My life, as I knew it, ended ten days ago.
“Ten,” the party organizer shouted over the loudspeaker at the New Year’s Eve Party, as he began the countdown to 2020.
Yeah, Ten. What a number. Ten days ago. December 21st, the day she tore me to pieces with a letter she handed me out the window of her car as she backed out of her driveway. Saying she had Christmas shopping to do, and she assumed I knew this was coming.
Seeing the fear in her face as she rolled up the window and backed away, my hands trembled as I open her tucked, not sealed, envelope with my name and the letter inside. As I read the words, knives cut me to pieces, and I twisted my legs around each other to ease the pain. I don’t even want to recall those words, but I remember when I finished and looked up into space, I remembered an ancient song called In Your Letter and the one key phrase that was now repeating in my mind… “You coulda said it better.” She sure as hell could have. I had felt distancing from her, but I thought it was the hustle of the season, and in my burning feelings for her, I chose to ignore the obvious. No way to ignore this.
“Nine,” Larry the MC had counted on his way to zero and welcoming a new year.
I mean, how do you recover just before Christmas, school is out for the vacation break, and all was going to be so perfect. I had the key to a friend’s garage apartment who was gone, and we were going to make wild love until the wee hours and bind the burning passion I thought was mutual between us.
Nine days ago, my dreams were a thousand feet at the bottom of the ocean. Forever drowned. I was numb. Everything a watery grave.
“Eight,” resounded around the room, and everyone was counting down with him. Hopping up and down, holding hands and other body parts, about to enjoy the massive lingering kiss of the New Year coming in seconds.
And, eight days ago, the clock hands moved like gremlins were invisibly holding on to the hands to make every minute of the day more torturous to me to suffer through. Misery, they said, became amplified by the Christmas season if something awful happened. Were ‘they’ ever right.
“Seven,” the loudspeakers boomed as party exploding streamers held in anticipation of welcoming in the decade, and new, exciting events in store for many of the party-goers.
It rained all day Christmas Eve, and it was a fitting atmosphere for my spirits. Disaster three days ago and the agony was worse, not easing with time passing. I tracked mud on mom’s carpet, and instead of the scolding I’d expected, she told me to go ahead and she’d clean it up.
“Six,” Larry’s voice boomed over the crowd. He was almost halfway through the countdown to the zero seconds, and the celebration promised to be a blow-out.
Six days ago, Christmas arrived with my moping in my room, and my mother prodding me like a teenager wanting to sleep late on a school day. I didn’t care about sleeping. Christmas, and I was miserable and wanted no company and no conversation on this morning. With considerable prodding and “Oh, come on, you’ll have fun with us opening our stockings and gifts. Santa filled a stocking for you too, I believe.”
For their sake, I dragged in dressed in underwear and a bathrobe, all I intended to put on this Christmas. Dad wished me “Merry Christmas” and proceeded to joke about my mood. I didn’t feel like the subject of the jokes, but some were actually funny, and I could not help but smile.
“There, you see?” Dad said, “You’re not totally void of some humor since you got ‘put down, slapped around and run over with the steamroller,’ six days ago.”
I hated to admit, this was getting old, allowing her to do this to my feelings. Mom spoke up, “Son, if that girl could know how you are hurting, would she be smiling? She sounds like she might be the type to do it.”
I began to have some thoughts about all that. She never even inquired of any of our mutual friends how I might be doing after she blew me apart. Perhaps she never cared, not for real.
“Five,” the MC announced with particular emphasis being halfway there.
Five days ago, the day after Christmas, my parents reminded me of the school student-alumni holiday party being held that night at a local rec center. Though invited each year as a student, I never went. Mom was really insistent that I go because, she said, I felt like the man in black carrying the long-handled scythe looming over the household. “Lift everyone’s spirits, go and see some of your buddies that I am sure will be there. You’ll feel better, and so will your father and me.
Not a bad party, I thought, looking around. Nice to visit with some old friends.
“Well, hello, there stranger,” a sweet female voice said behind me.
I turned to see Jenny Tuttle behind me. She graduated a year ahead of me, and I lost track of her.
“Hello, Jenny, good to see you, and you sure are looking sharp tonight.” The truth was that she was a knockout.
Turns out she went to MCI College majoring in Bio-Engineering, and I got accepted to the same college just two months ago and would be heading there next September.
“Small world,” she continued, “with you coming to the same college as me, and majoring in research biology, so close to what I am doing.”
She had to leave with her girlfriend and couldn’t stay, but I got her phone number before she left. We made a date for a pizza the next night.
“Four,” the loudspeaker voice said again. Four days ago having dinner with Jenny was like spring and flowers blooming all at once. We talked about all the things we had in common about not only our education futures but also music, food, and pastime fun. “I didn’t date anyone regularly last year in high school,” she mused, “and I haven’t found anyone with similar interest as mine…up until now, and right here at home,” she exclaimed with bright eyes.
I felt the same way. Hard to believe a recent ‘upper class girl’ could feel that way about me. A strong attraction to her grew within me.
“Three,” the voice announced. Moreover, three days ago Jenny and I spent most of the day together and I visited her home late that afternoon and met her folks. They seemed to like me and that I would be in the same college studying a similar major.
“Two,” the excitement in the MC’s voice now that he was getting closer to zero, and some of the audience was counting along. Two days ago, Jenny met my folks for the first time as my mom cooked dinner for the four of us. We kissed that night.
“One.” One day ago, we made plans for me driving up to MCI, just forty-five minutes away, or her coming back home as many weekends as we could schedule. I was in love, and have to believe the feeling is mutual. Warmer kisses ensued.
Here we are tonight, my sweetheart and me. My life the past ten days went from not wanting to live to having everything to live for. Recalled in just ten seconds, but engraved on the clock of my life forever.
“ZERO, Happy New Year,” as both the loudspeaker voice and everyone at the party enthusiastically yelled, and I would have continued, except for my lips firmly planted on Jenny’s.