Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Why I'm glad New Year's Eve only comes once a year, Part II

New Year's Eve 1999

It's the big one, the big 2-0-0-0, and it's all everyone's been talking about for the last 364 days. Though we've been told it isn't technically the beginning of the new millenium, there's no way we're waiting another year to celebrate it. And though theories abound, no one knows exactly what will happen at the stroke of midnight, with the threat of the Y2K bug hanging heavy in the air. We've been informed that the alarmist theories are merely that, and though we know that most likely nothing at all will happen, secretly everyone wishes for a small catastrophe, for a story, something to tell our children years from now about where we were and what happened when the clock struck twelve and we all quite suddenly were thrust into The Future: At the stroke of midnight, ATMs everywhere started spitting out cash into the streets. Twenties and fifties flew high into the air and fluttered down like leaves; all you had to do was reach out and catch them. Then everywhere the lights went out, and everyone in the neighborhood came outside and played flashlight tag, and then we made a bonfire and roasted marshmallows. I've never seen anything like it. It was the best night of my life.

It's the one time we can sing "Gonna party like it's 1999" and mean it, and we do, playing it over and over in the living room at Mike's parents' house, dancing wildly, knocking ornaments off the tree, and causing the stereo to skip on nearly every down beat in our enthusiasm. It's Mike's third annual New Year's Eve Party and Sleepover, and though we've all been at different colleges for three semesters now, when we're together it's like nothing has changed.

And perhaps that's part of the problem; nothing has changed. But sometimes, as on the eve of this momentous occasion, you want things to change. You want something to Happen, and when it doesn't, when faced with the same old Sameness, something of the glow vanishes. I'm bummed because the guy I like isn't paying attention to me, as usual. Talia's in a similar situation, and so we commiserate on the couch, becoming more gloomy and dour with each passing song, with each minute that brings us closer to midnight. Arms folded over our chests, we grumble as people pass us by without a glance. It's like we're not even alive. God! Even our friends are ignoring us. And where is Jason? we wonder. He'll either snap us out of our funk or join it with us, and either option is good enough for us. But he left the party forever ago to pick up a cake that he made from his house and he shows no sign of retuning any time soon. Talia and I decide to go for a walk in the direction of Jason's house. We will meet him there and hurry him along back to the party with us. If he leaves before we get there he'll have to pass us on the way, and we can get a ride back with him. We step out into the cold, crisp air, and almost immediately a car filled with three obviously intoxicated guys pulls up next to us.

"Heyyyyy," they say. "Where ya goin?"

"Uh, we're leaving a party," we say.

"There's a party?" they say. "Can we come?"

Talia and I look at each other, imagining how shocked they would be at the scene back at Mike's house: Trivial Pursuit and cans of Coke, and no alcohol in sight. We were nineteen and we didn't drink, not even on New Year's Eve, a fact which wouldn't strike us as odd until years later. "Um, I don't think it's your kind of party," we tell them.

"Oh, come on..." they say.

"No, really," we insist. "It's just...board games and stuff."

"Well, do you want to come with us then?" they ask. Talia and I look at each other.

"No thanks," we say, and keep walking as they speed off. Immediately we regret our decision. "Maybe we should have gone with them," Talia says. "Yeah, at least it would be something. At least something would finally happen." And we curse our mothers for having raised us right, although secretly we are glad they did.

By car Jason's house seems practically next door, but we soon realize that on foot it's quite a bit further than either of us had thought. We finally arrive only to be told by his mother than Jason has already left. "But he would have had to pass us on the road!" we sputter. "That's impossible!" We turn around and head back to Mike's house dejectedly. "I bet no one has even noticed we're gone," I predict, as suddenly all around us loud cheers pour out of houses and fireworks go off over the rooftops. And now we've missed it. Of course. Our most important New Year's Eve so far, and instead of being with our friends, blowing into noisemakers, hugging and toasting sparkling cider, we're out here, alone, freezing our asses.

"Well," Talia says optimistically, "you know what? Everyone else is missing these fireworks."

"That's true," I say. "I do love fireworks."

"And you know, at least we're together."


"And years from now, I'll be able to tell my kids that on the first minute of the first day of the year 2000, I was with my best friend, Rach."

"Happy New Year, Tal."

"Happy New Year, Rach."

Up next: New Year's Eve 2006, a bar, a boy, and a breakdown at midnight.


  1. Apparently I was one of the ones that hadn't changed. :-( Jason's going to love the publicity though.

  2. At the stroke of midnight, ATMs everywhere started spitting out cash into the streets. Twenties and fifties flew high into the air and fluttered down like leaves; all you had to do was reach out and catch them.

    Dreams die hard, the dreams of the young especially so! :)