Auld Lang Syne
Have you ever had that feeling when you’ve met a random person that you could become the best of friends if circumstances were different? What causes people to not go through with pursuing a relationship in these cases? Is it due to shyness or inconvenience? Is it because it is better that the person remains a good memory of an illusion instead of unveiling the real person? Relationships take work and people, even good people, are complicated and chaotic. I keep asking myself these questions as I replay the events of last New Year’s Eve. It was a night that felt so magical that I don’t want to ruin the mystery. I would love to recreate it, but instead I hold onto it and use it to help propel me into the future. There’s a part of me that will always wonder though. And I never even asked his name…
“Good afternoon.” smiled the front desk clerk.
“Good afternoon.” I replied courteously.
“What can we assist you with today?” asked the clerk.
“My name is Jewel Evans. I’m here to check in to the hotel for the night. I made reservations online. Here’s my confirmation number,” I said as I showed the clerk the confirmation number on my phone.
“Wonderful! Will you be joining us for the New Year’s party this evening?”
“Um, I think I have plans,” I muttered.
“Great! Well, if plans change, we are having a party on the rooftop bar this evening starting at 8 PM and lasting until after the midnight countdown. The entry is included with your hotel stay, but drinks and food will be charged to your card on file.”
“Thank you,” I replied.
The last thing I wanted to do was to go to a party with a lot of hotel people that I didn’t know. I am one of those different types – an extroverted introvert. During certain times, I crave meaningful conversations and have a small circle of friends. Going into to the unknown sounds like fun only if I can disappear and observe. The noise of a party might be too much right now. I wasn’t sure I had the stamina for all that. A good book and a hot cup of tea sounded better.
I must have sighed with more exasperation than I meant. The clerk met my eyes and offered me the hotel key card. I thanked him and headed up to my room. A room in a hotel instead of with my family. All alone on New Year’s Eve because my family members are the most inconsiderate people! Well, maybe not the most inconsiderate, but inconsiderate!
I felt my face getting hot and my temples started throbbing again as I replayed my mom’s conversation. How could family do that? I drive all day to get here and they called me when I am a couple of hours away to tell me they are leaving for a camping trip, but I could join them if I wanted. They know I hated camping! Why had they just decided to change plans? Couldn’t they save that for another weekend? Or was this an excuse to not see me? Then my mother had the audacity to ask why I must be a pessimist and ruin it for everyone? Just come along and get over myself. It is just CAMPING.
I felt tears sting my eyes, but I quickly blink them away. I hadn’t worn waterproof mascara, so I don’t want to ruin my face, nor do I want to give into tears. That means they would somehow win. I decided to bury my feelings since I am good at that. Being the better person came naturally until my family pushed me over the edge. I tell myself I am a well-read, confident and independent woman. I don’t need to let someone else’s decisions upset me this much! I guess it hurt more since this was the first holiday season without my grandmother.
I opened the door to my hotel room and unpacked my suitcase. I needed time to think. I needed to rest. And I needed a change. It isn’t as if my life is especially good or bad. It is just so f-ing normal that it drives me crazy at times! I work a lot of hours because that is what single people tend to do. I work on my feet all day as the assistant manager at a jewelry store. I go home and eat something healthy liked baked chicken and spinach. I binge watch Netflix while devouring too much chocolate (which is a reason I must eat healthy) and then I go to bed and repeat. Over and over and over again for the past couple of years. My friends have tried setting me up with a few of their guy friends, but I feel like I’m getting too old to relate to some of them. Thirty-two isn’t old, but it isn’t exactly twenty either.
It’s not that I’ve given up on love, but the guy back home was not exactly my boyfriend so I can’t call it a breakup because we never decided on anything. I thought he liked me, we saw each other a few times and then next thing I know he’s got a girlfriend. We hadn’t talked about being in a relationship together, but it really seemed like there was something there. I guess I completely misread that situation.
I sighed again and decided to change clothes and go for a walk. I picked up my phone to check the weather and open the curtains. The hotel room is charming, and it has a huge window. I gaze out at the mountains and I can’t help but smile a little. A bit of snow covered the tops of the mountains. Maybe this is what I need. A vacation away from all the familiar and the chance to create some fun for myself. I’m always so predictable. A rule-follower. The good kid, the responsible adult. It was time for some self-care. I draped a shimmery pink scarf around my neck and refreshed my lip-gloss. Some people in my family think I’m vain, but the truth is that I feel better wearing a touch of pink. It was my grandma’s favorite color too and wearing it makes it feel like she’s somehow still with me.
