#263: “Summer of ’98”

Posted AnecdoteThoughts

I met Saron Harford in the Summer of 1998. She was wearing grey combats, an army-green sleeveless vest, black Dr Martens boots and a utility belt with all manner of knick-knacks attached. A paragon of streamlined efficiency, she was a consummate multi-tasker. Her hair was tied back tightly in a ponytail and she wore radio headphones, one ear covered, one out. She was smoking a cigarette, lighting one for a passerby and explaining to another that the reason that the street we were all on was locked off was because they were making a movie. She was polite and friendly but also authoritative when a member of the public threatened to make a run for it before the person in her earpiece told her they could. It was my first day on set. I hung back and watched her do her thing.

The film wrapped at the end of that summer. Actors and crew exchanged gifts and I bought Saron blue hair mascara. She thanked me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I was sixteen years old. She was twenty-three. We stayed in touch over the next few months and then, sometime in the winter of that same year, Saron invited me out for a reunion of sorts with members of the crew, many of whom were also working together on another film. I was in my final year of school but my weekends were my own, especially when my family were out of town. I thought my night was over after we left the bar but Saron blagged me into the over-21s nightclub.

Towards the end of the night, I mentioned that I had a rough copy at home of the movie on which we had all worked. My Dad was the film’s producer and he has recently brought home a VHS of a close-to-finished version. “You’re all welcome to come back to mine and watch it”, I said. Their eyes collectively widened. Minutes later, Saron and I, along with two other friends, Sarah and Conor, were all in a cab.

The car pulled up outside my house and we all got out. Then something weird happened. My key wouldn’t work. I persisted but it just wouldn’t turn. I assured everyone it was the right key. I tried again but it was stuck. I explained how there was a key to the back door under a rock and I would go around and get in that way. When I got there, the back door was wide open with glass broken in its frame. I walked inside and it was immediately obvious that the house had been ransacked, the couch in the kitchen upturned and the contents of every cabinet and press on the floor. I ran to the front door to let everyone in and tell them what happened. The latch was on, clearly something the intruders had done to buy themselves more time if they were disturbed. That’s why my key hadn’t worked. I called the police and I called my Dad, leaving him a voicemail.

While we waited for the police to arrive, we walked through the house, room by room, assessing the damage and trying to figure out what had been stolen. The living room and hallway were pulled asunder. We had definitely disturbed them in the act, evidenced by pillowcases on the staircase, used as makeshift bags for my stepmother’s jewellery, left behind when they presumably panicked and ran off. We went back downstairs and Saron opened the door of my bedroom. “Oh God David, I’m so sorry.” She grimaced, “They’ve trashed your room too”.  I walked gingerly to the doorway and she gave me a hug. “It’s ok”, she said comfortingly, “I’m sure the insurance will cover anything that was taken.” I looked over her shoulder and into my room. She was right. The room was wrecked. Papers and stationary flung everywhere, the contents of my drawers upturned in a pile on the floor, school books tossed carelessly on top of my clothes which had also been strewn across every surface.

I had to take a deep breath before confessing to her that it was all exactly how I’d left it.