Thursday, January 3, 2008

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

New Year's Eve 2006

I'm at a bar in Cambridge with my boyfriend and a large group of his friends. His old roommate is visiting from Alaska and has brought his fiancée; everyone is together again. It's fitting that we're at this bar, their old neighborhood hangout down the street from their old apartment. Everyone's having a good time, but I feel out of place, for some reason. Music starts playing and everyone begins to dance, but it's clear to me that I haven't had nearly enough to drink, and I hang back. People reach out, drag me by the hand to the dance floor, try to force my stiff and self-conscious body to bend and move to the music, but it can't be done. I hate this more than anything. All I want in the world is to be able to let go, to dance and have fun like everyone else, but when I get like this, there is nothing that I or anyone can do to change it. I am suddenly reminded of every single middle school dance I ever went to. I leave the dance floor, but there is nowhere else to go. The bar is crowded and everyone I know is on the dance floor. I can't get close enough to the bar to get a drink, I can't sit down. I feel lost and overwhelmed. My boyfriend takes a break from the party to find me.

"Babe, what's wrong?" he asks. I shake my head wordlessly, on the verge of tears. "I just want to have fun with my friends tonight," he pleads.

"So go." And he does, and I'm still lost, and more alone than ever. I feel an overwhelming urge to grab my coat, step out into the cold night air, and just start walking. Every part of me screams for escape, but then I think about him coming to look for me at midnight and not finding me. It would be too mean. It would be sabotage. And so I stay, and I sit awkwardly at a table with a couple who are part of our group, but who I don't know at all. They are deeply involved in intimate conversation, and it's obvious I am intruding. I look wistfully at their heads tilted close, at their obliviousness to their surroundings, at their happiness in being together.

Then the countdown begins, and suddenly it's midnight and the air is filled with the jubilant sound of cheers and noisemakers. The seconds tick by, and I start to wonder if he will even come to look for me at all. I imagine him in the other room, celebrating with his friends, sharing hugs, pats on the back, toasting to the new year. Just when I'm convinced he's not going to come, I see him making his way through the crowd, looking for me.

"Where were you?" he asks.

"Here," I say. "I've been right here." We kiss, and I can't remember ever being more miserable.

"Happy New Year," he says.

"Happy New Year."

Still to come: Ok, even I think this is getting out of control. Only one more New Year's Eve re-cap coming up, I promise.

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