I head downstairs and into the town. Santa Fe, New Mexico is incredibly quaint. It feels like stepping into a different world. As I walked along, I browsed in and out of the artisan shops. The air is crisp and refreshing. I took a few deep breaths. I often forgot to breathe deeply. When I’m angry I hold my breath, so I needed to relax, and this seemed like the place to unwind. I got excited when I saw a tea shop. The little things in life make me happy…usually. I grab a cup of elderberry tea, and I continued my journey down the street.
I notice little brown paper bags lining the rooftops. I stopped to look at them for a minute and inquire from a woman and her child who were walking past me.
“Excuse me! What are these little bags on the roofs for?”
“Oh, tonight there will be lit candles inside of them. They will light up the rooftops.”
“How lovely! Thanks!”
The woman smiled at me and continued walking. I round the corner and see a little chapel. I walked inside and stare in awe. The place felt ancient and surreal. I had an immediate sense of calm wash over my entire being. The walls were lined with old letters and mosaics. As I moved towards the front, I saw a head bowed in the corner pew. I quietly made my way to the front and light a candle after donating. I muttered a little prayer about having a good new year and moved down the aisle.
As I walked, I noticed the head of the person rise and we make eye contact. It is a guy about my age, I guess. He quickly rubbed his eyes, but I saw they still held tears in them. Although I am typically a shy person, my compassion outweighed my shyness in this instance.
“Are you okay?” I barely whispered.
Then I inwardly kicked myself. Clearly, Jewel, he is not okay. Don’t embarrass the guy. He was in church to pray. Obviously, things are not okay. He isn’t here studying the artwork and architecture like you are!
I gazed into his eyes and I felt my heart beating faster. He was attractive, but it was his light blue eyes that captivated me.
“Yeah,” he replies shakily.
He doesn’t sound okay, but I don’t want to pry. I didn’t move though.
“My mom has cancer. She didn’t get a good report at the doctor. Things are tough.”
As he tells me this, my fingers grow cold and it gets hard for me to breathe. My own eyes filled with tears. I try to somehow offer compassion through my eyes and nod my head. I wanted to walk closer to him and give him a hug, but that would be weird, right?
“I’m so sorry,” I replied.
I guess it was enough. He tries to give me a half smile, but it quickly fell. He nodded his head in thanks as I walk quietly away. I hate hearing the word “cancer”. I already lost five friends and family members from it and I’m not that old. I shouldn’t know that many people who have died. My heart goes out to my friends and family members, but it hits closest to my heart because my grandma died of cancer. I don’t tell him this, because that wouldn’t be offering hope or comfort. I quietly leave the chapel in a somber mood. It started to get a bit dark and cloudy, so I decided to head back to the hotel and take a nap.
After my nap, I hang my coat and scarf in the closet and run my hands over the textures of my clothing. It is often therapeutic for me to feel the various fabrics while I’m thinking.
Don’t do the same thing you always do! You are in a completely different town. No one knows you. Go have some fun! If it is miserable, you can come back to the room and watch Netflix. Don’t let yourself be boring. Isn’t that what you are worried about? Isn’t this the last day of the year? Who cares what happens, just do something out of your comfort zone and have some fun!
I found my party dress. Yes, I’d packed a party dress even though I didn’t have plans to attend a party. I said I liked pink – I’m a girlie girl! I always keep a fun dress and a black dress in my suitcase just in case. That’s the planner in me. Anyway, I slipped into my dress. Isn’t it amazing how clothes can make you feel different? This dress gives me confidence. It’s a 1920’s silver flapper dress. Silver fringes hang from the bottom and the top is etched in bead work. It is heavenly. I believed I was a different person.
I twisted my hair up and thought about wearing my 1920’s matching headpiece. No, that’s stupid. People will notice me and I will be too showy for a hotel party. It’s probably a lame party up there anyway. Oh right, but I’m supposed to be doing something for myself and not worrying about what others think. Okay, okay.
I might have some serious issues talking to myself this much. My boss told me, “You can talk to yourself and you can even answer yourself. Just don’t ever answer yourself and say ‘huh?’.”
