"New Year's Eve"
by Jonah Parker Ryan
I was sitting on the bathroom floor, deciding whether or not to drink the Drain-O, when one of the specks in the tile said, “Drink up. Kurt Cobain was 27.”
I was 28.
I guess we all can’t die beautiful.
“No, but you can make yourself a god along the way, so to speak. You’ll become a legend to these people. Not a year will go by when they won’t remember the guy who offed himself in the bathroom on New Year’s Eve, Heather Chandler style,” the tile said.
“I don’t want to die,” I said to the floor.
“You’ve been eye fucking max strength drain cleaner for ten minutes now. Besides, it’s not like many people would miss you. Your mom would cry for sure. It would be an inconvenience to your boss because he’d have to replace you, then again, the Holidays are just about over and desk-jockeys do grow on trees. Or spawn like rats in the subway, I mean really, you pick your allegory,” he said. I focused on the tile I decided was the mouth.
“This is crazy,” I said.
He continued as if he didn’t hear me, “Your landlord will probably be pretty upset that you’d be breaking your lease early, but really it’s only three months and he’d get to keep the security deposit. Hello, dead, it’s not like you need the money for a down-payment on a condo in the afterlife. Drink it, you’re not going to write Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony or anything,” he said.
“Are you quoting Vonnegut now? I just read that book.”
“No way, me too,” his voice was drenched in sarcasm.
“This can’t be real. You’re not real. You’re a piece of linoleum,” I said.
“Of course I’m real, dip-shit, I’m you. I’m your inner monologue, subconscious, whatever you want to call me. Besides, flooring can’t talk regardless of how much you spend per square foot.”
He was right, or rather I was right, and I was suddenly aware of how frightfully high I had become. It was why I had retreated away from the party and into the bathroom in the first place.
“You’re going to be okay. You’ll start coming down in a few minutes and then everything will be fine,” I told my reflection as I splashed some cool water on my face. Still, I took a look around the bathroom, expecting that at any moment my subconscious would leap out from the cupboard below the sink or pull back the delightfully tacky flamingo shower curtain. He didn’t, of course he didn’t.
“Open the door, Andrews, I got to take a piss,” Chris shouted, banging his fist on the other side. Chris Peterson, you know the type. He called everybody by their last name, played football all through high school and college, though he was never very good. He was used mostly as a tackling dummy. I hypothesized that he had taken one too many blows to the head and his brain never recovered. Who am I kidding, he was born an idiot. He worked in my office and spent most of his time harassing our female co-workers and trying to get laid. Classy.
“Andrews, I swear to God, I am going to break down this fucking door and piss all over your face!”
This is the point where a normal person would have just opened the door, mumbled a half-assed apology, and walked away, but I was really, really stoned, and sometimes when you are really, really stoned, you do stupid things. This was one of those times.
“I can’t,” I said, though I don’t know why. I was very much capable of opening the door.
“The fuck does that mean?” he shouted, his bangings becoming increasingly violent.
I panicked and I froze, full on deer in the headlights. He gave the door a solid, swift kick and the lock sprang free. This, of course, alerted everyone within earshot.
“The fuck’s the matter with you? Get the fuck out of here,” he said.
“I’m sorry,” I said, holding fastly to the sink.
“Sorry, what the fuck do you mean sorry? Get the fuck out of here,” he said, grabbing me by the collar of my shirt and shoving me into the hallway.
He slammed the door behind him and I found myself surrounded by a sea of faces. Faces who all had mouths and all of their mouths were asking the same question, “Are you okay?”
I rubbed my eyes but that only seemed to make things worse. Then she took my hand. “Get out of the way and give him some air,” she said, leading me down the hallway. I didn’t know where we were going but I hastily followed my red dress wearing saviour.
“That’s better,” she said, and suddenly it was. We were outside, standing on the front porch. The fresh air was good for me and unclouded my mind enough for me to make sense of the situation. It had stopped snowing, but only recently, and all the snow was virgin white; pristine, trackless. I reached into my pocket for a cigarette.
“Are you okay?” she asked. I remembered I was not alone.
