One of my favourite earrings has been with me for almost half of my life. I picked it up from this boutique store called Levitate. The store was a scented curio shop. In the orientalist Indian sense; not the Dickensian. A curated passion project of a pierced biker chick who amassed silver and silks and semi-precious stones along her rugged trails, lit by the glamour of belonging to a gender minority.
The earring is set off by the triangular convergence of three bevelled rectangles of blue topaz held together by a curlicue frame and lengthened by three tinkling cylinders of the same mettle. The blue is icy and graceful, and kind to have lent itself to topaz in place of the more common yellow. Of course, that was part of the attraction for a twiggy teenager with British teeth. I wanted a silver earring made of blue topaz. I could tell my friends when they asked me like I’m telling you. I didn’t like to buy silver inlaid with pretty precious stones if the seller couldn’t identify them to me. The power that must have moved royal cartographers to undertake stormy, sea-tossed voyages to places yet unlisted, unnamed on their maps also animates diffident girls searching for a claim to omniscience in bazaar conquests.
Maybe I fancied myself reflected in the earring. A luminescent, reserved core with excitable, dangly ends. Maybe I thought silver was the only metal that was really suitable for dark, discounted skin tones. It commanded attention but did not actively seek it like goldigold. It was not worn on temple outings and family photos like time-honoured gold. Silver was more street without being allergy-inducing junk. Gold would have looked better on my warm undertones but we didn’t even know such a thing existed in our four-shade card world. Plus the earring was 480 rupees. I had 480 rupees in my pocket and I gladly traded it in for a pretty reused silk pouch containing my Discovery.
We went to that store many more times. I bought a sexy, mossy green fishtail skirt made from some woman’s old silk that made my lower body look like a half-chewed lollipop. Another excellent find. The silk was so delicate and smooth that I hated wearing it with a simple cotton top from Westside, although the restrained blue and green machine embroidery curling around the V of the top made it one of the more suitable pairings for the suspicious skirt.
Delicate exteriors forged in rough sweatshops and abandoned in their country of origin by the export quality control police was very much the theme of my teen cosplay. And there was just the store for such refined taste-Gurlz. The spelling didn’t bother me because that’s how I spelt it as well! Even before I bought this earring, I think I bought this one black, translucent top from their store. The shoulders were too tight. But the back didn’t have any lining. The front had a panel to cover whatever growth had popped out from the cavity of my chest but the midriff was unlined. The sleeves ended in a flourish of black lace, along with one side of the hip. It topped my high school dance experience. My friends were admiringly disbelieving. I said it was nothing. In fact, I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t come up with a way to wear it without leaving the purity of the transparent back uncompromised.
That top was not rebellion. There was really nothing to rebel against except drab principals and uninspired parents. No, the top affirmed my arrival as a person, with a heart laced with courage and a mind twinkling to a billion dancing quarks. I don’t know where that top is now. Polyester is not my favourite fabric even in black. Even though I don’t wear them often enough, my wardrobe does have a few beautifully woven cotton and silk sarees from the timeless looms of our states. I check the tags and manufacturing information of seductive articles of clothing before zipping to the billing counter, or page.
The black top may not have been a perfectly woke companion to my adolescent Declaration of Existence, but it continues to represent my need to catch creativity in a fishnet stocking and present it to the world as proof of my singular genus. Oops. Genius. The store that housed my silver earring moved onto a grander upmarket location, rubbing bared shoulders with organza curtains and lavender candles. The friends who would accompany me there are spinning in other orbits. How many more friends, jobs, geographies, and daydreams will drift in and spin out as the clear blue stones outshine them with assured grace in my up-purposed Ferrero Rocher box?