It’s the afternoon of the first day of a brand new year and already a man in Kansas or in Florida has murdered his family in their sleep, or has set fire to himself on the corner of a downtown street. Already the drug dealers are selling heroin outside the Seven-Eleven, and a plane loaded with bombs is taking off from an airstrip somewhere. Somewhere, a girl is being told she is fat and ugly, and boy is taking a fist to a face. In Windsor or in Manchester, somebody has just swallowed a lethal dose of pills. Somewhere the arms of a political prisoner are tied behind his back, and the torture instruments shine like grandmother’s best silver on a stainless steel tray. There are shallow graves at the edge of the desert and rats are swimming in the shanty town reservoir. A few minutes past midday, and somewhere a rifle shot or a howl of pain breaks the silence.
It’s the afternoon of the first day of a brand new year and already a mother is holding her newborn child in her arms and singing a nonsense song. A shy man is throwing himself at the feet of a beautiful woman, his future wife. A girl in a cockroach-infested tenement plays a Chopin etude on an ancient piano, and a man standing on a window ledge listens to it, and finds a reason to live. Somewhere in the world, a man steps out of a burning house with a child in his arms. A thousand miles away, a woman lights a candle in an empty church, while in the building next door, a man paints a picture that will someday hang in the Louvre.
It’s the afternoon of the first day of a brand new year, and we pile into the car. We drive down to the beach and listen to Chet Baker on a cassette tape. The tide is higher than we’ve ever seen it, tossing logs around like splinters. Gulls are riding the wind like crazed surfers, screaming with delight. It seems as if the whole city is there, walking their dogs, drinking their coffees, talking, laughing and bickering. We walk down to the water’s edge and step out of our clothes, leaving our jackets and jeans piled on the sand. We run into the water in our underwear, and dive beneath the waves. We’re laughing and shivering as we step out into the January air, facing into the future and the wind.