Murray Vene wondered when he last saw in a New Year in both a literal and metaphorical sense. By the time the countdown started, triggering the crossing of many arms and the clasping of countless hands, Murray’s eyes had ceased to function, much as his bladder muscles had lost their torsion. He imagined a kitchen, acid green cupboards and scrubbed pine table and a girl with smeared lipstick. Had that been at the moment of a New Year? He didn’t know her and she had grabbed his neck and kissed him – that’s what happened as the clock hit 12, wasn’t it? Everyone was fed up with that stupid song whose meaningless lyrics people trotted out as if they conveyed a deeper truth and, for want of something better to do with their mouths and lips they snogged randomly and recklessly.
No, that was another time – the girl had ingested a popper and lost it before he did. What was her name? He knew it really but it came and went, much like those floaters that made up much of his memory these days. Alcohol hadn’t done much damage to his eyes – they’d been shite since he caught measles – or was it mumps – as a twelve year old. But his memory was perforated like a smack addict’s thighs – like his thighs if he cared to admit it.
He’d have to go back to the 80s when he had a capacity for booze. Bryan Ferry on the tape player and – it was there, began with a P… Pat, Pam, Pen… she’d been his squeeze, she’d been the first snog. God, who said ‘squeeze’ these days? Who’d said it back then apart from his Uncle Mike?
Countless days lost but the only ones he thought he regretted were the New Years. Because the next time he woke – ‘came to’ would be a better description – after a lost New Year, he made the same resolution: ‘get sober/clean/free of whatever’. Who said doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result was the definition of insanity? Probably Pen, Pat or Pam. Or maybe no one and he’d just made it up.
Not this time. This time he felt the crisp air numbing his ears, smelt the cordite as the customary ordnance exploded in a thousand rainbows, deadening his already decrepit hearing. He tasted the delicious freedom of a gut without unquantifiable amounts of booze and felt – yes an actual feeling – the warmth of a hand holding his own, not in some parody of community spirit but with the confidence of trust and love. His own flesh and blood.
2017 may not be much when set against other years but this one twelve month period did what so many failed to do: end well. A shit start, it’s true, sliding downhill from Jan 1 to March; a period in hospital, cancer – that was new – and a real need to clean up his act which he was quite ready to ignore. And then the surprise: a visit from Jemima his daughter. June 17th. Tears, recriminations and an epiphany. Instead of saying ‘sorry’ for all the past, his past – he was forever saying sorry and then failing to live up to the accompanying promises – he’d thanked her for making the effort of coming, for forgiving him.
And she’d said something that hit home – if he loved her, then he had to love himself. Forgiveness, if that’s what he wanted had to start with him forgiving himself.
So here he was, watching the fireworks put on by the hospice, holding her hand and storing away a memory. It might not last long, this memory but it would be all the more important for that.