Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy new year

I was on the bus over on New Year's Eve, the last one from my side of town to hers. It would get me there at just the right time. I wasn't too keen on the whole thing to begin with - an hour or so with her friends, mostly middle-aged professionals or businesspeople, and her parents - but it was only the usual kind of head-sighing we all get. That heavy weight of resignation that you're doing something you don't want to, but for the greater good. Then I got a message... looking forward to it, fancy hairstyle, cocktails poured... cocktails poured... cocktails poured.

You know how images pop in your head, and stick? All I could see, wherever I looked, was a cocktail tray glinting in front of me. There were masses of people around me and a dull noise of chatter but the shining tray flashed wherever I went and caught my attention. That was the image of that new fear I had when I pictured all these other people merrily drinking away in front of me.

I guess I'm still very self-conscious about it at the moment. It's an identical memory to how I felt the first time I did a speech at school. The first time was horrible, the second just awkward but from then on I settled on a level of competent mediocrity. I suspect the same will happen with this but I made a mistake yesterday in saying I could go and mingle with so many people drinking wines and cocktails and bottles of fancy lager in front of me; I can't, and I got off the bus at my grandma's and went for a cup of tea. That may sound like a Morrissey-esque embellishment but is no word of a lie; the simple sanctity of a cup of tea and being around someone who knew me was all I needed at that point.

I made my apologies, and turned up later in the night. Passing parties and pubs on the way, I wondered how stupid it was to commit to stopping altogether, especially on a night like this when people come alive and forget their troubles; but I stuck it out, passed the music in the snow. For a moment, I thought about stopping off for a quick gin and tonic, but then I thought: what's the point? I'm thankful for that. There wouldn't have been a point, and I'd be sat filled with self-loathing now. My inability to face the crowd put a dampener on the rest of the night, and it was the worst new year of my life but then hey, I've never really seen much significance in that night anyway. I left some time past midnight before the crowd returned, the people who are suddenly your friend, the people who laugh at rain, the people who develop advanced psychiatric insight in the space of four hours. I couldn't face more apologies or self-analysis with her, or questions from them.

I must say thankyou to coincidence. Not fate, no, not a power above, no, just coincidence. Friends who could normally be relied upon as a cert to be sat trashed at home at 1am on new year's eve were in fact sat sober as judges playing on the Xbox. If an anecdote to the trials of the night could ever be prescribed, it is sitting with two of your best friends, sharing in your sobriety, sharing in the blessed distraction of a kid's video game.

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