Last New Year's Eve I finished work at 9 o'clock at night. I wandered along the river and watched the fireworks set off for kids so's they didn't miss out before bed time, and then walked home. It was fiercely hot. The majority of the main roads were blocked off, so I indulged in the trivial novelty of walking down the middle of tram tracks. Swanston Street was so ridiculously utterly packed with people it was even hotter. I fought my way to my apartment, poured myself a cold drink, and wrote for the next two hours. Half an hour before midnight I ventured out again, equipped with a bottle of water. I let the crowd pull me up Swanston and across the Princess Bridge to Alexandra Gardens, where I found a retaining wall to lean against. It was magma hot. The fireworks went off. It was centre of the earth hot. I finished my water, and followed the crowd back up to the Princess Bridge, and the first cold sweat hit me. I'd already fainted two and a half times that year, recognised the warnings and knew what I needed to do; sit down and have a long cold drink. I could do neither. Police officers allowed no one to stop the flow of the crowd. I was out of water and there was nowhere to refill. I was two blocks from home, but the speed at which traffic moved it would take me half an hour to get there. Still, I did the best I could, staying close to the railing and stopping to lean on it whenever my vision started to go black. This happened every ten metres or so. Five metres. It took me twenty minutes to cross the bridge. I wasn't going to make it. A group of police were gathered around a man handcuffed and sitting on the ground, waiting for more members before escorting him away. I paused by them. One member told me to move on. I asked if I could sit down for a bit. She shook her head. I said, "okay", and went to rest my head on the rail, just for a moment before setting off again. There is a minute or so missing from my life, in which I finally fainted, hit the paving hard, and was hauled out of the way by the cops. They gave me water, when I came back, and asked me if I'd taken anything. No, I haven't even been drinking. Just dehydrated and too hot. They had work to do, and after a minute left with their offender. Fainting is a bit like vomiting; once you've got it over with, you have a window of reprieve to feel okay. I chugged the water they'd given me and bolted home, where I lay on the floor with another large cold drink and thought about nothing.
Summary: I spent the night alone, surrounded by strangers, watching overhead wonders, falling apart, distraught and unable to get home.
I'm not usually one to subscribe to suburban superstition - reading old horoscopes is bad luck, 11:11 on the clock is good luck, how you spend New Years is how you'll spend the rest of the year - but it kinda set the tone for 2008, and the following months didn't deviate from it.
This NYE, I'll be working again. Actually, I'm working every single public holiday this season, which...okay, I can't complain. I need the money, and I don't have such a huge social life to warrant any significant days off. But. But. Anyway, let's carry on.
I finish at 11 o'clock at night. I considered repeating the activities from last year (minus fainting), as I generally don't mind traipsing about on my own. The idea of wading through the crowds isn't sold to me, though, and the fireworks aren't all that, and doing things on your own is a hell of a lot less enjoyable when you're surrounded by groups having an awesome time being groupish. Not really anticipating having anyone to make my own group with, as I'm not a part of any group of friends. My lovely people tend to dissipate into their own social circles come party time.
So, what to do? Maybe catch the train out to Northcote. I imagine the crowds will be less there. Should be some bars open where I can get a drink, then take up position on the hill and watch the city from there, followed by a nice amble home. I quite like the walk from Northcote.
Or maybe just go home. Pick up a drink from the kitchen, go back to the station and watch the city from the railway overpass.
Or just go to bed, and shut the door on both the year leaving and the year arriving.
It won't matter what I do. There's nothing any of us can do to shape 2009. The world will keep spinning and life will keep unfolding regardless of ritual or superstition. Whatever happens, happens.
(But I haven't yet accepted that.)