13th January, 2006-B
I first became aware of the problem -- no, phenomena, it’s not always a problem -- when I woke up on January 1st 2006-B and my dog was still alive. Spooky greeted me in bed as he’d always done before, leaning up with his head to rest his wet nose on the pillow next to me. I thought it couldn’t be real -- that I’d eaten too much the night before, or the champagne was too much for little 14-year-old me.
None of my family members understood what I meant. They all said that I must have had a dream, a weird premonition that Spooky would finally give in to old age. I tried to explain that I knew when he’d go because I could remember living through 2006 already. I’d spend the next weeks on the edge of tears whenever I saw, smelt, thought of a dog. By November we’d have gotten a new dog, Floss, who was definitely not confusable -- a Collie instead of a Labrador. And I’d know the difference anyway.
With no-one to believe me, I counted down the first thirteen days of 2006-B with dread, fearing the moment that Spooky would finally give up on us. I didn’t know what time it had happened last year -- 2006-A -- only that I’d come home in the evening and it had. This time I’d change things the best I can. I turned down the invitation to go out with friends, feigning family obligations. I was obliged, in a way; I had to stay by Spooky’s side, until eventually the dreadful moment came. At 4.27pm, Spooky passed away, and this time -- 2006-B -- I was there to see him out.
21st July 2010-B
“What on earth do you mean? You live each year twice?”
I nodded at Patricia and held my breath for a second, before blowing out smoke. The room was dark, the sun dipping below the horizon, although much came through the windows anyway. The two of us shared a joint whilst sketching for college, drawing each other’s pretty faces in charcoal or ink. I passed the joint to her before replying.
“That’s exactly what happens. The first time it’s all new to me, I’ve never seen it before. Then I wake up on January 1st on Year B -- that’s what I call it -- and I go through it all again.”
“That’s crazy. But why are you still here?” she took a toke in and held it whilst speaking. “Haven’t you, like, predicted the lottery or something?”
I shrugged. “I can’t keep anything from Year A. Nothing stays -- no notes, books, whatever -- nothing but me. It’s hard enough trying to remember what happens.”
I told her what the first few days of January were like for me now, every B Year. I’d stay up until midnight on December 31st, running through mnemonics, revising notes I’d made of the last twelve months. Anything important, that I wanted to try and change, that I’d try to do better, I’d vainly try to commit to memory, and when Year B came I’d grab a bit of paper and scrawl down as many notes as I could. But as the clock struck midnight, so my mind was struck by a kind of fog, and try as I might I’d barely manage to remember the most important things.
“Wow, so, what did you remember for this year? Anything crazy happen?”
She leant over with a grin and passed me the joint again. As our fingers touched, exchanging the last little bit, I wondered whether I’d tell her right now and come clean, that tonight -- in 2010-A -- was the first time we’d kissed. I was so nervous for it last time, but this time it was a totally different kind of nerves. Would telling her ruin the moment? What did I even dolast time to lead up to it? I desperately wanted to repeat things exactly the same, to not change anything and accidentally swerve the course of things away from what had come before.
“What’s wrong? You look like something’s on your mind.”
I turned to Patricia to answer, and she had leant forward, her face horribly -- wonderfully -- close to mine. I felt myself blush and she giggled in response.
“Here. Let me take your mind off it.”
Ah. I needn’t have worried.
3rd March 2013-A
If I’d been able to rely on the phenomenon, I could have had an easy time of it every Year A -- if the world would reset come January, what motivation was there to get things right the first time? But this train of thought didn’t stay. 2008-A had been the only year I completely checked out; I didn’t try at school in final exams, I didn’t do my best applying for college, I fucked up a few friendships from not putting in the effort. As December rolled around I was gripped by a terror; what if this year it didn’t happen? What if my behaviour tarnished me for the rest of my life? When I woke up into 2008-B I made a resolution never to clock out like that, and to do right by life the first year around. If, then, I tried my best at Year A, I could do even better in Year B.
So in 2013-A, the final year of my degree course, I had an extra challenge. Not only would I aim as high as I could, to finish my degree with top marks and the best connections; I would along the way try to pick out things that weren’t as good as they could be. The essay I made a critical mistake in; the food left on the side too long that gave me food poisoning; the postgrad position I missed the application deadline for. These went in my diary, day-to-day, and on my pinboard of things to try again.
Every time Patricia came around she would take great pleasure in going over my pinboard, picking out things she thought just as valid, things she thought wouldn’t matter. Sometimes, even, things she thought I should leave.
“You want to do that essay better?”
“Of course. I could’ve gotten a First if I hadn’t screwed that one up.”
Patricia sighed and stroked my arm, looking thoughtful. “Do you remember what you did after that? You came to my flat and spent a week moping about. I cooked dinners for you and we watched cartoons together in bed for the whole time, until you cheered up enough to go home again.”
I remembered that now. I glanced away from Patricia, unable to meet her gaze. She continued talking, manoeuvring in front of me.
“You want to redo that? You’d rather do well and stay in your own flat?”
“Patricia, that’s not how it is. I -- I’ll spend the time with you anyway, you know that.”
“Do I? I don’t remember every other year you’ve spent with me. It’s horrid -- to think there’s times you’ve spent with me that you decided the next time -- your B Year or whatever -- to spend differently.”
I lied to her and said, “I’ve never made that choice. I’ve always spent the time with you.”
She went silent and looked me in the eye.
“You may have twice as many year’s experience, but you’re still a bad liar.”
3rd March 2013-B
Before Patricia came around today, I double-checked and made sure I’d removed the note about the failed essay. I’d passed it this year round, and visited her afterwards to celebrate. This time, Year B, we didn’t split up.
2013-B panned out otherwise much the same; every sunrise rose the same, every bird tweeted in the trees the same, every meal I cooked -- and every one I ruined -- turned out the same. Only Patricia was still with me, we were still in love; and the sunrises were more beautiful for it, and the bird’s songs were more lovely for it, and the meals -- even the ones I ruined -- tasted all the better for it.
Sometimes, when a Year B drew to an end and new uncharted time stretched out before me, I wondered whether it had been worth it to go over again, to relive and repeat, or redo, each of the three-hundred-sixty-five days. This year, 2013-B, I knew it was worth it.