A New Me This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

April 12, 2017
“New year, new me,” Jeff #25 said, raising his glass to his empty apartment.
He never minded being alone for New Year’s. In fact, he required his solitude. From the apartment below rang the sounds of champagne bottles detonating and wild whoops of joy. A stray cork ricocheted against the partiers’ ceiling. Cringing, Jeff #25 rubbed his temples. In a few minutes, he wouldn’t have to deal with all the noise anymore. The clock chimed twelve. The front door creaked open and Jeff #26 waltzed in, right on time, with a bottle of sweet wine under his arm.
Jeff #25 glanced at his replacement, who had a goofy grin plastered on his stubbly face. He could be worse. Jeff #21 had brought six cases of beer, setting the disgusting precedent for all new Jeffs to bring alcohol. Not to mention Jeff #17, who decided he was “scene” and pinpricked a sad face on his arm. No, this year’s replacement was all right. Jeff #25 was pleased to see this new one had a better taste in fashion: a navy blue sweater, some reasonable loafers, well-fitting jeans, and thick glasses. #25 nodded at the glasses. Bad eyesight was a problem last year. That’s really all an old Jeff could ask for: improvement. This twenty-sixth year could be better.
The new Jeff uncorked his bottle with the flick of a wrist. “Mind if I top off your glass?”
“In a minute,” said Jeff #25. “That’s all the time I have left, anyway.”
Jeff #25 took a final look around the apartment. He wanted to use his eyes one last time. His eyes wandered to the fake fireplace mantle. Twenty-four knickknacks, from a chewed rattle to an antique stein with the lid nailed shut, collected dust. He paled. Twenty-four? Leaving his glass on a side table, Jeff #25 rushed to his room. He needed to find something fast. He could already feel his vision swaying and blackening. That special something to mark his existence. Sure, he was better than Jeff #24, but #25 had his own issues: Jessica, quitting his job, that traumatic hospital stay. A year of breaking and mending. If he didn’t remind this new Jeff of what happened, Jeff #25 might as well have never existed.
He flipped open every drawer and tossed every sheet in his bedroom. Something, anything! His medical records? Those were important, but they weren’t the whole year. Jeff #25 spent three months in the hospital, not twelve. His one year hadn’t been mere numbers. Then again, as he fished a rejected Valentine’s Day card from behind his dresser, he realized his year wasn’t just emotions, either. Claw marks from fake nails dissected the card’s cover into three pathetic slivers.
Tears came to his eyes, but they were beaten back by another headache. The seconds, and his life, were ticking by. He couldn’t waste time mourning over a flimsy piece of paper with googly eyes. He plunged his clammy hands into the chest at the foot of his bed. His awful panda socks? The white sheets, speckled with red wine? What would make the twenty-fifth year real?
Found it. The patchwork blanket, the perfect reminder. It still smelled of perfume and medication. He felt relief every time he cradled the blanket in his arms. He hadn’t been sure then if the nurses were going to give the blanket back to him after they washed the sick out of it – for the fourth time. Everything good and everything awful melded together in this blanket. Jeff stroked the uneven stripes and plucked out tiny threads. He winced as he remembered his mother handing him the rectangle of outing flannel. His childhood home was cleared out. Everything was split into two trucks. The dinner table, his mother’s bed, his father’s couch; everything but this blanket. Jeff’s mother pushed it into his hands before she drove away with her half of the past thirty years. Now, Jeff needed his new self to have it.
A moment of darkness struck Jeff like a hammer as he sprinted back to the living room. Jeff #26 was already settled into the huge blue armchair. He’d even refilled Jeff’s wine glass. This one’s taking over a little too easily, Jeff #25 thought. Maybe it was for the best. Maybe, somehow, he would transform into a more relaxed person. Again, improvement was all he could hope for. Jeff #25 folded the blanket into a small square and placed it next to the rattle on the mantle. There. The twenty-fifth year happened.
“So, want that extra glass now?” Jeff #26 called from his chair.
“Of course. How else can you start the new year?”
Jeff #26 handed his past self the filled glass. Jeff #25 swirled the ruddy wine. This was the end. He sighed happily. After this, no more hospital beds, cheating girlfriends, or broken homes. This new Jeff would have to deal with the fallout. Then again, his time was … over. No more anyone or anything. The trivia nights after work with Ben, sloppy kisses from the dogs in the shelter, Tuesday dinners with his stepmother, all of it gone. All his happiness belonged to Jeff #26 now.
Blackness again. Jeff #25 felt himself starting to slip. Might as well leave with the taste of something sweet in his mouth. The hammer of darkness pulverized Jeff’s head as he grasped the slender wine glass. He tilted the burgundy liquid into his throat with a shaking hand. The Jeffs locked eyes. With that neat sweater and sleek loafers, #26 could do better than any other Jeff. He’d make everything right. Jeff #25 looked away. A tear dribbled down his cheek. The time for feeling was over.
The clock chimed once. The new year was official. Jeff #26, better known as Jeff Brown, rose from his chair. His apartment was empty again, not that he minded. He picked up the empty glass from the floor. The bottle was still basically full. He could have another round. As he raised the bottle to the rim of the glass, he spied the stein on the mantle, its lid with twenty-four nails pounded into it. He decided to save the unfinished bottle. It’d serve as a good excuse to have friends over.
Jeff dragged his armchair to the huge window at the back of his apartment. Outside, the city was serene, but rowdy. The night blushed blue, accented with gray clouds. Winter asserted itself by sending freezing drafts but didn’t want to overstay its welcome by snowing. Settling down with the striped blanket nestled around him, Jeff listened to the dying sounds of party poppers. The new year only really started when people remembered they had work in the morning. Soon, even the wind became silent.
He sighed, and whispered to himself, “New year, new me.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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