We’re all still at the party dancing toward midnight. We think of champagne, how it feels the need to explode in bubbles. We don’t like champagne. What a show off.
We think of our resolutions. More time at the gym. Giving that yoga class another chance. Looking up a soup kitchen in town. No more drinking or, realistically, less drinking. It’s only alcoholics who don’t drink. We’re just going to take it slow. After tonight, of course. Tonight is New Year’s Eve and Gerald is the host. He slides those thin champagne flutes into our hands and says:
“T-minus 5! Everyone! Everyone! Find someone to kiss!”
It’s fine for him, he has his wife Maggie stuck to his side, practically emerging from him. They’re like a Biblical blob. When the clock says so, their heads will dive in unison towards a nearly onanistic pop kiss. Then those heads will jerk right back, so as not to miss Eternity Square on the wall-long set.
Janet, whom we assume to be Gerald’s younger sister, is going to loosen an uncharacteristically prissy little bun five seconds before midnight. Her hair is going to do some cascade-like spilling, and her new boyfriend Brodie, who does club promotions, says: “You suck.” We don’t know why he’s saying that, but her reaction is to laugh and she will indeed get to sucking on his lower lip. She, we have heard, is a very sloppy drinker.
There will be some affectionate if amateurish pecking between Alyson who blogs about trends in the land of beanie hat fashions, and her balding date Trevor, who blogs about the cutthroat world of USB flash drives.
Over by a mid-size Christmas tree, Julian will kiss his wife Marlene the way a person may kiss a cantaloupe because Julian is gay and everyone knows that, except for Julian and Marlene.
Now, Suzette and HER guy, who is called something Old Country like Fabrizio or Giuliano, will kiss for real. It will be one of those kisses where everything meets at the mouth, an authentic movie-ender of a kiss. And they mean it, true, but we all know that five months later Suzette is going to get an abortion without asking for permission from Fabrizio or Giuliano, and he, a good Italian Catholic at heart, will punch her when he hears about it, and will spend a night caged up at the station, but she won’t press charges, and then they’ll never speak to each other again.
Two more of us will be drunk enough to make out at midnight- complete sloppy strangers tangled against the curtain in Gerald’s shower- but the rest of us are single and just plan to shuffle around on a primal ballet, waving and shouting: “Happy New Year Happy New Year Happy New Year!” But no one would believe that we are having fun.
That is why we don’t like champagne. Champagne always looks like it’s having fun.
He is one of those who is drunk enough. His name is Jonah. She is the other one, and she’s called something normal and easy to pronounce, like Amy. He wants to believe it’s Amy. It’s 1:30. They’re kissing on the cab. Then they’re outside his building. She bends over to unsnap her high heels. There’s a cleaning lady in his building, the lobby and the elevator and the hallway, they are all very clean, he reassures her, so go ahead and take off your shoes if you want. “Why don’t you take off your shoes too?” she says. He said he was, of course, going to do just that but in a little bit.
Somehow she’s holding her high heels in one hand and his belt in the other and he has her bra in one hand and his keys in the other. She knows where the light switches are better than he does, it’s like her fingers are used to reaching out and looking for something to turn on. They kick into the heap of laundry that has been guarding his bedroom door, like a pungent turtle.
“Sorry about that,” Jonah tells Amy.
“This whole mess. It’s been a crazy week. Crazy year.”
“No, this is so cool, for a guy. You don’t want to see my place. My vacuum cleaner has rust. Hey, you got a condom, right? I didn’t bring one. I’m a very responsible girl, trust me, it’s just tonight I didn’t think anything was going to happen.” She laughs and plops down on his bed. “I’m not slutty, I promise. You want me to be slutty, but I’m not.”
“I don’t want that. No, you’re a nice girl, I can tell. Very, very nice girl.” It’s a drunken thing to say, which is proper because he’s more than a little drunk.
Amy shakes her head: “Maybe I’m not, but I’m serious about the condom. You got one?”
“I got tons of them. Not tons, I mean. Not that many. Just… normal. The normal amount of condoms to have.” Jonah’s turned off by her tone. What a question! He doesn’t want trouble any more than she does! “Look, let’s slow down. You want another drink? I have some scotch.”
“Oh no no no,” she laughs. “Done with the drinkies now! Can I be honest?”
