Pitch black, cloying darkness.
Drought. Scraping at my throat.
I steady myself and walk, warily, towards the lectern. My footsteps thud against the cold wooden floor. Their echo bounces off the walls lying submerged within the darkness. I reach the lectern. I steady myself, clutching at the podium with both hands.
Full, beaming light. A spotlight. Targeted at me. On me.
I lay out the notes before me. Their order, their sequence, sent awry in the fumbling fidgeting chaos of the previous minutes. My collar nags at my increasingly, and uncomfortably, warm neck. Settle, I try to tell myself. Just. Settle.
I find the strength to look up. Instantly I am temporarily blinded by the light. By its majesty. All its artificially created majesty. I thrust my hand up to shield my eyes. This reduces my two-handed support structure to one . I feel the strength slipping.
I hear a cough. Singular. Isolated. Taunting. I look out but darkness is still all I can see. Within the darkness I see slight movements, yes. Outlines, fragments, shapes perhaps. But mainly darkness. They’re there though. I know it. I sense it. I feel it.
I cough to clear the dryness in my throat. It stands its ground, mocking me almost. You’ll have to do much better than that. I cough again. The same. Why didn’t I bring water? How could I be so stupid? I swallow. Gulp. Exhale. I begin…
My resounding, booming declaration rebounds of the mic, squealing feedback pierces my ears in response. I wince. I adjust the mic slightly.
‘January!’ I repeat, this time softer. ‘A month we should celebrate! I declare this to you all here, now, and forever more. All you who have come to the great Month Exhibit, the world-renowned and universally-loved institute of M.E, I ask you to join me in an outpouring of love, respect and celebration for the month of January. The month of renewal, the month of beginnings, the month of resolutions! Resolutions to do better, to BE better, to be something, someone, anything new. To flush out the past, the previous year, and start afresh. To be what you need to be, what you wish to be and all that you can be. To be…’
‘Shite month.’ a voice shoots out of the darkness.
‘I’m…I’m a sorry?’ I stutter.
‘January.’ comes the reply. ‘It’s a shite month.’
‘I erm, I appreciate your feedback sir but if you’d just let me explain that…’
‘Too cold.’ Another voice sears out of the chasm of darkness. This time from the opposite end of the auditorium. ‘And dark. Aye. Too dark and cold.’
‘Miserable.’ chimes in another voice in agreement.
‘Bleak, shitey, cold, horrible, depressing little pissy crappy shitehawk of a month!’ elaborates another in a voice remarkably similar to the ones before.
I feel my confidence trembling. Dissolving into a black bitter pool of anxiety.
‘Gentlemen, if you’d just let me explain. It’s, it’s…like I said…it’s the chance for renewal. All the stress of the festivities are done and…’
‘It’s pish!’ shouts another. ‘Christmas being done and that! Aye, pure pish!’
‘He’s right!’ agrees another voice, again floating from another area of the darkness. ‘You can’t be arsed with Christmas and al that beforehand but then you get used to the colours eh. You get used to the festive…what’s the word…the festive spirit. So tae speak. You take the decorations and tree and that down after Christmas and what are you left with? Fuck all, that’s what! The hoose is bare, the walls seem bare. Boring. Cold. Naw mate, you can stop yer speech because it’s just…well, it’s all just pish.’
‘It’s just all so…bloody exhausting.’ utters another hoarsely.
‘The thought of having to do it all over again. It’s just…it’s just exhausting. That’s what it is.’
‘No no no no’ I stammer hurriedly. ‘It’s the month for planning, the month to decide, the month to take your life by the scruff off the neck and ensure that this is the year, YES, this is the year that the pieces will fall into place! So I say here and now that…’
‘What happens when they don’t?’ a calm voice echoes around the room. One filled with arrogance, with conviction.
‘I’m sorry…I’m…sorry, what?’
‘What happens when the year starts to go like any other?’ responds the voice. ‘What happens when you get to April or May, say, and you’ve found the year is just as drab and non-eventful as all the others before it. And all the others yet to come, no doubt. What happens then? When all your resolutions are forgotten? When all your plans have went the way of the leftover Christmas food and drink, hmm? What happens then?’
‘Well…’ I begin, ‘look, you’re all missing the point. The point is if our attitude is more positive, if we approach the year with optimism then…’
‘But it’s dark!’ shouts a voice.
‘And cold! Freezing fucking cold!’ cries another.
‘And ages til payday when you’re already skint!’
‘I mean, like, really really shite!’
‘And more of the same!’
The voices roll into one. Relentless, chanting, persistent. I step away from the lectern. The heat claws at my skin. The voices claw at my mind. At my nerves. I try to summon up the words, the articulation, the reasoning. I try to summon the energy to defend the month, to defend January. To defend my resolution. Once so strong, so assured. Now so feeble and broken. I look into the darkness. Look into the voices.
I walk away from the podium, throwing my notes to the ground as I walk off stage. The voices chattering, colliding, nagging all the while.
‘Fuck you January’ I mutter.
Yes, fuck you January.