New Year's Eve

May 4, 2008
By Phoebe Nir, New York, NY

Standing in the doorway, watching the party playing out in concentric circles, I felt the dirty sensation that I was spying on them. All of the women, too self-assured to need to ameliorate an awkward moment by shoving their fists into the bowl of tortilla chips, all of the men with their gaudy confidence that, when combined with their astonishing good looks, made them seem like the epitome of arrogant youth… as they mixed and mingled like the components of a trendy cocktail, I knew that this was a world that I could only ever cloud with my breath.
Midnight was approaching, the moment when I would celebrate the close of an awful year, and they would celebrate their continued ability to attract, to be in the right place at the right time, to be someone else’s glamorous, mysterious New Years Eve kiss. I knew, with a nauseating certainty, that I would be the toothbrush that nobody used, sitting in my cup, expectant, shiny and new with my perky white bristles. The party rose in volume and temperature, as the spirals of flirtations and snubbing wound ever more tightly. With horror, I felt the familiar lump begin its conquest of my throat. I wished more than ever that I hadn’t broken up with Johnny.
Steeling myself, I crossed the threshold into the trendy loft, heavy with plexi-glass and suede. I was almost surprised when the party didn’t stop and take note of me in unison. But of course, one small step for me, one giant leap for my self-confidence, but one extra ungainly unmerry-maker for the rest of the people in the room.
Wriggling, I smoothed the creeping crease of my too-tight dress. Before leaving my apartment, I had managed to grasp that slippery eel of a feeling, the semi-defensive, semi-glorious feeling that I looked hot. Now, of course, I felt like a brazen imposter with my bare shoulders, covered in goose bumps, and the hair that I had bullied into place with my combs and spray-on chemicals. While I was shifting my weight, would-be casually, between two shoes that had seemed more appropriate in college, Jessica noticed me.
“Oh my God!” she slurred exuberantly. “I’m soo glad you could make it!” She unscrewed herself from her clutch of people and gave me a giddy hug, spilling herself onto me like wax over a candelabrum.
“Me too, Jess,” I said, with a gentle smile. Jess meant well, she always did. She and I were the kind of friends who could flit in and out of each other’s lives without hard feelings; we knew our destinies were different, but it was fun to occasionally detour into the other’s world, into her merry-go-round of orgiastic serendipity, or into my little sphere, with its shadows and light, emotions and conversations, vulnerability and smiles. However, tonight, with my skin only barely concealing the tremulous pond of my ego, I didn’t think I could handle being Jessica’s funny friend. I could classify these people from the quiet dazzle of their perfect finger nails- they would not want to buy what I was selling.
“I have someone for you, hot stuff!” she breathed into my ear. Jessica flirted with everyone; she simply couldn’t help it.
“No, come on, I don’t want to be your pathetic tag-along-“ I protested, my voice perpetually harsher than her dulcet, tipsy tones.
“Nonsense. It’s time for you to get over that loser!” She made this declaration like it was the title of a new game show. “Johnnie!” she trilled. “Here’s the one I was telling you about!”
Immediately, I felt my heart colliding with my rib cage, powered by my dichotomous fear and hope that Johnny was here, and that he was coming to talk to me. A man turned and began to walk towards us, signaled by Jessica’s voice like one of Pavlov’s dogs, like one of his beautiful, smoldering, devastatingly sexy, Dolce-and-Gabanna model type dogs… This was not Johnny. This was Johnnie, with two more vowels, two more inches, and two deep brown eyes that were so clearly chocolate lakes that I was confused as to why they hadn’t oozed their way down to his five-o-clock shadow, the topography of which could have been plotted by a landscaper.
“Hey,” he said. But he didn’t just say it… In that one syllable, he managed to convey a million different statements: “I am incredibly gorgeous; you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever laid eyes on; I would look even better without this shirt on; trust me, I’ve had girls much hotter than you; trust me, I’ll be good to you; enough of this- just admit you can’t stop looking at me.”
“H-hi,” I stammered after a long pause. Then, in response to nothing, I peeled back my lips and gave a nasal peal of laughter. He replied with a generous, confident smile. Not a happy smile, or a bemused smile, or even a condescending one; it was smooth and slow, saying to me, “It’s okay. And by the way, I have dimples.”
“Jess told me a lot about you.”
“Oh, did she? Oh God, don’t believe a word of it haha!” I couldn’t help but paddle maniacally against the lazy current of the honey river that he had contrived to carry me away. However, my arms soon grew tired. We continued to exchange little bubbles of pleasantries, and, gradually, innuendo. Suddenly, the throbbing music stopped.
“Everybody it’s almost midnight!” screamed Jessica, and as if they were magnetized, each of the slinky people, clad in black, attached themselves to one of their fellows. If there were any people who didn’t have a partner, I didn’t notice. Mathematically, there must have been, but I assume that they managed to look so self-possessed and natural that the rest of us should have felt like dorks.
“Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven!” And Johnnie had taken my hand in his.
“Six! Five! Four!” And he had turned me to face him.
“Three! Two! One!” And, using his eyes as a spoon to carve me out of my cup, he brought me to his lips. For the first time all night, the room was totally devoid of noise; roughly two-dozen people were now exchanging saliva rather than witty, cosmopolitan remarks.
Meanwhile, Johnnie was at work, plying and prying me with his mouth as I ran my hands through his gooey hair, an almost intentional attempt to get into his head. I knew I wasn’t who he wanted me to be, and I felt as though I was deceiving him every second that I remained inside of Johnnie’s firm hold. This man deserved to be kissing a person whose thoughts he could postpone, and sadly that person wasn’t me. Hating myself, I waited until it was appropriate to resurface, and tried to smile seductively. He smiled back. It was incredible how much more those smiles promised than they delivered. Evidently, neither of us had anything to say.
“My phone’s… ringing…” he said with an almost-human hint of awkwardness.
“Mine, too,” I said quickly. He turned away and I immediately regretted my inability to live in the moment. Somehow, I had come to look down on him for his effortless beauty; because of it, he could only be vapid and arrogant and unthinking, and I was superior for my self-doubt and flab. I realized then, with a guilty pang, that I felt the same way about Jessica. I would call and thank her tomorrow, but an itchy, urgent feeling was rising, telling me that it was time to go home, where I could sit and process, hiding in the sanctuary of my sweatpants. Skulking out of the loft, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I looked pretty hot after all. Standing again on the threshold of Jessica’s house, the dirty feeling returned, but it was totally different in nature. As I pushed the elevator button, I felt my mascara carving black tributaries out of my cheek. Gathering the last wisps of my New Year’s resolution, I opened my cell phone and began to dial. Johnny might sometimes be a consonant, and sometimes be a vowel, but he could always postpone my thoughts.

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This article has 1 comment.

emmyr123 said...
on Aug. 5 2008 at 9:24 pm
loved it!!

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