Fog slumps over the city, each car roof patterned with feathery wands of ice. Grant walks quickly with no plan of where he’s heading, just that he needs the burning cold in his lungs, the nip at his ears.
Already the second of Janury. Christmas hardly caused a blip on his personal radar. No tree, no presents, just a sludge of tinsel heavy television to prove its existence.
He used to love it – the glitter, the excess – but that was before. That was when he had someone to make a fuss of, someone to make a fuss of him. Now he’s single and has fallen from the whirlwind of present buying and food shopping, he sees things he never did before – the homeless guy in the shop doorway, cardboard for a mattress, his scruffy mongrel wearing a chewed Santa hat; the old man lingering by the freezer in the 24 hour shop, picking a microwave roast dinner for one, a pudding in a can for desert. Grant now realises Christmas is a members only club. If you’re alone, you’re excluded.
He reaches the harbour side as the fog begins to lift. The water is frozen, the ferries breaking the ice into slates, forging pathways for the swans to follow. Boat chains and railings are furred white, icy prickles swept to powder as Grant runs his glove along the metal.
He and Amy never used to make a fuss about New Year. ‘There’s no magic in the passing of time,’ she’d say. And resolutions are a pointless weight on your shoulders. ‘Only there to be broken. A reason to feel disappointed with yourself.’
He’d nod. Of course, ridiculous.
But that was then. Now every year he makes the same resolution and each time he believes he’ll keep it, that enough time has passed, that he’s stronger than he was.
The pavement is still icy in the shadows, mud ridged and stiff, leaves pressed by feet and frost. He looks up at the building. Each flat has a triangular balcony, like the prow of a ship but made in metal and glass, cluttered with flower pots and fold up chairs. He counts the floors – one, two, three – settling on the fourth. There’s the striped parasol, folded up for the winter, the terracotta pot that brims with scarlet geraniums every summer.
Every year he makes the same resolution and always breaks it.
‘Happy New Year, Amy,’ he whispers, turns and heads for home.