It happens in December or January. This year, a couple days before Christmas, I walked into Victoria Seafood on Comm Ave near B.U. to pick up a take-out order, and there they were, Chinese characters for Happy New Year taped to the wall.
Xin Nian Kuai Le. New Year Happiness. 2014 is the Year of the Horse. This one has special resonance. Exactly 25 years ago I was in Taipei over Chinese New Year, and I got very sick. Walking home from a regular gig teaching English, I felt feverish and weak. By the time I arrived at my apartment on Rue An Street near Taiwan Normal University, I was shivering violently. I put on every article of warm clothing I had and got in bed.
The fire-crackers had started. It sounded like a combat zone. Sweating and shaking, I hallucinated that I was a ticket-taker on the Martha’s Vineyard ferry. It felt so peaceful to collect tickets, pull shut the gate, and look out at the sound. The green water calmed me. When I surfaced I heard the explosions again. I wasn’t sure what would kill me first, this strengthening flu or the tremendous noise.
My landlord knocked on the door mid-evening. A phone call, she said. It was Andrea, asking how my day had gone. I wasn’t feeling so great, I told her. When she asked if I wanted her to bring something over, I asked for ginger ale and digestive biscuits.
I’m not sure how I made it through the night. Andrea’s palm on my forehead helped, as did wool cycling tights and a winter hat. What I remember is that calm feeling of standing on the Martha’s Vineyard ferry, hand on gate, eye on the horizon. On the ocean there was nowhere to fall. Life was simple. Maybe that’s what I needed at that juncture, a little simplicity.
Year of the Horse by Alexander Synaptic