Resolution number one: Do not get so upset about things.
Never mind how much chocolate I’ve eaten today. And the day isn’t over.
Resolution number two: Make five new friends.
Five? Why did I write five? What would I do with them all? I’m being too optimistic. I cross out the five and write one. I cross out ‘new’ as well. It doesn’t mean anything.
Resolution number three: Write five poems.
People like me are supposed to be poetically inclined, but I’ve never felt it. I reach for another chocolate square and explore its sharp brown edges with my tongue while I twist the pencil around in my gently sweating hands.
Resolution number four: Learn to juggle.
Someone once told me jugglers are fun people.
Resolution number five: Go to the beach once a week.
I figure I should have a few things I know I’ll be able to cross off.
Resolution number six: Only watch ‘Got Talent’ shows one evening a week.
Why is it pleasing to watch people walk out, sing a song, dance, make balloons come out of their mouths, make dogs run between their legs, and perform various other normal or peculiar acts, be judged by a celebrity panel, and walk away? I must like it or I wouldn’t watch it for hours every other afternoon, but I’m not sure why it’s appealing.
Resolution number seven: Don’t worry about what people think about you. (See resolution #1)
Did you know that theoretically if you shine a beam of light into space it will go on forever? Imagine standing outside, in your little square of yard and looking up and pointing a light upward and having it travel for as many hundreds of light years as there are years left until the world ends. It takes so long for their light to reach us that any of the stars we see at night may have burned out long ago, and we’re looking up at the old light from where a star used to be, but now there is only space.
Resolution number eight: Study astronomy.
My chocolate is gone.
Resolution number nine: When I think something nice about someone, actually tell them.
I’m always admiring people and assuming they know, but maybe they don’t.
Resolution number ten: Read Middlemarch.
It’s the thickest thing on my shelf. Goodness knows why I have it, but something that ponderously long must be good for you.
Resolution number eleven: Go hiking and camping.
I stand up from the coffee table where I’ve been kneeling on a cushion to write. The pink pages of my notebook seem smudged and marred by my small, eleven resolutions. I told myself I would do twenty-five, but I’m already floundering.
My mother gave me the notebook. Of course. Who else would trust me with a pink notebook? The front is adorned with butterflies, purple, yellow, blue and pink. Glitter is stuck to the butterflies wings’ with paste. The paste is so thick the glitter looks dull and lost in it. When my mother gave me the notebook, to “write my thoughts” in, I sat staring at those butterflies, thinking how desperate they looked with their poor, glitter-pasted wings and bright, cutesy colors. They looked like my mother; with her ever-present, be-cheerful-or-die smile, her scarlet lips and dyed white teeth that flashed determinedly and forbade talk of anything even mildly unpleasant.
I stand by the window and look out at the neighboring apartment buildings and the narrow strips of street that lead into the city. I’ve lived here two years and it’s still “the city.” I don’t walk the sidewalks and lift my eyes, astounded, at the hustle of life around me that I am part of. I don’t call its name out into the night or toast it with juice boxes on a park bench.
It’s dark out. The lights glow through the window into me, and the glass also reflects my face. It’s small and uncertain and there’s chocolate on it.
My dad used to say that the country will make something of a man, and the city will take whatever he has out of him. But I don’t think he was right. I think people are stronger than that if they care to be. I’m not sure I care to be.
I leave the window, wash my face at the bathroom sink and put some money in my pocket. Without a coat or purse or phone I run down the stairs of the building, three rubber-stripped flights, and burst out into the cold, smelly air. As I run down the block snow starts to fall in gritty little flakes, orange under the streetlamps. I laugh without knowing why.
At the shop on the corner I stand in line with a stack of Kit-Kats in my hands. The wrappers are so shiny and red it’s like buying a stack of presents.
When it’s my turn, no one is behind me, and the big man at the counter takes his time checking me out, slowly flipping through my stack of Kit-Kats and glancing at me. I buy candy here often and he never looked at me before, but now I’m standing before him in a t-shirt, the falling snow visible through the glass doors behind me, my washed face entirely make-up free, a sight rarer than aliens in this town.
“Having a party, boss?” he says.
“No,” I say. I hesitate, then laugh, like small talk is supposed to go, and add, “fuel for New Year’s resolutions.”
“Ah,” he says, like he’s supposed to, but he doesn’t laugh. “What’s it going to take when it comes time to do them?”
I feel like this is a little bigger than small talk should be, since he still isn’t laughing, but I smile and say, “Oh, I probably won’t do any of them.”
“No,” he agrees, “you probably won’t.” He says my bill and I hand him money. My flashing teeth have hidden themselves.
He hands me change and a plastic bag with the red of the wrappers glowing through and makes like we’re done.
But I stay.
“What makes you say that?” I ask, holding onto my bag, dollar bills and change crunched up in my fist.
He thinks about it a second, then lays his big hands down on the counter, spreading out thick fingers. “Everything that a person absolutely has to do, they already do. Everything else you have to want.”
“Oh.” I say, and walk out, my change still in one hand, my bag in the other.
I’m halfway down the block when I hear a door open. I turn around to see the shopkeeper sticking his head out, looking after me.
“Enjoy the snow!” He calls, and pulls his head in and shuts the door.
I walk home through the snow, and it clings to me like it fell on me on purpose and I go slow and let it slide against my arms and clump together in my hair.
I climb the stairs to my floor and walk down the hall to my apartment. I see I left the door open.
I go inside and put the Kit-Kats in the fridge. I go into the bathroom and brush my teeth and put on my pajamas and bathrobe. Then I sit down in front of the notebook on the coffee table and open it. I look at my eleven resolutions for a minute then tear out the pages. I walk to the window and crank it open. I tear the paper into small squares and throw it out, watching it fall with all the other flakes pouring from the sky. They will land and be covered, and the biodegradable paper will disintegrate with the snow.
I close the window and go back to the table. I turn to a fresh, pink page. I pick up my pen.
Resolution number one: Enjoy the snow.