1. Hang out with friends
Your friends are the kind of people that make New Year’s resolutions. The five of you, too broke to go anywhere, sit around your studio apartment. One has her legs hanging off the arm of the one chair you have. One is sitting next to you on the futon. The others are splayed, their bodies like starfish, on the ground. They use their fingers and each other to remember the resolutions they think of on the spot. Maybe they could actually eat breakfast instead of skipping it or replacing it with coffee. Maybe they could go on jogs, not runs, but jogs. Maybe they could save more money so they could go somewhere else besides your apartment this time next year. Plucking a piece of paper from the printer and a dull pencil, you finally offer to write these down for them.
2. Read a book
You realize you haven’t read a book since high school when they were assigned and you had to. The downtown library is a short bus ride away. The people on the bus don’t look ready for another year. Above their heads, like cherries and sevens on a slot machine, you see what their resolutions might be. Drink less, from the man whose eyes look like he’s already broken that resolution. Don’t kill everyone on the bus, from the bus driver with a smile plastered on her face. You look down so you don’t have to see, hoping that on your way back, you’ll have a new book to distract you. The librarians are lovely as you apply for a library card and you chat with them because you think you’ll be back every week. The spines don’t tell you much but you check out one because the cover looked nice.
3. Get some exercise
The neighborhood around your apartment has some nice hills but can get pretty flat, too. You dust off your rollerblades you used to use before you had a car. Your mother would send you off to the store with a wad of cash and didn’t care how you got there. They sat next to the sack of potatoes and cans of soup in the shopping cart while the cashiers and baggers ignored the fact you weren’t wearing shoes. You think it’s just like riding a bike.
The cars don’t like you in the same way they don’t like bikers. The rollerblades feel good but you still do the flat streets first, dodging cars and pedestrians, going faster than both. Going down the steep streets with the wind in your hair feels like skiing, even though you’ve never been skiing.
Your ankles start to hurt and sweat is sliding down your back, so you slow down. You didn’t see the rock and the rock didn’t care about not seeing you. Flipped over on your back, you clutch the knee that’s bleeding. The sandwich artist at the sub shop runs out and runs back in to get you a towel and Band-Aid. He has shaggy blonde hair underneath his mandated cap and a large nose that you could look past but maybe he can’t.
“That was a nasty fall. But I’m sure you get these all the time,” he says. While you stop the blood with the towel, you nod, happy that he thinks that you’re some kind of pro. “Yeah, all the time,” you say. The sandwich boy takes the bloody towel and applies the Band-Aid to your cut. He makes sure you’re okay before heading back in, but it hurts and you’re still on the ground and you wished he would’ve kissed it to make it better.
4. Go to the doctor
Getting a physical sounds more enticing than writing New Year’s resolutions and your doctor has an availability. Your arm constricts underneath the blood pressure band. As a kid, and even now, you think just one more pump from the doctor’s side would surely pop your arm right off. But it doesn’t, and you’re at 108/73.
The doctor listens to your heart rate and you wonder if it’s telling her anything in Morse code. You ask her about weight loss and diets. She tells you to never get on a scale again.
“The number is not always the best indicator. People with other health concerns, such as smoking, are just as at risk as someone overweight,” she says, with the kind of conviction that makes it seems she’s had this conversation before but as an argument. This is good advice and you love her for saying it but it doesn’t answer your question. You don’t know if you don’t like wearing a bathing suit because you don’t like it or because society tells you that you don’t look good in it. On your way out, you ask if she knows Morse code.
5. Drink water
The sun is setting and you live in an apartment that’s only amenity is its balcony. Your stomach is still settling from drinking too much the night before, and the night before that, and the night before that. These couple of months are for parties, socializing, and overindulging so no one is judging you, but you take it easy today. You sit on the balcony with a mug of water, having looked in your cabinets and your wine and pint glasses, not knowing what people drink water out of. The cold water goes down easy. You imagine your throat as a water slide, screaming and closing your eyes in enjoyment on the way down with the gulp.
