OK, 2010. Get thee behind me. Line yourself up over my shoulder and watch stalkerishly, fire flares over my head of the moments of joy that you offered, pinpricking my pupils and tripping me over against the loose cobbles of the just-about-to-happen, fold your sweaty dog-eared lesson-pages into the pocket at the back of the Moleskine, tug my diaphragm with my failures and broken promises and long aimless reaching, but Please Stand Behind The Yellow Line.
Snow, graupel so small it blows in coils of impossible wind-mocking vectors like stomped polystyrene. A family walks the other way, kids in snow-suits with reinforced knees and banana-bunch gloves. More families. Where are they going? Something is happening, as it often is. I don't know what it is. As I often don't. At the supermarket there are tall pyramids of beer on display and peanut-flavoured snack foods. Chocolate Weihnachtsmänner on sale at the back. Shops are selling fireworks for tomorrow, the snow outside dredged with foil confetti hearts and stars. And hats. Tall striped caricature top hats. Sombrero-type things with boa trims. Ones with bells. Hats are a thing.
I abandon the shopping in the hall and curl my frozen red-violet hands into the sheepskin on the living room floor, ow god ow ow while my fingernails stubbornly wrest the blood back from the ice. I pack away the oats, the smoked trout. The fillet of pork, the noodles and split peas and the vegetables that fix me with their Proper Meal gazes. The year trails in after me with the cold, rapid-fire edits, Saarlacc. Triffid. Dead Hyacinth. Castaway, Lost in Translation, sheets of the masterpiece blown in the wind, the crunch of warm ashes underfoot, birds in the wrong clothes. I lean forward against the pull, hem of the coat in the doorjamb, and close my eyes but it has the advantage, damn it and its physics-of-my-mind, and I am afraid because the leaning is a comfort, somehow, like being on a train so crowded you no longer have to hold yourself up.
In the morning I talk to my brother, wit and warmth and dangerous perspicacity like hot glass just in reach, popcorn eyebrows and diegetic chords for DRAMA from the keyboard to his left. So real, for the love of god, so real the snap-chilled windows seem like fictions.
Later I make blueberry muffins out of a cookbook with muffin-shaped pages. The bell rings and they are kitsch-defying, golden purple-stained munch-fests, nutmeg-scented and smug in their satisfaction of the archetype. They look at me butterishly. I arrange them in a dish.
I slept most of the day, hiding in and out of the shadowy watercolour of daytime unconsciousness with my nose pulled under the quilt. I put out water and seed for the tits and sparrows, settling half-cup soufflé dishes into the snow in the balcony planter. They don't like the tiny black ones, sprinkled delicately around the birdily-stomped snow later in the afternoon. I wash my hair and twiddle suds idly between my toes as though it matters that they are clean, which I suppose it does really. Malt toast and vegemite, a cup of hot fennel tea, two pairs of socks. I look at the snow in the clefts of the wet black chestnut outside the kitchen window, as though it is collecting it on purpose, gathering up the strange exploded ice-popcorn with the sly expression of a prankster snowball-bandit. My hair dries slowly. The tea is good. Nothing happens. It is a cold day.
The snow came last night, piling into windscreen-wiper blades of frost on my balcony railings, white-on-white winter blaze through the window at dawn, jumping on your eyelids with a handful or three of unexpected lux. People tug wooden sleds with backpacks or kinder perched on them, everyone a pair of eyes superheroed with scarves and hats. The inside of my skull blows on its hands. Isn't it cold, isn't it cold, it's so COLD. Mum sent a parcel of Vegemite and biscuits, Australian chocolate macadamias and her wonderful mad scrawl, passed on to me by my next-door neighbour, utterly St Nickly in his bonny Deutsch roundness. His name is Herr Birth.
I've been and I've come back, been and come back, lungs full of salt and kelp from riding the precarious lip of the wave of boxes and suitcases, loss and history, things and no-things. The legion trite baggage metaphors lounge around under the legs of chairs like smug marmalade cats with double-cream bellies. I scrabbled against the chaos for a sick, irritable week-and-a-half, moodily eating toast and winding string, silencing bat-winged badnesses with cups of coffee. It is calm now, settling into its orbits and heat sinks, entropic corners and tidal tabletops.
The winter came suddenly, earsplitting white cold like yesterday's overboiled milk saucepan. I iron pillowslips to keep my hands warm, casting myself into the pull of these things, my things, sort of, and watch old Christmas movies.