It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Punkyfish gal never dies. Strong of spirit, true of mind, you were the gal every other gal wanted to be. Yes, we may have ostracised you because you said that Ashleigh couldn’t dance (even though she couldn’t) after that Year 9 show where we all did an inappropriately sexual jazz routine to "Walk on Water" by Milk Inc.; yes, we may have bitched behind your back that time you dyed your hair black-in-some-light-blue-in-others because it was totally at odds with your impressively matte complexion. But in truth, Leonie, you harnessed a style, a power, an attitude, a sense of self for which the rest of us hungered desperately late at night in our bedrooms as we raged with the stench of existential oblivion and So…? Kiss Me. While everyone thought we loved Lancôme Juicy Tubes, secretly we pined to see Blink 182 in Manchester, like you had, and wished we had the guts to pierce our ears with an unsterilised safety pin and an apple, like you did.
It was the best of times, it was the savagest of times. While we were busy getting nicotine rushes off a Berkeley Superkings Menthol behind the drama block and assuming a deep and meaningful connection with eight other people based solely on being mean about the bushiness of our classmates' eyebrows (while we overplucked our own), you did not care for high school fripperies. You did well in maths, you did well in English, you did well in geography, for God’s sake. You had the aplomb to come to the Year 9 disco in a top which had a diagonal zip across the boobs and a fishnet mesh sleeve, paired with a mini-fucking-backpack and a dinky necklace from which dangled, unfathomably, an enamel fish with a septum piercing.
In the beginning, God created heaven and Punkyfish. And you were a punky fish: misunderstood with a deep understanding of what was actually cool. You, like aforementioned fish, had freaky piercings before Maria Tash made freaky piercings the ultimate signifier of the rich white woman. You wore black to prom. You took those garments — those garments teeming with a cacophony of complex political and subcultural references — and made them look like a second skin. You encompassed punk, rave, nu-rave, the '90s E-years, BDSM, grunge, goth and myriad references we (me) wouldn’t discover until we moved to London and got bummed in a Vauxhall alleyway by a leather daddy who would turn out to be our gateway drug into coffee table books full of all these subcultures which you, dear punky fish, had embraced at the age of 12.
It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen (are these literary references working still? I googled 'best book openings ever' but it isn’t really adding much at this point). But where did you get these garments? Had you been cool enough to go to Camden? Had you been savvy enough to order over the phone? Did you have a debit card already? Or did you use your mum’s?
The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there. And in truth, if I could go back, I would do things differently, too. Instead of stalking your MySpace yet never telling you how incredible you looked in those black elephant jeans with white stitching, I would have uplifted you as a cultural soothsayer who was keyed into the future, the past and the fourth dimension. It’s no surprise that you’re now the coolest person I follow on Instagram. It’s no surprise that you’re making waves in the fields of coding, tech, science, medicine, fashion, art, journalism, tattooing. It’s no surprise that you run a pole dancing class for female-identifying goths. You, Leonie, were always an inspiration. We were all thinking it, we were just too stifled by our own lack of individuality ever to say it.