Sun and wind. A view of hills. The black car approached and Maria and I grabbed each other around the waist. The Hairy Muse and I gripped each other’s hands.
‘She looks so small’. Maria was right. How could that pale wooden coffin contain our Tara, our ‘free spirit’ (Catia’s description, so apt), everything she was to all of us?
HM stepped forward to take up his corner and we walked our girl in. Fresh greens and whites and purples in the flowers. Tara’s colours, everywhere: a fuschia shrug, warm pinks and reds in a dress, bright sneakers.
It was the music that undid me. Four songs, so completely her, so completely woven into her life with Simon; they ignited a fierce rush of memory in me, each one.
Tara identified strongly with Tori Amos. We both loved the way the singer-songwriter played her piano, caught up in the song, her astounding voice and her unconventional and beautiful clothes. And this album became a kind of touchstone for our friendship. I still have the tape (sorry Ms Amos) that Tara made from her vinyl copy. It’s very wobbly-sounding, but that unashamed emotion, the lushness of the piano; they still strike out of the speakers.
Tara and Simon did a lot of music promotions work together back then. One day, she phoned me up. ‘Fancy working with me? It’s the Albert Hall.’
I was a secondary school teacher back then, working my arse off and scared I was getting greyer and more boring with every year I spent in the job.
‘It’s Tori Amos.’
Our task was to leaflet each seat, and we set about our work with little discussion. On stage, the band gathered. By the time we’d reached the back of the hall, the rehearsal was in full progress and that glorious voice soared around us. Tara found a fangirl who’d crept in through an unguarded entrance. We should’ve reported her to someone, perhaps. Got her ejected. Instead, Tara sat her down and talked to her. (Later, talking to female music fans became a large part of her PhD research – maybe the seeds were sown here?)
Eventually, it was time for us to go. The stage was empty, the fangirl had gone. We walked down a corridor. A woman approached us from the other end.
Tori Amos. In dungarees, with that hair, loose on her shoulders, smiling a hello.
I visit that memory, I see it. Two redheads, walking towards each other, passing a smile across a corridor, moving away.