New Year Resolution

Entry by: zoanne

9th January 2015
New Year Resolutions

Somewhere my sister is walking in the snow, and the Eyeboll Kid is taking photographs, and a knife lies glittering under dark water.

What is the New Year but another old year waiting to drift out to the cold distance of memory? What are New Year's resolutions but a wild resistance to the tide?

New Year, ten years ago. My sister had just allowed my camera to be stolen. It was a beautiful machine; a Single Lens Reflex that might have been the last one sold before they went digital. I cradled it in a hard case, and held it firmly to my body on the Moscow Metro because of the pickpockets. When my little sister came to visit - eyes like bruises, body like bones - I made sure she always got a seat, even if it meant shoving her between angry behemoths, all fur and lipstick, in a space that clearly wasn’t a space until I jammed my skinny sister in there. One day I lent her my camera, and she walked behind me onto the train. She was delayed in a shoving match, and when she staggered into the carriage the camera was gone from its case. She started hyperventilating and crying, but I put a stop to that quickly by laughing and shrugging and saying it didn’t matter, knowing the thief was watching me and knowing there was nothing I could do about it.

She and I travelled on the overnight train to St Petersburg to meet some friends in a gay-friendly music venue. We got the tickets last-minute, and all they had left were the cheapest seats. In Russia, ten years ago, this meant an empty freight carriage with orange plastic chairs lined up in rows along it. My sister’s insomnia had turned her into a fragile caricature of a human being, and she slithered into a sleeping bag and tried to find a way to get unconscious. Somehow, between the laughing moustachioed men asking where we were from, and where we were going, she fell asleep. There was a young man opposite me with fine blonde hair and thin, gentle features. He spoke a little English, and started speaking it to me. His name was Kirill, and he was a wildlife photographer. He’d been in Egypt, taking photographs of the fish in the bright, hot sea, when a poisonous jellyfish had materialised out of the water and stung him all up his legs. Now he was out of hospital and going to visit his family, but not his sister. She was dead. She had been a heroine addict, and had taken an overdose the year before. Kirill got up and walked out of the carriage to have a cigarette in the space between, where you could see the pistons and the rubber tubes under your feet, and there were windows you could open without freezing the rest of the passengers. After a while I joined him, because he was alone and his sister was dead, and I didn’t know what to do. We smoked our cigarettes quietly, out of opposite windows in that loud, cold, mechanical little zone between the carriages. At the end of the journey he gave me a small model sarcophagus with the lid lifted off to show the mummified body beneath. The gold was very bright, but I discovered that the mummy was impossible to dust, and dirt built up around it no matter what I did. He wrote down for me: theeyebollkid@…. I still have the gift from Egypt, but I have forgotten the rest of his email address.

New Year, long before I was born. Unknown people build a causeway into the fens by sinking wood in the thick mud of the marsh until they hit solid ground. In the mist and cold air of the wet land below the ice, they sank the great posts deep, creeping forwards towards the great water. Dressed in fur and hewing with metal axes, they lay planks on the struts and tied them down with leather strips. Between the water and the land they built and walked, and after a mile of this remote parade they came to an island which was not land and not water but wood stretching out all around them. Between the planks, the low waters of the fens sloughed and sighed, and around them lay the fog like the cold breath of the water and the land together. They made quiet offerings between the planks, laying knives and precious objects in the joints of the causeway and the strange island pontoon. When the ice melted and the waters rose, they still came. When the island lay beneath the water and causeway was silted into mud, they kept coming. Their work had been lost in the place where the water and the land met, and spoke, and struggled, but still they came.

New Year, five years ago. My mother, my sister’s boyfriend and I were sitting the basement of a youth hostel in Inverness, eating curry from shiny tinfoil containers and laughing at the absurdity of it all. My sister’s friend had just lost a baby, and they had gone walking together in the Cairngorms to feel alive in the snow and the cold, bright sunshine. The surface of the path had given way, and they had fallen. My sister’s friend had not fallen far, but she had been wearing sharp crampons on her boots and had struck my sister’s skull with her feet. My sister was knocked out and had tumbled down a steep slope for sixty feet, then come to rest on the edge of a high precipice. The impact had bruised her brain, so she did not regain consciousness for five hours, which gave the rescue helicopter time to find her before she started flailing numbly, instinctively, towards the edge. The roads to Scotland were blocked by fog and ice and the motorway was strewn with torn metal and flashing lights, but we got there while she was still in Intensive Care. We found a place to stay, and food, and laughed at how my sister babbled on her drugs and looked like a mushroom from the bruising, and how the nurses had sewn her torn-off hair back on the wrong side so she looked all lopsided. Under the strip-lights in the hostel basement we laughed and ignored the pull of the undertow on our hearts, and she came back to us reasonably whole.

New Year this year I live on the border between water and land. I look out of the window of my boat and see the canal lapping at the level of my shins. I am walking under the level of its surface. I dream of water and light, and my walls shimmer with the reflection of golden wavelets. I have no resolutions, no ambitions, only an ocean of memories. I look down beneath the surface and see them resolve into clear images under my eyes, until the dark waters rise deeper and they are lost to sight. Hard as bone, hard as metal, they still hang there in the deep water, bright and sharp as knives that have fallen beyond the sunlight.

My New Year Resolutions:

My sister is walking in the snow.
The Eyeboll Kid is taking photographs.
A knife lies glittering under dark water.