I sprinted down the bowling alley the moment the televised countdown began, big, little-girl, eyes looking for my beacon: Dad. I’d stand under his arms, watching the boozy crowd slosh around us, swinging back and forth to Auld Lang Syne.
Some tangled together in the corners with their partners, rosy-cheeked and glassy-eyed. Back then I thought the glint in their eyes was Disney Princess caliber love shit, now I know assuredly it was the cheap champagne. Others gathered around cocktail tables, leaned miles away from their spouses while, their sugar-high kids romped on the outskirts, out of their way. I was one of the kids then, but I felt more at home with the grown-ups–nestled between winged chairs at the adult’s table, a towhead, old soul, boosted on stacks of coats to belly up to the bar.
They blew whistles and squealed, tossing confetti in the air, champagne flutes clinked and the crowd, like clockwork, poured into the parking lot to warm up their cars. I tucked close into my dad, paralyzed by emotion, tears pooling in my grey eyes.
Since I was a little girl I’ve cried every New Years Eve; tears of joy and tears of pain–tears that pour from a soul tortured by inconceivable, abundant, radiant love for the world around me and a desperate desire to stifle my just as prosperous, unspoken pain.
This is beautiful.
Make it all stop.
I am so grateful.
I want it all to change.
I love you.
I hate you.
Let’s never leave this moment.
Promise me it can all be different now.
For a decade I wanted to ring the new year in right–from the clock tower, dressed to the nines; in the porcelain clawfoot, red-wine buzzed, blissed in bubbles; tanned toes buried in the sand, transfixed by a sparkly sky. I wrote the narrative that New Year’s Eve was a night for celebration and unbridled, ridiculous fucking love, and I was humbled routinely by boozy nights unfit to be called a holiday, let alone a memorable event.
On the eve of 2013, my fiancé and I cheers-ed plastic NyQuil cups in the humidifier haze, mounds of Kleenex stacked around us. The clock barely struck eight before the cold meds kicked in. I wanted to get married on that New Years Eve — my most favorite, romantically symbolic day of the year. We chose Friday, the 13th instead.
“Hey man, our friend has no one to kiss her at midnight. You gonna help us out?” my friends slurred across the high-top to our waiter. Earlier in the night, an old friend pulled me aside, “Divorce looks good on you, girl!” she shrieked. When the familiar countdown blared from the TVs, I pushed the graciously, loose-lipped waiter’s shoulders away and asked for another vodka instead. I rung in 2018 with my traditional tears in a bar bathroom, these made of pain entirely, washed in loneliness and doused in shame.
On the heels of another New Year’s Eve and the inaugural celebration of the day I told a man forever and subsequently flopped, I find myself in a familiar place: lodged between an idealistic hope and cynicism laden pain.
The juvenile, big-eyed little girl in me still relishes in the idea of the perfect party dress, tucked into the comfortable arms of unconditional love; clinking the good champagne and devotedly kissing the person I know I’ll kiss for another year. While the tired, broken down woman in me says to pop the cork on a bottle of Cooks and Xanax my way past the celebratory shenanigans from my dirty sheets, alone.
The fairytales say to stay the course. Magic is something you make.
But life has said, repeatedly: slap the goddamn stars from your eyes and bail.
There are lessons in these uncomfortable bits–the nights spent fighting, too pissed at each other to muster a platonic fist-bump when the clock struck twelve; the boozy, party nights from years past with Dad, Mom at home, with no desire to join; now, nights ignoring the incessant nag of Facebook Memories, assuring friends I’m doing fine.
And there is understanding in the reality of it all. This year will not be the year that this starry-eyed girl gets her night, wrapped securely in adoring arms, glazed in happy-tears, swaying to Auld Lang Syne. And perhaps, that night will never actually come. Perhaps the Pollyanna narrative of all-consuming gratitude and love, studded in sequins and untouched by mind-crushing champagne hangovers will remain on my already bursting proverbial shelf of life’s fiction.
And so I ask, must we, blissed out on the “blessings” of the season, wrap up our year up with a tight, pretty little bow? Is it necessary to find the perfect post-Christmas cookie season cocktail dress, keep the lipstick off our teeth and muster a one-line quip about how far we’ve come this year?
Instead can we toss our arms above our heads, whether coifed and tucked next to your beau or unwashed on the living room floor; look ourselves in the mirror honestly with sparkling, smokey eyes or faces, puffy and red and rather than exclaim our joy to the masses at midnight, can we just slur, Thank fucking god it’s over. Now it’s a new year.