New Years Eve
Alex couldn’t stop talking, about how bad I was in bed, how
disorganized I was, how angry I got. Sometimes I’d help him. I’d
interject and paint word pictures about the rage and hate I’d feel.
And everyone laughed, I laughed, he laughed. But under the blanket
my palms bled where my fingernails dug into them.
Sean chimed in about his shitty ex-boyfriend and there was
someone else to disparage. Alex and the other guests left, and I
secluded myself in my room and tore my dresser apart. I was leaving,
far away, and I wasn’t coming back.
There was a moment in my life when the work zoom was
the highlight of my day. I’d wake up from my nap and excitedly wait
for it to start. It was a gasp of air in an ocean. We started meeting
on the weekends to play games and strategize against our boss.
Hannah and I would talk for hours into the night about everything
and nothing while Sam cracked jokes and told me to go to therapy.
What I once only felt on the weekday zoom, I was
surrounded by. Even as our strategies failed and I lost that job, we
spoke constantly. Maybe I could travel to see them, they were close.
I missed them, though we’d never truly met.
My mother sat in her cushioned throne and assembled a
puzzle as she wept. She explained endlessly. She wanted me to stay.
She wanted me to go. She was sorry about leaning on me. She was
a bad mother.
I wrote out everything I needed to move far away. I needed
a license and a car. I needed to sort out what I was keeping and
throwing away and buying new. I didn’t speak for a long moment as
she wept. I just wrote.
Days later she asked me for my list with a shaky voice and
puffy red eyes. I gave it to her, and she added things I hadn’t thought
of. We were ready.
All the zoom friends lived in the city. It was beautiful,
glass and bricks rising from the ocean before giving way to trees.
I traveled and stayed there for a time. I spent afternoons working
and went out with them late at night. Sam took me to their home
to watch tv and eat frozen pizza, we laughed until the sun rose and
slept under its gaze. Hannah took me to my first rock show, I felt
the guitars in my bones, saw people flail and collide in exuberance.
I felt loved.
On the last day of my stay, we assembled to play the weekly
game. I sat at a table I’d only seen on camera next to all my favorite
people. We played and laughed and told stories. We complained
and drank and smoked and left lighter than we entered. My hands
weren’t fists; my shoulders weren’t tense. I knew who I was, and I
was just me, something I couldn’t be alone.
On my way home I texted Alex that we were done. He didn’t
seem to care, but my rib cage loosened, and I could breathe again.
The zoom friends congratulated me over text. I was free.
“Have you considered moving there?” Sean asked in the
middle of me retelling my time in the city. I told Sean I couldn’t
afford it; it wouldn’t be the right path, I was already committed to
moving far away, they were expecting me there, they had prepared
for me there. Sean agreed and we moved on.
Once the sun had set with Mom and Sean asleep in their
rooms, as I texted Hannah, like I did every night, the plans started
to form in my head. It would be closer to family. I could keep my
new job. I could see my friends. I could do this.
A decade ago, when I could barely reach the pedals and
see over the dashboard, my mother took me down a dirt road and
handed me the keys to her car. A decade ago, I’d gone down that
road, terrified of the gas pedal, my whole body shaking.
For a decade, my heart would pump violently, and my fingers
would hurt with white knuckles upon the wheel whenever I drove,
my mother always by my side.
But in preparation for going far away, I got my license, and
now I could drive alone. My hands were loose upon the wheel, and I
could forget my heart existed. My only companion was the road as I
made my way to visit the city. I could see my friends every weekend
now. It was all I wanted in the world.
The city didn’t have anything to offer that weekend. No
games, no shows, no rallies. I went anyway.
Hannah inflated her air mattress, and we went grocery
shopping. We walked to the ocean at dawn and saw the sun break
through the water. We cleaned her apartment. We ate pears and
potato chips all weekend and traded album recommendations.
We did nothing, and yet I felt my stomach drop to my
waistline as I drove back home. There was no place I’d rather be,
and no one I’d rather do nothing with. This was where I would leave
to. This was home.
Mom and I traveled to see her brother die. Cancer had
sentenced him, and he wanted no more pain. Mom left every day
to help her brother prepare and returned to the hotel crying. She
On the third morning, I awoke to Sam’s accusations.
Boundaries crossed, actions taken, inactions left to fester. Lies
from an unknown source whispered onto Sam’s tongue. My ribcage
constricted and my breaths became shallow. I screamed into the
darkness of the early California morning. I cried, I sent defenses
and questions to push against an electronic wall. I read Sam’s text
a hundred times, and I read its ending, “You know better, get your
shit together, goodbye.”
On the sixth day, Mom left to help her brother prepare for
his final hours. It took all day, and 18 hours after his medically
prescribed lethal dose of morphine, my mother’s brother passed.
We left the next morning, a pair suffering tragedies, she left hers
behind, I was catching up with mine. We landed in the city, and I
knew it would be my last time there. I’d never see them again. I was
The springs had worked their way through the padding and
fabric of my mattress. It tore through my sheets and my skin. I woke
up bleeding in the morning and started sleeping on the couch.
The dryer was broken, and all the laundry hung from a line
that stretched from the greenhouse to the porch. It rained most
days that month.
I felt hollow at work, every call arithmetic, and every meeting
a defeat. My performance was slipping, but no one else had noticed.
My car started filling with things once I was done using
them. My electric piano, my dress clothes, my hairbrush. It was
I texted Alex last night. I wanted to let him know that my
grandmother appreciated his Facebook presence. We talked a little
about old times and old people. He didn’t ask me about my studies
or about my move.
My phone is still silent at night. I keep hoping, but they’ll
never reach out. I put on my headphones at night and listen to
Hannah’s music with my eyes closed, trying to remember that
night fondly. Moving far away isn’t all I thought it would be. My
room is donated to me, with paintings I didn’t choose and a bed
the wrong shape.
Tonight, I look at Alex’s little message box, with his face and
his dog’s smiling next to each other. I start typing 3 times and delete
each text. I close my phone and turn over to sleep. 500 miles is the
right distance for him. I think back to the city as my eyes begin to
flutter closed for sleep, and as I remember that single night sitting
around the game table with them, I realize that I love them.
New Years Eve