For the first time in years I actually want to go to a New Year’s Party, and find myself too sick to even stand (isn’t that how New Year’s Eve is meant to end, not start?) Most years I feign illness to avoid New Year’s Eve, with its depressingly desperate attempts at frivolity, and spend the evening watching tv or reading in peace and perfect health. This year my body has rebelled. I even begin to wonder if, after years of imitating illness at this time of the year, my body has begun to actually assume a set of symptoms (a sort of ‘body that cried sick’ syndrome).
At 11.00am, I am allowing the shopping trolley to push me around the supermarket. At 2.00pm, I am laying on the floor halfway between the bucket and the sofa. By 7.00pm I have given up all hope of celebration, and curl in a foetal position on my bed. Apart from the overwhelming nausea, I ache all over and suffer from weird temperature fluctuations. One minute I am icy, the next I am sweating.
My daughter and her boyfriend have been working all day, and have decided to stay home and spend the night watching tv. I soon wonder if they wish they hadn’t gone out after all. Every now and again I call out for help – a cool flannel, a glass of water, a bucket. I imagine they turn up the volume of the tv in an attempt to drown out my moaning.
I find myself slipping in and out of an increasingly bizarre series of dreams, all of which end with me screaming, crying or falling out of bed. I dream that I am trapped under my bed. I dream that I am trapped in an alternate reality and cannot move my legs. I dream that I have gone back in time. It is 1983. My family live in Iceland. I visit them and cry when my dead sister talks to me (she is taller than I remember.)
I dream that a cat has gone to sleep on my face, and I wake up gasping for breath. I dream that I am watching a Woody Allen western. I dream that Gene Hackman is presenting a lecture on animation. I dream that my workplace has initiated a complex bathroom roster. We now have to share toilet time. I don’t like the idea of unzipping in front of the receptionist.
When I dream that someone else is trapped under my bed, I decide ‘enough is enough’ and give up trying to sleep. I lay in the dark listening to the clock tick and the muffled sounds of television from the next room. As midnight approaches, I hear people in the next street count down the New Year, then cheer and set off firecrackers. Strangely enough, about ten minutes later, I hear another group of people doing the same thing in another direction. I realise that one of them must have been a dream…