Most of the lights are out. The moon hangs into the sky, its heavy, milky light making shadowy figures on the wall. The clock's face is smooth and pearly white, and I can here it ticking.
I check it every now and then. Ten minutes, then nine, then eight . . . Time seems to pass slower if you pay it too much attention. I tap my fingers on the table, waiting.
They say that in the last five minutes of the year, you can hear ghosts. Ghosts of your past selves from the twelve months before, ghosts of people that died, ghosts of things that slipped unnoticed out of your memory.
This year is special - it's the end of a decade. The ghosts are stronger this year, and there are more of them.
A decade's worth of death, a decade's worth of memories, a decade's worth of dust and leftovers, and they'll all come within the last five minutes of tonight, staying until the new year.
Sometimes they bring warnings. Sometimes sweet encouragements, sometimes threats and shouting, mostly little whispered messages they never got to say.
I look at the clock. Six minutes until the New Year, one until they come.
I think about the people I lost, wondering who will come: my mother from eight years ago, before I came out to her and she kicked me out. My brother from one year ago, before the car crash. All the me's from each year, each event, before each change.
A minute passes, and suddenly they blink into existence. In the corner, I spy a fourteen year old girl, pulling on her too small shirt uncomfortably. She notices me looking and quickly looks away.
Talking loudly and smiling brightly is me at sixteen, make up smeared on my face to cover up my sadness. Next to her is my little sister, who I stopped talking to once I left home. She's not dead, just gone.
"Hey," I turn around and see my brother. I pull him into a hug, and it's warm and nice despite the fact that it won't last.
"I missed you," I whisper, and he nods, brushing messy hair out of his face.
"Me too," he says.
Spirits crowd the room. Ex-girlfriends, siblings, friends that fell out of touch, distant relatives, it's a sea of people I used to be and used to know.
I grip my brother's hand tightly and look around and spot my mother.
I slowly approach her, feeling almost afraid. I hesitate as I walk over. I know it's her from the past. I know she still loves me now, still thinks that I'm going to grow up and marry a man and have children and a good job.
But it's still hard to see her and not see the one who screamed at me, called me a disappointment, left me a mess of tears and anger.
"Hey, Mom," I call softly. She doesn't hear - she's chatting with my aunt, who passed away five years ago.
"Mom," I say, a bit louder, getting closer. She looks up, smiles warmly, waves.
I walk towards to her, just wanting to feel her arms around me one more time. My brother waits behind - he remembers, he probably is still angry with her for waht she put me through, but he watches as I walk over to her.
"Hey," I say, putting my arms around me. She envelops me in her arms, tightly squeezing me and saying how I've grown. In the back of my mind, I can hear the ghosts chanting something.
"Five! Four! Three! Two! One!"
I squeeze her tighter, trying to ignore their voices.
The ghosts wink out of existence, and I'm left holding empty air, feeling lonelier than before.