“Yeah, thank you,” I said. I didn’t know who she was, I had never seen here before, “Who are you?” I asked.
“Sam,” she said with a smile, “and you gave us quite a scare back there.”
“Did I? I’m sorry.”
“What did you take anyway?” she asked.
I felt embarrassed, “I just smoked a little bit of weed.”
Sam tried hard to hold back her amusement until eventually it gave way to a flood of laughter. I couldn’t be mad at her even if I wanted to. She laughed with her entire body; no person I had ever seen before had ever been more beautiful than this enigmatic Sam. Think Joss Stone, Natalie Portman, and Emma Watson all rolled into one. The exact blend of adorableness and perfection. You can’t picture it, can you? I had a hard time too, even as she stood in front of me.
“I’m sorry,” she said, trying to stifle her giggles, “but weed, holy shit. I’ve never seen anybody act that way before.”
I stuck my arms out to my sides and shrugged while sucking down the nicotine and drawing it deep into my lungs. “I don’t do drugs. I don’t like them. This is why, I panic,” I said.
“So, you knew this would happen and you did it anyway? You’re not very smart, are you?”
I was not very smart and every second that I stood with this majestic creature served only to make me more painfully aware of my faults. I had to say something to explain myself. Actually, I didn’t have to say anything. I had a myriad of options at my disposal. I could have called a cab and gone home. I could have gone back inside. I could have steered the conversation in a second direction. The weed and the booze, however, had other plans for my evening.
“I mean, ten minutes ago I was talking to the floor about whether or not I should drink the Drain-O,” I said, raising my hands to my throat and performing the universal symbol for choking.
All amusement was gone from Sam’s face.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I don’t know why I told you that.”
My mouth kept talking and I was powerless to stop it.
“I guess, I just don’t like my life right now,” I said.
I took three steps off the porch and sat down in the freshly fallen snow.
The cold, wet snow.
Sam seemed to glide to my side and before I knew it she sitting next to me in the snow, her arm entwined with mine, her head resting on my shoulder. I could smell her hair and it smelled… nice. She didn’t use any of those scented conditioners that would leave her smelling like a fruit basket you’d give to a co-worker you didn’t really cared about. She smelled like a woman, whatever that means.
“So why don’t you like your life, Dylan Andrews?” she asked.
“How do you know my name?”
“You’re the guy who freaked in the bathroom on New Year’s Eve. Everybody knows your name.”
I didn’t know it was possible to feel anymore shame. I felt so stupid I had to laugh about it.
“I guess it’s because of things like this. When I was little I thought that I would be an adult and everything would make sense someday. I didn’t think that at 28 years old, on New Year’s Eve, I’d be contemplating suicide and spilling my guts to a perfect stranger,” I said, “not that I mind the company.”
Sam pressed her lips together and squinted her eyes, “You’re not still contemplating suicide, are you?” she asked.
I shook my head and lit another Marlboro Light. Gold Pack, excuse me.
“Good. You know, when I was younger I thought I would live in Barbie’s Dream House. So, if you want to talk about childhood dreams not living up to expectations, there’s that.”
“Barbie’s Dream House? And when did you realize that wasn’t happening?” I asked.
“When I was 14 years old, losing my virginity, underneath the bleachers, during the homecoming football game, my freshman year of high school,” she said.
I didn’t know what to say. The silence wasn’t comfortable, but it wasn’t uncomfortable.
“What was his name?” I asked, searching for something to say and knowing that wasn’t it.
“Oh, who can even remember. It was a lifetime ago and I don’t remember anything about him, but the entire time he was inside me I just remember thinking about the impracticalities of living inside a giant, pink, plastic house. Then suddenly it made sense why you never see any giant, pink, plastic houses. Then he finished. I pulled down my skirt, thanked him, and I left,” she said.
“He should have been thanking you,” I said.
“Don’t be that guy,” Sam said, rolling her eyes.
“It’s okay. So what’s wrong with your life, what did you think would be so amazing at 28?”
I exhaled deeply and watched the smoke curl upwards into the night time sky until it finally dissipated. Sam patiently waited for me to answer.
