Nobody Likes New Year’s
The best one’s that I recall were those when I was a child; sitting cross-legged on the bed with Laura, watching Dick Clark count down the new year while our parents danced and ate and did adulty-things in the grand ballroom at Hôtel Le Chantecler. We were exhausted from a full day of skiing, but found it within ourselves stay awake for the big moment: a new year!
When midnight struck we yelled and threw homemade confetti all over the room. We found bits of ripped up colored paper tangled into our hair for days afterward, and it was beautiful.
As time moved forward we stopped going on our annual ski trips to Canada, and Laura and I parted ways on New Year’s Eve, to hang out with our respective friends. When I was a senior in high school, I went to a party at Melissa’s house. She was one of my best friends, so I had made arrangements to sleep at her place after the festivities.
By 11:15, the party was in full force- the entire high school, it seemed, had shown up. People were sloppily trying to hold conversations together, while ping-pong balls were thrown around, aimed at red solo cups on the game table. I’m pretty sure someone ate Melissa’s pet goldfish. What I’m trying to say is, things were going well.
I walked through her basement confidently, sure that tonight I’d get back together with my ex-boyfriend, conveniently forgetting that it was I who’d wronged him a couple months prior. As the time was moving closer to midnight, people were closing in on the television. I smeared on another layer of chapstick. It was time to make my move.
I looked up flirtatiously in his direction and our eyes locked. In every clichéd way imaginable, my breath caught and my cheeks flushed. I felt a warming sensation throughout my body, but it was a good warmth. I continued to stare as he broke his eyes away, and in slow motion, I watched him turn and interlock his hands with her’s.
The warmth in my body became a burn that erupted like lava into a scream that was thankfully masked by the sudden excitement of the countdown.
Happy New Year!
He kissed her. My kiss. I ran outside, swerving and ducking to avoid the drunkards who stood in my path. I was completely hysterical, crying and smashing things. Kicking the side of the house like a complete lunatic. My friends came to my side and they urged me to calm down. 1997 had begun.
Many more New Year’s Eves came and went, never with much of an impact. Resolutions made, resolutions broken, resolutions forgotten. Auld lang syne.
When I had one baby, then two, New Year’s Eve became a very quiet holiday. My husband and I would go out to dinner with the kids early, before the expensive prix fix began, then get into bed, inevitably falling asleep before the ball had been dropped in Times Square.
More recently, we had spent the holiday at a friend’s house while my sister Maggie agreed to stay at my place to watch the kids. It was a small gathering to enjoy food, drinks, and chatting amongst a few couples. My husband and I had been going to marriage counseling at that point, but no one knew.
Remembering that one of the therapist’s suggestions was to “act” like a happy married couple, I tried my best, though it seemed unnatural, to sit close, feigning affection and tenderness. At midnight, after I kissed him, he looked at me with disgust. There was venom in his eyes.
When we got home, we fought, then took our spots the bed, lying as far away from each other as possible. The next morning, on New Year’s Day, we went to brunch with my family, who were all still visiting for the holiday. Maggie and Dad were scheduled to begin the long drive back to the Carolinas following our bacon-infused overindulgence.
Every couple of hours that day, my mom would update Kyle and I about their whereabouts, while we took turns sitting on the floor playing with the kids.
“They’re in Pennsylvania!”
“They’re in Virginia now!”
“They made it to North Carolina!”
By this time, evening had come, and we retired to our bedroom, where we once again began fighting in hushed voices. It was one of the first times that I realized that it wasn’t going to be okay. It wasn’t going to all work out in the end.
Exhaustion overtook my body and I fell into a cheerless, dreamless sleep. I remember the sound of the bedroom door being flung open and thumping against the hinges. I lethargically yet automatically sat up. My mother’s shaky figure was in the doorway. She spoke, but the words didn’t make sense to me. Nothing from that moment forward really registered. I remember jumping out of my bed, grabbing the phone from my mom. I remember running down the stairs and wrapping myself in a blanket. I remember being freezing. And I remember the words my sister spoke over the phone, “He’s gone.”
Each year since then, on New Year’s Day I find myself staring at my reflection in the wood-framed bathroom mirror, hoping to find some of that beautiful homemade confetti in my hair.
Nobody likes New Year’s.