The last night of the year, after the clock has struck midnight and she has kissed her children wishing them a happy new year, after she has put them to bed as they complain – half asleep – that it is still early and like every year she replies that at this hour even Cinderella is back come, after she has washed the dishes and arranged the cushions on the sofa, dressed in her night gown, she looks out of the window and reflects. She recollects the New Year’s Eves of her life, when she was a girl and used to go to parties badly dressed and stay in a corner to watch the others dance and love, locking herself up in the bathroom or hiding in the cloakroom at midnight because she didn’t want to kiss all those strangers.
She remembers when, years later, she used to flee abroad and in the public squares she forgot who she was, drunk on alcohol and freedom. Every year it seemed something special was going to happen but then nothing ever happened.
The hours before spent in the attempt to remedy to what she hadn’t done during the year as if the new year should change her life. As if the first of January marked a new beginning with all its blessed good intentions that actually never – or rarely – come true, because life goes strange ways and what we don’t understand today is going to mean something tomorrow, or maybe we simply surrender and content ourselves, or forget our dreams.
The last day of the year, a sort of analysis of what had happened and what she wished had happened.
Here it comes again, the strange melancholy she used to feel when she was a child and watched the cartoon of the little match girl and every time she used to cry, incredulous about such an injustice. She smiles bitterly, and remembers that, over time, she has become indifferent too, and has often walked on big city streets, side by side with the homeless, without minding them too much.
Once again, when she turned forty, she had believed that things would change. She thought she could sit down on the sofa and have a chat with him. But she was there instead, alone, looking at distant fireworks through her bedroom window, and she imagined him sitting – alone as well – on his sofa at home, maybe thinking of her, maybe thinking, as she did, that this is how life goes on, and we have to accept it. Real life is not like Eight is enough or the story of Elizabeth and Darcy. In real life, the last night of the year is just a night like any other, if not for all the noisy colours that can be seen from a distance. A night when wonderful things may happen like on any other night, or nothing at all.
Every year she goes back to that 1st January in Bologna when it had been snowing during the night. Nothing special had happened, but waking up early in the morning in a white town, immersed in silence, and walking through its streets without meeting anybody but the cold. On that 1st January she was almost sure that everything was going to change.
It was all dressed in white like a bride who is about to start a new life.