At midnight on New Year’s Eve, a little mellow but by no means inebriated, I looked into my partner’s eyes and uttered these fateful words:
‘The last six months have been so difficult, 2013 really has to be a an improvement.’
What cavalier optimism and monstrous folly! I really should have known better. What madness possessed me to tempt fate by making such a statement?
Barely twelve hours had elapsed before I found myself slap bang in the middle of one of those domestic ‘situations’ that simply defy explanation, where, even if people are interested, even if they want to understand it, the whole crisis is beset by twists and turns so intricate and so numerous that any attempt to follow the logic of events is doomed from the start. In the end comes the consciousness your friends and relations are looking at you strangely. They begin to exchange sidelong glances and then to roll their eyes. Finally, they start looking for reasons not to talk to you in the first place. Happy New Year, they beam cheerfully but they turn away in confusion as they take in first your pallid cheeks and then your sunken and red-rimmed eyes.
The exact nature of the crisis I am not free to disclose but that in itself does not matter. The important point is that these recent upheavals, much against my will, have taken me back to a period of my life I had though consigned to the past. Now I have asked myself: Did I do all that I could have done? Did I behave selfishly or with the interests of others at heart? Am I to blame at all and, if so, how far am I culpable? How much of this present misery should be laid at my door?
All these questions are far from easy to answer: memory is notoriously unreliable and there are few people remaining now whom I might turn for an opinion. Of the main players in the dismal little drama that unfolded two decades ago most are no longer emotionally or geographically available; indeed, unbelievably, as I would have thought then, two or three of them are dead. But what would they say if I were here and I was able to ask them? Would they offer comfort and reassurance, telling me I did everything I could? Or would they look me hard in the eye and tell me that I always had this coming, that I should consider myself luck for getting off so lightly for so long? I do not – perhaps I cannot – know and yet I feel nothing if not guilty. Forgive me, then, my friends and acquaintances. if when you see me this month, my New Year greeting sounds hollow and my smile doesn’t quite reach my eyes. x