This is the year

This is the year. The one we’ve been waiting for. The lovely rounded beautiful 2022. I have a thing about numbers, especially ones that match up and make sense. 2020 was all set to be brilliant. Until. 2021 was never going to amount to much. How could it? But 2022. I’m afraid to say it out loud. I’ve been using these numbers in various ways over all the years. Tossing them around and making things out of them.

‘You may want to think about changing the pin for your iPhone and laptop this year mum. If they get stolen anyone would be able to guess them’, marque 4 offers. Wrecking my high as the New Year chimes in. There’s no way I’m changing. These numbers have served me well. It’s my birthday after all. In a sort of mirror writing. Or perhaps it’s a prolonged cry for help. SOSS.

‘Imagine this year my birthday will be 22022022’, I offer as a deflection. No one can mess with that.

‘And it’s a Tuesday’, marque 2 offers. Good old marque 2. I can always rely on him to join my vibe.

‘So that‘s another 2, the 2nd weekday of the 2nd month on the 22nd day in the year 22’. That’s my boy.

So this is the year of new beginnings. Last year was a train wreck, from start to finish, peppered with occasional glimpses of joy, but overall one to run away from, quick smart. A lovely Christmas though, we were pinching ourselves with how relaxed it was, how we were pulling it all back, re-framing the year from hell. But then marque 2 ventured out to meet friends on St Stephen’s Day and we were reminded that we were still actually in the year from hell.

I dropped him off early evening, 5.30 ish. They’d arranged to meet outside to avoid the crowds and dodge Omicron. Sensible boys. Another friend was to join them – marque 2 had a gift for him as he’s due to head off to study abroad. However, he carried out an antigen test before meeting up and it was positive. Responsible boy. Marque 2 phoned to let me know about the test.

‘God, that was a close one’, I said, laughing at the narrow escape. We’d all be down for the rest of the holiday. There’s no such thing as self-isolation in a family with many more people than bedrooms.

‘What are you going to do now, come home? I can get you.’

‘I’ll stay out for a bit, may as well now that I’m here’.

‘Phone me for a lift back later’, I said, thinking there wouldn’t be much transport, and I didn’t want him walking home.

The phone call I get, not an hour later, is the stuff of nightmares. He’s keen to let me know from the outset that he’s okay.

He’s not okay.

Not in my book.

Assaulted and robbed. But alive, I think this is what he means when he’s telling me he’s okay. Picture this. The two friends can see the bandstand in the park all lit up for Christmas. They go to it to take some selfies. Moths to a flame. A gang of four approaches, demanding money. They punch marque 2’s head as they try to wrestle his bag from him. They punch his chest. They call out ‘chase and stab’. He lets his bag go, his jacket is pulled off his back along with it and the two friends run for their lives up through the park and out onto the main road. They keep running until they get to a house and knock on the door. A lovely elderly couple opens the door and lets them in. They ask the couple to wear masks for their own protection. Marque 2 worries about them, this lovely couple with strangers in their house so he starts talking, heart pounding, about his well-known grandfather to put them at ease – they’d know him from the area as well from the television. I can hear them laughing as he speaks, he keeps me on the phone. They tell the boys that they have grandchildren the same age. That they’re delighted to be able to help and to keep them safe. They’d hate to think of their grandchildren in this situation. They offer water. The guards are on their way. My husband is on his way.

*

The next morning I set the alarm for an early rise, not that much sleep has been had. I have it in my head that they’ll have taken what that want and dumped the rest. It will be restorative to retrieve something, anything, for him, but it’s his passport that I really want to find.

‘Wake up, we’re going to the park’, I say to a deliciously slumbering, lightly snoring husband.

‘Oh, lovely, which park?’

Which park.

Perhaps I should leave him to it. Let him doze on and wake gently at a reasonable hour thinking the day is full of promise.

But it’s still dark out there.

It would be dangerous to go alone.

‘The assault park’, I offer, and watch as it dawns on him, his eyes pinging open to the horror of the memory of last night.

We go. We scour. We’re lucky. Very lucky. His bag, empty. His jacket from the vintage shop, inside out from it being reefed off him. The Christmas stocking that he had the gift for his friend in. A card from my mum up near the bandstand, congratulating him on something. The See Change green ribbon (to reduce mental health stigma) he keeps pinned to the outside of his bag, up along the chase route. His leap card. We split off and circle all routes looking for the passport. I’m looking in the river when my husband rounds the corner waving it at me. It had been shoved into a bush, his little white vaccination card sticking out of it which is how my husband spotted it in the dark dense leaves. A needle in a haystack but there it was. I whoop with joy. Something about them not having his identity powers me. We go back to where the bag was found. Right there in a corner of mulsh seems to be a small phone. We pick it up.

‘A burner phone’, I say as my husband gives me a ‘who am I actually married to’ look. I wonder if I’ve missed my calling. Perhaps I’m meant to be an investigator. I’ll give the career change some thought in the new year.

We take all the stuff to the police station, half wondering why it’s us doing this and not them. They knew where the assault and robbery had taken place. It’s 15 hours later. They haven’t even been down.

‘And that’s a burner phone, we’re pretty sure’, I say, explaining to the fresh faced young guard, wordless and startled like a deer in headlights.

‘Someone was calling it after we picked it up, but we thought best not to answer it’, my husband offers.

‘And they went off down the lane in the direction of the dart station, we found another couple of bits from his bag along there’, I say thinking about the gift wrapping, the gift well gone.

‘There’s a good CCTV camera pointing down, they’ll have been picked up on that’. I feel as if I should be offered a white-board to draw it all out, like in one of those crime shows, until a more senior jovial officer joins in and asks if they can keep the stuff for DNA, fingerprints and the like. Could even get some blood off the badge pin he tells us. That gives me a little thrill. The thugs being caught, pricked by the pin on the See Change badge.

Absolutely you can, keep it all we say. Finally doing something. We’re a great team, us and the guards. Turns out we actually are. Marque 2 gets a phone call.

‘We have them on the dart CCTV and with all the evidence we, I mean you, brought in to us we know who they are. Arrests are imminent’.

So we’re taking this as our cue for solving things in the glorious 2022. We’re starting with the house. We’ve been challenged so far but we’re up to it. The cold water tap in the kitchen has decided to run and run. We can’t turn it off. Marque 3 gets out a gadget with a fix all look to it. I find a wrench. We use both to no avail. Marque 4, engineer in the making, comes down with a 5kg dumbbell and plonks it on top of the tap. Bingo. The pressure stems the flow. It falls over and nearly kills the goldfish so we angle and wedge it behind the tap and stand back to admire our work. We move the fish to the sitting room. I call a plumber. He can’t get out until the next day. I tell him about our temporary solution, how we won’t, actually, drown overnight.

‘Good girl’, he says. He’s a lovely older man. I am a child, being taken care of.

‘That was a genius idea’, he says.

I feel myself grow in the glow of this unexpected compliment, this nod to some well out of reach DIY competence, while telling him it was actually one of the sons.

‘Genius anyway, see you tomorrow’, he says.

This is the year.

Solutions. Fixed taps. Travel.

A book on the shelves.

2022.

Sure how could it not be?

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