So many cars pass by below you. You watch someone in the driver’s seat throw pills down his throat from an orange pill bottle, without water to chase them down with, all without veering. The people on the street laugh at stories you won’t hear. Some stop along the sidewalks and make themselves a house, cigarette or vape or Juul smoke billowing from their chimneys. Just this once, you wish you were Jesus, looking down at your mug, who could turn water into wine.
6. Call your parents
Your parents are divorced but are still best friends. They are almost more married now than when they were actually married. They always seem to be together even though, being legally separated, you’d think they would spend less time with one another. But it was as if saying they didn’t have to commit anymore lifted the heavy weights off their shoulders and they could finally like each other again. You call your dad, not knowing which parent you will get anyway.
“Hey, honey, what a surprise to hear from you,” your mom says. She says Dad is coming in from the kitchen to talk too. The small talk is small but it’s nice to hear their voices even over miles of satellite connection. Your parents get a bit somber, saying they have something to tell you. Images of tumors and the inside of funeral homes flash in your mind. They say they can’t talk anymore right now. “It was our New Year’s resolution to not call you as much.”
7. Clean your apartment
There has been a spider hanging out in his spider web in the corner of your room for weeks. He’s been there so long, you treat him like a roommate but wish he helped with rent. Papers have piled up as have the dishes so you decide to clean before any more roommates can move in. You don’t know how there are food stains on the walls. This is a plus of living in such a small place and alone: you don’t have to plug the vacuum in more than one outlet to get the far corners.
There’s a Hershey Kiss still wrapped in its silver underneath the futon that you unwrap and eat before anyone can see you. You get under the burners on the stove, you take out the trash and the recycling, you unclog the hair in the drain of the bathtub. You take a nice, long shower to reward yourself and crawl into your freshly laundered sheets. Before falling asleep, you look up and realize you forgot to kill or, at least, evict the spider and its spider web from the corner of your room.
8. Learn an instrument
The piano has always been beautiful. And learning to read sheet music always seemed like learning another language. You visit your grandmother’s retirement home to practice on their grand piano before you buy yourself a piano a little less grand. She is doing well and is the first to request a song when you get better. The people on stage and in the movies make the dance your fingers do over the keys look as easy as the dance your fingers do over the keys of your computer. You struggle through “Heart and Soul” but your grandmother cheers you on and, from where the piano is situated, you get to look out at the lake the old people walk around. There’s a sign hanging in the sub shop down the street from your apartment. The sandwich boy needs a keyboardist to accompany his guitar. You begin learning your grandmother’s wedding song for the audition.
9. Cook a meal
You have so much more time than if you were writing New Year’s resolutions, enough time to cook yourself dinner. A full meal, with all of the good food groups. You have a tendency to just eat sides like tater tots or rice for dinner when you’re not ordering out.
The library had a cookbook that made it look easy, without too many ingredients you didn’t already have. You put slices of lemon on the salmon like the picture shows, and the asparagus is roasting next to it, and the rice pilaf is bubbling over. Some of it splashes on the wall behind the stove and you realize that’s where the stains must come from. You plate it like you’ve seen professional chefs do on cooking competitions, even wiping the excess spills with a towel. The salmon is a little overcooked but you eat it and make a note of it for next time. You don’t know why you don’t do this every night.
The pile of dirty dishes in the sink and on the stove and in the oven are not as daunting when you blast music and dance elbow-deep in soapy water.
10. Count your savings
You look around for anything else to do, anything else you could tell your friends you did instead of writing New Year’s resolutions. Upon your newly dusted shelves, you see your fishbowl of coins. That fish has long since died but stayed around longer than expected — seven years from elementary to high school — and your parents would always roll their eyes at your magical goldfish. It is now the bowl you where you collect pennies you find on the street or change you get back from shopping.
You sit on the ground and spread your legs around the bowl. The metal coines make your fingers smell like blood. Or, you think, does your blood smell like coins. Maybe you’ll ask the doctor which came first at your next scheduled visit in six months. There’s more here than you thought, but, thinking about what you might buy before remembering that this is going into the bank, you lose count. You can’t help thinking, with each penny and each dime, you are counting your blessings.