“It’s more for me, really. Please let’s have a scotch. I’m a little nervous, and I don’t know you. I don’t do this all that much. I’m a nice boy too. Or we can just, you know. Go ahead and fuck. But we should have some scotch.”
“Can I be honest?” She repeats, and he realizes he hadn’t heard her the first time. “If I drink anything else, I just can’t answer for myself. It’s not going to be good. There will be some throwing up. Or I won’t feel safe.”
“What do you mean you won’t feel safe?” Now Jonah’s downright offended. “Listen, I don’t know who you think I am, but of course you’re safe! And you know what, if you ever feel like you’re not safe somewhere then you shouldn’t be there in the first place. I can sleep in the couch. We’re not doing anything we don’t want to do. I’m not some creep!”
“Who said that? Who said anything like that? I’m not stupid either, I’m a big girl, if I thought you were a creep I wouldn’t be about to fuck you. I’m just saying I’m done drinking, can you freaking respect that? What are you, an alcoholic?”
Jonah doesn’t hear the last part. Next year he plans to not be drunk as much, but now he’s very drunk, and when he goes to the kitchen he means to pour himself a scotch but instead ends up standing by the sink drinking tap water. He almost forgets about Amy until she spooks him; her naked body paces in his kitchen, an apparition with a cell phone.
“I’m sorry you thought I was calling you a creep,” she says. “I gotta make a quick call to check up on someone who’s a real creep. Him I could tell you stories about.”
“An ex,” Jonah says with some conviction and little concern.
“Yeah, sort of something like that,” Amy sighs. “But I still love him. I just want to say Happy New Year to him.”
“Well,” Jonah says. “But if he wanted you to call him, maybe he would have called you. It kind of sounds like you shouldn’t call him.”
“Who asked you?” She goes off to the living room, and then comes back: “Nah, he won’t pick up. He must be one with one of those bitches he knows. Hey, listen, can I ask you a favor? He doesn’t pick up when I call him, but maybe if I call him from your number he’ll pick up and that way I’ll at least know he’s ok. He was always in some sort of trouble for New Year’s Eve. I don’t care who he’s with, I just want him to know that I care for him. So. Can I use your phone? It will be a quick call.”
“No offense, but I don’t want that,” Jonah says. “It’s not my business, and I seriously think you shouldn’t call him.”
“Of course I shouldn’t call him!” Amy suddenly screams. “I told you I’m not stupid! I know when I should and shouldn’t call someone! But don’t you see I can’t help it? I think I love him! I want to hear his voice! I want him to stop cheating on me!” She begins to cry, and Jonah is embarrassed. He puts his arms around her nakedness. She uses the knuckles of her hands to wipe away tears, in a motion he finds endearing. She says: “Now you think I’m the creep. You think I’m stalking this guy. But it’s not like that at all. It doesn’t FEEL like that at all.”
“Crying is bad. You’re pretty…”
Amy’s salt-watered eyes widen: “You think I’m pretty?”
“I was going to say ‘You’re pretty drunk.’”
She chuckles: “A little. I’m not that drunk. Look, forget the phone. Thanks for nothing. Let’s just stop saying things, and just take our clothes off and we’ll see what happens.”
“What do you mean see what happens? We know exactly what’s going to happen. The same thing that always happens. The only thing that ever happens.”
That thing happens. Then they both collect their clothes.
“That was great. You’re great. That guy, he sounds like a loser, if he didn’t want to hear from you.”
“Enough,” Amy says. “You don’t get to act like you know anything about my life just because we fucked. And that guy? He loves me too, and of course he wanted to hear from me. I misrepresented it all.”
“Sure,” Jonah says. “Whatever.”
“Don’t think I’m a bitch. I’m not, I promise. I hope everything gets better for you next year. And for me. Have a happy one,” Amy says, and she goes.
A week later. We’re all busy at work. Amy, Jonah, Suzette, Fabrizio or Giuliano, Gerald, Janet and Brodie, Julian, Maggie, Trevor, Alyson, all of us. It’s almost noon. We think of lunch. We think of broken resolutions, and how even champagne goes flat after a while. Not that much fun, after all. We think of things that might change someday.
We go out to lunch.
Then we get back to work.