I love beginnings. I go to bookstores and spend hours reading the first page of the new books. I think about the author, sitting at her desk, staring at the blank page, typing those first words. Like a spark to the flame. Like a first bite of the most delicious dessert. I savor those first words. I want to stay on that first page forever. I love the feeling of anticipation. When I watch a movie, I love the casual touching of hands more than the kiss. I love the feeling that comes before happiness. I love the smell of rain. I love the quite before snowfall. I love the pause before a word is spoken. I love moments. I love the end that leads to a new beginning.
I know this about myself because I’ve had so much time to think lately. I am forty-two years old. Some say I am middle-aged. I hate that term. Being in the middle of anything is unpleasant to me. But here I am, in the middle of my life, dreaming about starting over and wondering about how it will end.
My sister insists that I should go to this party. Even though I’ve told her several times I don’t feel up to it. She has convinced herself that I’m still the same. I admire how easily she lies to herself. She is two years younger than me. She is also middle aged. Even though she lies to herself about that too. I finally give in, because my sister is not used to losing an argument and I don’t have the energy to try. I put on a dress. I comb whatever hair I’ve left and put it up in a tight ponytail and we head out.
I confess to my sister that I am giddy with excitement. “What if I meet the one” I tell her jokingly. “Wouldn’t that be tragic?”
“No, it would be wonderful.” She says, completely serious. “I want to be a maid of honor.”
This makes me laugh. I am almost certain my sister will put this in my eulogy. I denied her the opportunity of buying an ugly overpriced dress and giving a tearful speech about my shortcomings as a sister when I married the first time. I was forgiven when I divorced. Now she keeps a close eye on me. She wants me to have a proper wedding with cake tasting and a chocolate fountain and flowers, just like she had. She wants me to have children and buy a minivan. I am sorry to disappoint her. Even if I meet the one tonight and even if I can postpone the end, I will certainly elope again, and I won’t be caught dead in a minivan.
When I walk in the room, no one looks at me. No one knows me here. Some people are drunk, and some are sober. But they are all happy and carefree. New Year’s Eve is my favorite night of the year. It is full of hope. Everyone pledges to become the best version of themselves. I do too.
My sister asks me if I know my new year resolution yet. “Not yet” I tell her. I am in no rush.
Have you ever looked at someone and have been instantly envious? I do tonight, standing in a corner of a crowded room, watching her. I don’t think anyone else has noticed her infectious smile and I am happy about that. I realize this makes me sound selfish but I can’t help myself.
I’m not the kind of person who enjoys parties. More than anything, I dislike New Year parties. The eventual small talk about people’s new year resolutions annoy me to no end. A barely hundred pounds woman tells me she wants to lose weight in the new year as she lights a cigarette. My girlfriend, who has dragged me here because she can’t live without having a daily social media post, tells me she wants to be on her phone less. Then she walks away posting it along with a selfie of us and the skinny smoker. She yells out to me to like it. I almost yell out we are done. But I decide to snap chat her later.
This is all going through my head, when I see her. I am envious because in all thirty plus years of my life I’ve never looked or felt as happy as this woman looks at this moment. I watch her move through the room, saying hello to people. She smiles, she laughs, she listens. But then she sits on a chair, in the corner, drinking a glass of water, and taking it all in. As if she is an alien and this is her last day on earth. She has had a good trip and now it is time to go. It is the look of contentment that I envy.
I walk over to her without any plans. What was I going to say? I’m not the kind of guy who can just come up with a line. But who cares? This is New Year’s Eve after all. A perfect night to say the wrong thing. Because tomorrow is a blank slate.
“I’m sorry to bother you but I know if I don’t talk to you, I will regret it for the rest of my life.” He just walked over and said that, delivering the line like he has said it a thousand times before. He sounded so sweet and honest that I decided not to care. I smiled and he smiled back. And I could swear I saw an actual spark.
He tells me he has been watching me all night. Creepy. He tells me there is something about me- something he can’t quite figure out- that makes me look more alive, more fully present. I ask him if he is drunk. He says no but his new year resolution is to drink more. I tell him mine is to eat more. “You complete me.” He says smiling. I laugh at his corny joke. He is definitely my type of guy.
We talk for long time. Somewhere in the middle of our conversation he tells me he is there with his girlfriend and I tell him I have an ex-husband. He flirts. I don’t feel guilty about it. I wish I did. I wish it could mean something. I’m about to tell him when I realize it is almost midnight. I won’t end his year this way. I will disappear like Cinderella and I won’t leave my glass slipper.
I want to ask her number, but I hesitate. We’ve talked the entire night and this hesitation is the first pause in our conversation. It is almost midnight and my girlfriend will look for me to capture our kiss for her five hundred followers. I decide to take a chance and hope.
“Can you tell me how I can find you if the new year brings change to my life?”
Now it is her turn to hesitate. She looks at me for a long time and all I can see, deep in her eyes, is sadness.
Is it wrong to hope?
“Let’s meet here again. Next year. If we are both available, we’ll give this a try.”
The count down starts. Ten…. Nine…. Eight…. seven…. six….
I bend down and kiss her.
I wish her a happy new year and I walk away.
Three… Two… One…
I find my sister. I tell her I met the one. She starts crying. She has always been a sad drunk.
I’ve got to go home. I have a chemo appointment in the morning.
Cancer doesn’t take holiday.