In the afternoon I watched the sun burn pale orange after a day of intermittent rain, and I felt convinced that everything was okay, in that wide and sweepingly perfect sense. Had the new year come then I would have, without doubt, welcomed it broadly.
It did not, of course, and later I stood with a bag of cold raw food that will later turn delicious with heat and spices, looking at the nighttime sky, looking at the moon, and I smiled at the person next to me because I had been able to afford everything I needed for the new year. Well, almost everything. I had a new pair of cotton underwear in my trunk and I had the aforementioned frozen food and I had systematically picked out every bit of trash from my car, and that was something.
I don’t know if it was the radio or an old cassette he had – I only knew that suddenly the car was filled with the sounds of ‘Vienna Blood’, instantly recognizable, and I stopped eating my cucumber. It went on, played in its entirety, and then there was silence – at any rate I didn’t hear anything. “Are you thinking of your childhood in Vienna?” he asked me. “I suppose I would be awfully homesick if I were you. It is Vienna, isn’t it? Or Granada? Or Lucerne? Same difference, right?” I gripped the steering wheel and watched my knuckles turn white. This is the last time I will wonder if he is purposefully riling me, I told myself. I would rather be alone with a bottle of champagne and drink until I saw Vienna, or Granada, or Lucerne and believed myself there than ever, ever wonder this same thing again. I have no need for friends who are only sometimes kind.
They say – I don’t know which they – that if you listen to ‘Vienna Blood’ you will know what it is like to feel Viennese blood course through your veins, even if you can’t spell it. They say watch ‘Gone With The Wind’ to see the Old South. They say you have to dance the tango in Argentina to appreciate it fully and you have have to drink Cuban coffee to say you’ve had coffee at all. There is a dictate for every food and experience and dance. Perhaps they’ve issued dictates for smells as well.
And in between these spoken and printed words are the people of these places, whose flesh and blood give rise to subsequent generations of the same flesh and blood. They are the delicate fauna that tourists watch closest of all.
My heart is like a peony, large when it is closed and larger still when it opens. Across an unforgiving ocean of time and space there is a very delicate fauna, a singular one, who knew the city where I was born and the city where I spent my childhood and which colour of the sky was my favourite – which is to say, who loved me. And because of this imposed delicacy I wonder if he – if he is living, still, and if he does, does he live well? Does he listen to ‘Vienna Blood’ and does his chest constrict like mine? Does his health remain the same, or has it deteriorated further? You would think there would be no longer any questions like these in this modern world, in which one may travel to every corner to experience the dictates of pleasure and knowledge, in which I can talk to you as intimately as if I were whispering in your ear.
There is not only one of you though – there are more. There is a fluctuating number of ears and most likely a limited attention span. I doubt we share the same blood and of course we do not share the same heart and you can no more tell me if he lives and how he lives than you can tell me the shape and colour of my dreams. I would like to believe that some feeling comes across the keyboard, something travels through my fingers right now because I am writing and publishing this at this very moment, and so the feeling, the spark has no time to cool and perhaps travels up your fingers as well. I would like to believe that we are all united in a wish and desire for a better year, a kinder, luckier one – even if we are wishing the good only for ourselves.
And if you can feel this feeling, this spark, this echo of what I mean, even if you do not care for old Austrian cities or cucumbers or peonies, if you can feel it at all, then you know that I wish you a Happy New Year, everyone, anyone who reads these words. And even if you do not care for all of these things or new years either and you believe these human markers of time are only the illusions of fresh starts, even so, please wish him well. I believe that his heart, somewhere, will feel it. And perhaps the delicacy will fade, his health will return, and these wishes will pass over that wide ocean and it will dry, and cease to exist. I believe they can pass, I believe a human heart can somehow feel what another wishes it, because I have to believe, because I want to, and because perhaps in the end blood is only blood, and despite the little differences hearts can beat the same – my heart, your hearts, and his.
Happy New Year.