In wintertime, Thessaloniki belongs to the Balkans –it’s dark, and cold, and foggy– but when spring comes it becomes positively Mediterranean. It swells with life, with light, with the cries of swallows and sometimes, even, the scent of flowers.

We stood outside the record shop, under a struggling tree. He worked there, I was the owner’s girlfriend. We loved one another but didn’t always get on, except that afternoon we did, and he said, “here, listen to this: it’s the record of the week, and you’re going to love it.” There was no such thing as the record of the week, he’d just made that up, but I did love it: it was Hefner’s ‘Breaking God’s heart.’ I took it home and put it on a tape so I could listen to it on my walkman. That’s how these things were done in 1999.

That’s how I came to be standing on a street corner one freshly sunny afternoon, looking down at the sky, recently cleared up after a storm, reflected in a puddle, listening to ‘The sweetness lies within.’ And as the song rushed into life and spring rushed into town all around me, something –something like the ability be present, and happy, and alive in the moment– rushed into my heart, from where it had been absent for too long. Just like that. Suddenly my heart was swollen too, with light and life and the promise of better days.