(This follows on from Seventeen and Eighteen, and before that, Sixteen, and before that, Fourteen & Fifteen, and before that, Twelve & Thirteen, and before that, Eleven, and before that, Seven Through Ten, and before that, Zero Through Six.)
1999, aged nineteen: Nineteen is my favorite year, my magical age, that one long glorious stretch of perfection. I am taking a break between the end of school and the beginning of university, and I have chosen to live at home in Connecticut for the year. This is funny to my friends, who are all gallivanting around Europe and building houses in Africa, but to me, the novelty of living at home with my family is actually the weirdest, most exotic thing of all.
Living out some long-held fantasy to attend an American high school, I sign up for a few classes at the local community college, and even though I am the only person doing them for fun and not credit, I manage to fall in with a crowd of like-minded people with whom I attend poetry readings and art shows and parties in smoky bedrooms with illegal booze. We meet in diners at midnight and drink cup after cup of coffee and all cultivate crushes on each other to which we don't admit.
Once a week, I take the train into New York City, where I intern for a glossy bridal magazine, and no-one quite knows what to do with me, so they send me to the Beauty Closet and tell me to take whatever I like. I call my mother from my cubicle and ask her whether she prefers Chanel or Dior when it comes to lipstick, and for the whole year, I never have to buy shampoo.
One lunchtime, I get so sick of organizing perfumes and braying over bouquets that I leave the office and walk to a seedy part of the Village, where I find a body piercing parlor and pay a tattooed meathead eighty dollars to punch two holes at the top of my ear and push a metal bar between them. He apologizes for being stoned and my stomach lurches as I wonder what I'm getting myself into, and two days later, the bar rips out while I'm brushing my hair, so I go back the next week and he pierces it again.
When my parents let me have the car, I drive to upstate New York to visit Sean, and sometimes we're off and sometimes we're on, and often it's exhausting not knowing, but sometimes it's just better not to know. One evening I meet a boy in Starbucks who asks if I want to work at the Woodstock festival and I say yes, because I'm nineteen and it's summer and a few weekends later, I'm sleeping in a tent and selling ice creams to drunk people in the middle of the night, and all I eat for three and a half days straight is Chipwiches, because they're free.