My silver pumps are on and I turned to look in the mirror. My body looks good, but my face looks tense. It is hard for me to hide facial expressions. Be free! Be confident! Vivacious! Lively! I hesitated again wondering if I should remove the headpiece until I see what other people are dressed like. I shrugged my shoulders and decided to head upstairs with it still on my head.
The elevator opens into a wide-open bar area. Jazz music is played in the background. The bar itself is an open square with chairs on every side. There are about fifteen people seated and a few already having a good time. I head over to the corner and sat down. The bartender turns towards me and his blonde hair falls slightly over his left eye. We made eye contact and my heart skips a beat. The bartender was the guy that was in the chapel this afternoon! I didn’t expect to see him again and for some reason it just took me by surprise. His eyes showed no sadness now. In fact, he shot me a flirtatious grin.
“Hey! What can I get for you tonight?”, he asked, recognizing me.
“Um, gosh. I don’t have any idea. A martini or something. Surprise me!”
“I’ll make you something unique.”
He placed a napkin in front of me and began working on the drink. I was surprised the hotel only had one person working this evening. It seemed like a lot to handle, but he was quick and knew his stuff. He moved swiftly and easily through the area and people seemed happy. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one dressed nicely, although I was the only person wearing a headpiece.
A few minutes later he set a foaming glass of pink liquid in front of me. It had a sprig of rosemary and a lemon twirl on top. The drink and the atmosphere made me feel hip. I tasted it and he looked curiously for my approval. I smiled and he grinned.
“What’s your name?”
“Perfect. Then I’m naming the drink after you and adding it as the special.”
He held my gaze for a minute and his eyes twinkled. I smiled and he grinned back.
This guy was on fire. I could tell he wasn’t just having fun for the tips, though I am sure this night was a good time to work. He carried on conversations with each person and kept his cool when a high maintenance woman got too demanding. He moved with ease around the place and never had to look in the cocktail book.
“What are you up to this evening? Someone joining you soon?” he asked.
“I had family plans, but that fell through, so I decided to have some fun here.”
“I am so glad you did.” He was magnetic while appearing completely genuine.
“How long have you been bar tending?”
“A couple of years. I’ve been paying my way through college and taking care of my mom.”
His jaw line tightened on those words and he quickly went back to the task at hand. He had the Shane West vibe going on. He wore fitted black denim pants, a white shirt, and suspenders. His sleeves were rolled up revealing several tattoos. He was lanky, but his arms were quite muscular. I blushed and observed the other guests. I realized I’d only been looking at him.
The evening continued. People danced and a few sang along with the music. The high maintenance woman was escorted back to her room since she’d indulged a bit too much for the evening. I watched it all in amazement. It had been quite some time since I just sat down and enjoyed life. It helped that everyone was having fun and getting ready to welcome the new year.
“There will be fireworks at midnight. Let’s get that last round of drinks in so you guys can toast in the new year!” the bartender announced.
As it got closer to midnight, people started heading outside to the balcony. It was a chilly evening, but there were lots of fire pits and heating lamps. There was also a giant hot tub in the middle of the area and lined brown paper bags with lit candles. The warm glow made it look like a scene from a movie.
About five minutes until midnight, I moved out towards the balcony with everyone else and realized I’d forgotten my coat. Maybe I’d be okay for just a few minutes since I was still polishing off a cocktail. I stepped out and the wind caught my breath.
“It’s a bit chilly out here for you, huh?” the bartender asked.
“Yeah! I thought I would be okay for a minute.”
“I’ve got a coat in the closet. I’ll go grab it.”
“It is okay,” I protested, but he didn’t listen.
He came back a minute later and held the coat open for me. I slid into it and smelled a faint bit of cologne. He rested his hands on my shoulders for a minute and I turned to look into his incredible eyes.
“This was a nice evening. I was going to stay in my room and read.”
“Well, I’m glad you didn’t.”
He reached over and took my hand. He squeezed it and said, “Thanks for caring.”
“My grandmother passed away last year from cancer. I don’t pretend to know what you are going through, but I know how bad it hurt to lose her.”
He shook his head and met my eyes before looking away. He sighed as he gazed at the paper lanterns as tears threatened his eyes again. I moved a bit closer to him. It wasn’t midnight quite yet, but I didn’t wait because I knew I’d lose my courage if I waited. I gently touched his chin and then wrapped my hands around his neck as I reached up to kiss him. He responded with fervor and I melted into his arms. In the background I heard, “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1! Happy New Year!”