◊Note: Lindsay, the author of this piece, is a regular reader and contributor to the journal prompts posted on this site. This is her response to the New Year’s Even post of 2012. Thank you, Lindsay, for another wonderful bit of writing here! -PMc◊
There’s a weight of expectation. Like each year life has to live up to all those movie moments and the bells ringing out the old and ringing in the new and it should be a climax to something with music straining and paper ribbons falling and the thrill of kissing the one person or kissing many.
There’s a clock in the centre of the town, old stone and two broad faces, and some years we go there and we are a part of something. The clock is never quite right and someone in the crowd starts a countdown that is a little off. And we pop the cork from our bottle and we will it to be something special this year and he pours me a frothy glass of sparkling wine that runs over the top of my hand and he laughs and I laugh, but it feels like a long way from laughter.
I look for a face that I recognize, in the crowd, in the streetlamp yellow light, any face, and everyone is smiling or pretending to, and the cold nips their cheeks and mine, and the damp silvers their hair, and someone wishes me a happy new year and leans in quick to kiss me and is gone again before I even know who it is. And I stamp my feet to beat off the cold, or is it impatience?
Then, when the fizz has gone from our wine, and the crowd begins to break up, we set off for home again and he says something about the clock being five minutes out, same this year as last year, and he drops the empty bottle upside down into a street waste bin and then he is silent.
And I wonder if it was different once. I wonder if there was a movie moment somewhere in the past and the laughter was real and I got to kiss him, whoever he was, and he whisked me to the rooftop garden and we looked at the stars and thought ourselves above everything else. I search through my album of memories, and I search, and just when I feel cheated by all those Harry-met-Sally new years, I remember.
There was a midnight party and music playing and we were dancing so close we were like one thing. And the lights suddenly went up and we were all counting backwards and someone was taking pictures. Yes, there’s a picture somewhere, and he scooped me up all kiss and hold and laughing, and that was our moment, blink and you would have missed it, and that is our new year moment to measure all other new year moments against.
And that man is beside me now, his hands in his pockets and all his words used up and I know he carries his disappointment slung in a sack over his hunched shoulder. And I wonder at the years that have passed and where it went wrong or if the weight of expectation is just too much for love and life to bear. And I wonder if, some years down the line, Harry and Sally, still together, ever got to relive that movie moment or if the wine in their glasses was a little flatter this year than last.
→I love to hear from readers who find these daily prompts helpful. If you want to share your responses, please add a comment at the comments section of the prompt page. And as always, thanks for reading! -PMc←