ANUJA MITRA

 

Leap second

 

It wasn’t for news that we crammed into that room, mouths to the mike like gospel singers at a basement gig. No one listens to school radio stations. Scratch that: no one listens to school radio stations like mothers. Who else would tune in to earnest children sharing their favourite foods? There was no news, but there was Britney’s ‘Toxic,’ Jamelia’s ‘Superstar,’ Atomic Kitten’s ‘The Tide is High.’ Memory shocks with its constancy. On the final night of 2005, I watched the metallic spray of fireworks over my best friend’s roof. She and I were inseparable, as entwined as nesting dolls. We were the reigning stars of each other’s system; everything else was just dust and space junk. 

There was no news, except of course there was — Bush back in power, Charles and Camilla hitched, Hurricane Katrina wrecking the Gulf Coast. The Kyoto Protocol committed us to shrinking emissions, and everyone thought: there’s still time left. The first video was uploaded to YouTube, the internet closing over us like an oil spill, and no one thought: some moments aren’t meant to be immortal. Radio became something of our parents’ yesterdays. No waiting and flicking through channels, no wading through what we didn’t want to hear. It was a new age of productivity. Speed was a virtue and we all aimed for sainthood. 

We wouldn’t learn about the leap second until later; that rather than less time, the year had gifted us more. Which is to say that on New Year’s Eve, the sky crumbling like a mosaic, my friend and I had held each other for one more breath. It didn’t matter if the coming month was unkind. We were queens of the switchboard and its blinking ocean of lights; playing the songs we loved but couldn’t have forever. You’re so desperate to leave your youth that you romanticise the escape. You grow up before you know and you lose more than you can save. The tide is high if you’re not holding on.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anuja Mitra lives in Tāmaki Makaurau | Auckland. Her work has most recently appeared in Landfall, Haven Speculative and Unbroken and is forthcoming in Bright Flash Literary Review, Idle Ink and Poetry New Zealand. She can be found on the dying platform that is Twitter: @anuja_m9.