“It’s just all so disappointing,” I said, “When you’re young you have all these dreams and you think anything is possible. Then you get older and you start putting those dreams on the back burner because, fuck it, it’s easier to get drunk then to work towards them. First days pass, then weeks, months, years. Then people close to you start dying only now you’re old enough to give a shit that they’re dying and you start to realize that they probably had dreams too. They probably a lot of dreams that they never got to live out,” I said.
I took a deep breath and we sat in silence.
“That was a fucked up rant, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to dump all that on you,” I said.
Sam’s hand found mine, and like our arms, our fingers became entwined. “I need you to stop apologizing. Nothing annoys me more than people who keep apologizing,” she said.
“Sorry,” I said. She hit me in the shoulder with her free hand. I smiled.
“You just spend your entire childhood waiting to be an adult,” I said, “Waiting to be a grownup so no one can tell you what to do. Someday you’ll be a grownup and everything will be amazing. Then suddenly you’re a grownup and nothing is amazing,” I said, pausing to light a cigarette. Sam took one too and I continued, “The older that you get you just realize that there is nothing spectacular about anything. You are just a speck that lives on a slightly larger speck that circles a fairly insignificant star that someday is going to explode, taking with it any evidence that we ever lived.”
“And you don’t find that beautiful?” she asked. “The universe found a way to make that happen, to make you happen, to make me happen. It is complete and utter random chance that we even get to have this conversation right now. Two specks on a slightly larger speck circling an insignificant star hell bent on exploding, and you want to complain that you can’t live in a giant, pink, plastic house,” she said.
I shook my head and tried to argue, but I couldn’t find the words. Quite simply, I had never looked at it from that perspective before. Still, “If it’s all just random and meaningless, what’s the point?” I asked.
Sam shrugged, “Why does everything have to have a point? The point is not for you to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you,” she said.
“Are you Gandalf-ing me?” I asked.
Sam laughed. “I’m a bit of a dork. You may not be brining the Ring to Mt. Doom, but I think the lesson still applies.”
I laughed and flicked my cigarette into the driveway just in time for my phone to begin emitting a high pitched ‘beep’ over and over and over again.
“Sorry,” I said, turning off my alarm.
“What the hell was that?”
“It’s nothing,” I said, turning red.
“it’smytenminutealarm,” I said. I couldn’t get the words out fast enough.
“Your what?” she asked.
“It’s my ten minute alarm,” I said.
“Your ten minute alarm?” she asked.
It sounded even stupider when she said it.
“I came here alone and I set an alarm. Ten minutes before the ball drops. Either I have someone to kiss or I don’t. If I don’t, this is the point where I would slip out the door and find a cab. No one would notice I was gone and no one would notice I was alone at midnight. Basically, it’s my shit or get off the pot alarm,” I said.
“Bad analogy given your history with bathrooms this evening,” Sam said with big eyes, nodding head quite matter-of-factly.
“So, I guess I’m going to grab a cab. You should probably find your date,” I said, pulling our arms apart for the first time tonight.
“You’re an idiot, Andrews,” she said.
“Don’t call me Andrews,” I said.
“Then don’t be such an idiot. Obviously, I’m here with you now so if you’re going to grab anything how about two glasses of champagne and a blanket.”
“You’re serious?” I asked.
“Seven minutes,” she said, pulling my wrist towards her and reading my watch.
I made it back outside with 90 seconds to spare. Sam had moved back to the porch and out of the snow. I presented her with a bottle of Andre Cold Duck and a worn out Sesame Street blanket. “It’s all I could find,” I said.
“Its perfect,” she said, popping the top.
“Still,” I said, taking a swig straight from the bottle, “I can’t help but thinking that at least Frodo got an adventure out of it all. All I have to show for it is Ikea furniture and a series of hangovers.”
“That sounds like a grass-is-always-greener conversation we can have over breakfast,” she said.
I tried to speak, to tell her how presumptuous that was of her, but she had tied her lips up with my own. And really, who was I kidding, I would have gladly bought her breakfast. For the first time in six years I was not alone on New Year’s Eve and all I had to do was get really high and hide in the bathroom.
What happened that night was pure chance.
Just like everything else.