Quite The Year

The year begun with tears.

On the sixth of the first month, I handed over the keys to the flat I had lived in for five years. Their metal was a little discoloured, was a little worn from the countless homecoming penetrations. I looked upon the vacant scene. All the memories came back to me simultaneously, each huge & magnificent, like those picture books of dinosaurs when you are a child, all the dinosaurs in one place at one time, roaring and grazing and hunting, improbable but not impossible. The memories saddened me. I was overwhelmed. Soon a lady called Madalina[1] would arrive to take stock of how I had left things. The nation was in lockdown. That flat was the last remnant of my past life. This was surrender. I wished to leave all of my ghosts there. It had to be done.

And when the February snows started to fall, she suffered a miscarriage. My brother’s family was invited to stay as they made it through. The house was loud. My sister-in-law seldom emerged from the guestroom. My brother worked at a desk behind me, his bellowing voice, phonecalls in the garden where there was reception. My nieces did not understand what was going on, but lent the house a lightheartedness, mischievous, squabbling, playful in each room, pale with the snowlight that came from without.

The baby had been the size of a blueberry[2]. During the operation, which she endured alone due to restrictions, she lost a lot of blood. Complications after complications, the surgeon said. They came back to stay, and my mother cooked iron-rich dishes for lunch and dinner, which my sister-in-law could not keep down. The house was warm, a musty smell throughout. Opening windows, even a sliver, let a knife of cold into our home, cold that somehow infiltrated every room. She hobbled, thin hands fumbling furniture from bed to sofa, and back again; frail, to pick at roast beef sandwiches, to gag, to weep. There was very little left of her. The snow was pretty, went crisp, went to mush, iced, slowly broke up and swam away.

In March there was L—. She was there for a long time before, but in March she was there fully. There were small flushes of warmth[3] in the air outside of her flat as the season turned and the clocks went forward.

There are breaking points, moments when one feels the full weight of their predicament. A switch is flicked, and every fibre of one’s being is twitching from a terror and excitement that cannot be measured. I was charged, trembling at my desk, until I pressed Send[4] and felt something ripple through me; not a gasp or a cry, but a sigh. Soon my phone might vibrate or a written response typed clumsily into my inbox. It had been almost fifteen years. The might of my conviction was a wonderful thing, and that night I slept well. ‘I can see your mind’s made up, and that no amount of money will change it.’ ‘You know I’ve never been about money.’ The three of them sat before me. The emotion inside was such that I might burst into tears at any minute. My hands were unsteady. My heart was starting fights in my chest. It was three v. one. This was how I wanted to go down. For a decade-and-a-half, their management style had brought out my aggression and my anger, now it was turned around at them as squarely as I could summon. And then it hit me: for the first time in as long as I had known them, I was in charge. I left the boardroom feeling quite alive. It was spring outside and it was warm. I went to the office bathroom, put a tie on and my jacket, then I walked down Gresham St, believing that I was unstoppable while not being sure of anything[5].
The man interviewing me often took pauses during his speaking to stare out of the window, the source of the light on the right side of his skull. Behind him were tall bookshelves and an unlit fireplace. Almost immediately I liked him and afterwards decided very quickly that it had gone well. I came to know the man as Beck. He is a black man from Bermondsey who was adopted by a family of dockers. From my first day in the new office, as the country adjusted to its loss in the European finals, Beck appealed to me greatly, the kind of senior figure I was unaccustomed to working under. As time went on, unwilling as I am to get carried away, I came to understand we shared a tremendous connection. Often, to a fault, I will push good people away, but Beck drew something from me. It was summer by then[6]. It does not seem so long ago at all, but such is the nature of twenty-twenty-one.

Halfway through autumn, I bought my first apartment. On the last day of November, a kindly man with tattoos on his forearms held open the door for me and, looking down at the floor and its matte reflections, I put worn trainers on the first space I had ever owned. ‘Congratulations,’ he said. A special moment, just me and this man. After he disappeared, I walked in circles—‘It’s mine! It’s mine!’ I pictured my new life there. I pictured how each room would look. I pictured that moment becoming my own history, as it inevitably would become, and I imagined that I was happy, which took no effort at all. My parents and brother – the company of my pandemic – helped me carry in my belongings and afterwards we sat on steel chairs and toasted, becoming drunk. The cork from that first bottle of champagne sits on my microwave.
This must be the start. As the public is once again ushered indoors at a new variant, I light candles on the fourth floor. In this returned solitude, I talk to myself and listen to records after I have closed my laptop. These rooms smell of smoke, cardboard and coffee. I know this is happiness. I recognise the scent of its clothes.

My father picked me up on the twenty-fourth. ‘This is much quicker than that first time you picked me up from Bow. You remember?’ He did. We had discussed geese and farms and my cousin’s boyfriend. That journey stands out to me, as did those journeys of ours from my university back to the Essex coast. At his funeral, maybe I will tell everyone how much joy I took from those seemingly insignificant passages of time. It is not something he would understand, although our festive knees were separated by only a gearstick.

Now I enter the garden and am taken aback by the darkness. All the neighbours have conspired to not illuminate a single room, and so not a window frame calls out to me in orange or yellow, such as the signals of life. It is this lack of light that takes one’s breath away. The darkness is indeed choking. I linger with a cigarette close to the glow from my parents’ kitchen. The crescent of golden comfort encircles me.

  1. https://theeveningparty.com/Madalina
  2. https://theeveningparty.com/Blueberries-Like-Night
  3. https://theeveningparty.com/Afterwards
  4. https://theeveningparty.com/Fourteen-A-Half
  5. https://theeveningparty.com/The-Plural-of-Noise-is-Noise
  6. https://theeveningparty.com/My-Saviour-Rode-Off-In-The-Back-Of-A-Black-Cab