New Year’s Day Special – Panti Monologue: ‘Begin Again’
I spent New Year’s Eve 1994 in a Tokyo nightclub in a silver dress with white feather accents.
At the time I was part of a double act called Candi Panti (how I got my ridiculous name is a whole other story for another day, but anyway…) in our matching stage frocks, Candi and I rang in the New Year with a few hundred of Tokyo’s least likely citizens, before rounding things off with – if memory serves me right – an Abba medley.
A friend of mine – a keen photographer – was visiting me from Ireland at the time, and a couple of hours later as the sun was beginning to illuminate 1995 for the very first time, Candi and I were drunkenly rolling around the floor of her apartment, screaming laughing and throwing shapes for my friend’s camera. So far, 1995 was the best year ever.
But as we gigglingly bent ourselves into another ridiculous pose, the room began to shake. For a moment, upside-down on Candi’s floor while she attempted unsuccessfully to do The Crab, I didn’t quite notice that the room had started to wobble, but when the earth below the city shook out it’s muscle with a first violent jerk, there was no mistaking it – and even if I had, the look on my suddenly-very-sober Irish friend’s face as he realised he was experiencing his first earthquake was enough to spell it out.
It wasn’t my first earthquake – I’d lived in quake-prone Tokyo long enough – so I knew exactly what to do (I even had my earthquake survival kit… somewhere… in my apartment across the hall) and I knew that at some point later today (assuming we weren’t all crushed to death in the next few minutes by Candi’s “Hello Kitty” collection falling on top of us!) our sweet old landlady who lived on the ground floor, Mrs Asakawa, would ask me if I did all the things I knew I was supposed to do, but I figured I’d just have to lie to her.
Because I didn’t grab my ashen-faced Irish friend and my drunk drag queen partner and shove them into a doorway or under the kitchen table. I knew this wasn’t “The Big One”.
No. The Big One wasn’t going to come and ruin this perfect new morning. Nothing could. I was twenty six years old, in a silver dress with white feathered accents, drunk and happy-tired on a Tokyo floor with two of my best friends, five hours into a brand new year – so far the best year ever! – and I just knew, as clearly as I knew anything, that this moment wasn’t going to kill me.
This wasn’t the end of my story, or any story. It wasn’t any kind of ending. This was the beginning of a story.
I didn’t know what that story was, but I was excited to find out, because I figured that any story that begins with two drunk drag queens and a handsome Irish photographer on a floor in Tokyo, was bound to be a good one.
No, this wasn’t The Big One. This was just the earth shaking everything out so we could start afresh, so we could begin again.
Shaking things up, shaking things off, shaking me awake.
So I lay there on my back, arms spread out, palms pressed into the floor, holding on, feeling the earth sway and jump beneath me, laughing and excited. Eyes squeezed shut… looking forward.
My snow globe was getting a good shake and I couldn’t wait to see where the glittering snow would settle.