The start of a new year is not a novelty for me anymore. The air that fills lungs with pollution and hope, the echoes of colour illuminating the sky and raucous laughter that reverberates between houses and keeps you awake well past midnight. All of this is familiar to me, worn into the grooves that line my face and flowing in the webs of blue that protrude from my thinning extremities. I once felt such excitement with the coming of another year, a prodigal “new beginning.”
I haven’t written a New Year’s resolution in twenty years. At a certain point in my life I realized the innately rigid nature of mankind. Like small spheres of glass, we exist, scattered across a dilapidated wooden floor, waiting to be stepped on, waiting to fall between cracks and splinter and maybe prick the foot that stomped on us, or at least make it slip.
I haven’t written a resolution since he died.
My feet pad across the floors of my much-too-empty house, searching for something to fill the silence that’s gripped my shoulders for twenty years. I hear cracks and pops from outside. I find the chair in the living room, the only furnishing in the room other than the television, and lower my weary frame onto the worn leather. My joints make it sound like I’m hosting my own personal New Year’s celebration. The TV flickers on at the twitch of my thumb. I settle into mindlessness.
I haven’t written anything in twenty years.
Not anything of substance, that is. Only paperwork, bills, the occasional check to my sister, a signature at a restaurant on the rare occasions that I’m forced out to eat. But my brain hasn’t been able to fathom creation as it used to, my heart no longer has the capacity to love fictional lives.
Oh, how he loved the worlds I created. He would sit with me for hours as I scribbled, and he would alternate between busy work and watching me work. He would pore over the pages I had inscribed and scratched out and rewritten. He had this habit of pinching the tip of his nose as he read, and whenever he would finish I would lean in and replace his fingers with the light tap of my lips. And then I’d replace his nose with his lips and he would laugh as my face tickled his, scruffy from days of being so involved in a world in my head that I would forget to attend to the world I lived in. I’m not sure how he could tolerate me being gone so often.
Maybe the last twenty years have been my atonement for the loneliness I so often inflicted upon him.
A rattling breath interrupts me from my thoughts and sends me into a fit of coughing. My lungs aren’t as strong as they used to be, and the smoke thick in the air from outside’s celebrations sends them into panic. Every New Years the cough has gotten worse, and every New Years a part of me wishes I would just die.
I do fear death, but not so much as the emptiness of my home.
Maybe instead of written resolutions on paper to be a better person or be healthier or be happier, I have written the resolution across my lungs and my heart and the rest of my foul, wrinkled, pointless body to die faster.
I mean, the rest of me died twenty years ago.
And when he died I became so afraid of change that I started believing it impossible. I still do. Which is why I haven’t written a New Years resolution in twenty years. Maybe a part of me hopes that if I stay the same as I was then, somehow I’ll go back and get to be with him again. Maybe a part of me can’t move on. Actually, that’s a certainty. And a part of me is afraid that by healing and moving on I’ll find something else to kill me all over again.
I loll my head in the direction of the stacks of books crowding the room connected to this one. A powerful tribute, towers of adventure and meaning and love, triumphant in their solidity, comfortable because they know their own climax and falling action and they know when they will end. A sad tribute to a broken man in a cracked leather recliner who has stagnated in his falling action for so long that the binding holding his pages together is breaking and those pages are fragile and thin like the skin that so carefully contains his organs.
It’s 11:55 on December 31. In five minutes – a poetic timing, depressingly symbolic in that it was the most life-changing moment of my late years – he’ll vanish from my life again. In five minutes he’ll breathe out the last of the beauty he brought to the world, to my life, and in the absence of his voice to intermingle with mine, my throat will shrivel up and the river of words in my brain will run dry. Without the breathiness of his kiss to fill my lungs with vitality, they will instead fill with smoke.
I know how distraught he would be if he could see me like this. But so much of the time he just feels like a dream, a fever dream that came out of my years of drug abuse and made me think I had escaped my addiction when really I just fell into another, much more all-consuming addiction.
Except I know he was real.
Never have I experienced a drug so potent as to infuse my worlds with richness and colour and my work with fun and fascination, only to destroy it all with one devastatingly fatal blow.
I swear I can hear his laughter from the other room, the one with the books, his feet shuffling to the music that constantly filled our home and his crooning call to me, begging me to let him wrap his arms around me and sway my tense figure into relaxation. “Blood to fuel ideas can’t get to your brain if you’re all stressed like this,” he would joke before nuzzling his face into my neck.
Slowly, creakily, I rise from the chair. I make my way to the room connected to this one. I stand in the middle of my empire, and shakily lift my arms to wrap them around the ghost of what was. And we dance.