These Are from New Year's Eve
Why do we sometimes save memories of things we don't really want to remember?
These are from New Year's Eve. This is me, sitting on the south side of a love seat near the window in Gabriel and Deborah's spacious seventeenth-floor apartment, where I was positioned most of the night. In my hand is a beer bottle, unopened.
This is me drinking from an opened beer bottle. Next to me is Carter, whom I dislike. I am on the right. He is looking in the opposite direction. In his left hand is a tall glass, half filled with red liquid. He is wearing a tie.
This one shows Gabriel next to me on the love seat, asking me about Hellen. "How is Hellen? Where is she tonight?" That's me, listening to his inquiry, preparing my response, which will be, "She wasn't feeling good tonight; she stayed in."
This is Gabriel, with his hand on my knee, looking sympathetic and disappointed but simultaneously optimistic. He's saying "Hey, that's too bad, but tell her I said hi. Tell her I hope she's feeling better."
This is me taking my first piss of the night. I am looking sideways into the mirror, studying a ruptured blood vessel under my right eye. I can not remember if I have ever noticed this particular ruptured blood vessel before.
This is me being intercepted in the hallway by Janice, whom I like. I am on the left. Due to the constraints of the hallway, as you can see, we are standing quite close to one another. She is asking me about my time away from work. She is holding a clear glass with two hands and seems to be quite interested in my answer. "Was it a holiday?" she is asking.
This is me, as above, with my hand in my hair. I am saying, "It wasn't exactly a holiday." I'm saying, "It was time off." That's the sort of thing I am saying to Janice, whom I work with peripherally, and whom I like. I am not making eye contact. I'm saying, "It was good to get away for awhile."
This is me looking in the refrigerator for ice cubes or seltzer. In the background, that's Deborah -- our hostess, Gabriel's common-law wife -- talking to Kensworth. Kensworth, strictly speaking, is my superior, but we never cross paths. Kensworth is gesturing animatedly with his hands, making some point. Deborah appears engrossed.
This is me, alone on the south side of the love seat, by the window, staring at the television. In the background: blurred, talking faces. The television is off.
This is me, as above. Next to me is Julian, who works my shift, but on weekends. We do not really know each other. He is asking me about my time away; he had to cover most of my shifts. He is being pleasant about it. We've never spoken before. Julian is wearing corduroys and a Hawaiian-style t-shirt. It's warm in here; however, the patio doors are slid half open, so I am wondering if he isn't a little cold. I do not ask him this. I am wearing a green sweater over a dark blue t-shirt. My pants are khaki. My socks are argyle.
I'm sorry. You can see that.
This is me saying, "I had to leave the city for a few weeks. Family emergency." Julian's eyes are not focussed on me, but on something or someone behind me. He is holding a beer bottle, identical to my own.
This is Deborah trying to organize a friendly game of Balderdash.
This is me taking my second piss of the night. I am looking at the toilet, the splash of the urine. I appear engrossed.
This is me, on the south side of the love seat, twisted around sideways, looking over my shoulder, out the window. From my vantage point, I am able to see half of the layout of downtown. It is lit up quite prettily against the blackening purple of the sky. Sitting next to me is Eunice, whom I work with on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We are not talking. She is looking intensely at her lap, trying to tell if she spilled any of her Beefeater and 7-Up. She is wearing a dull-looking floral-patterned skirt. I am thinking of nothing.
Here is Kensworth, standing over me, asking about my being back at work. Am I glad to be back. How was my time off. Am I feeling better. Am I feeling 100 percent again. You can't see his face, but his facial expression is best described as concerned. I am looking at his shoes and nodding.
Here I am peeling the label from my beer bottle. Next to me on the love seat is Janice, talking excitedly, smilingly, to someone on her right. She is leaning toward them, away from me, her elbows on her knees. I am thinking about her perfume. I appear engrossed.
Here is someone I don't know, have never seen before, asking me about Hellen. "Couldn't she make it?" I am about to say "No, she could not make it. She is in Montana. She is harvesting peyote in Montana." You can see the words forming on my lips, if you look closely.
This is me, watching other people talk.
This is me, in the bathroom, after taking a third piss. After looking through Gabriel and Deborah's medicine cabinet. After purloining an unlabeled pill bottle which looked, to me, promising. I am standing in front of the mirror, my hands wet, tracing streaks across the mirror with my thumbs. I am studying my face with great curiosity and sedulousness. I am thinking, "I should have. I should have."
This is me, out on the balcony, balancing my beer bottle on the railing. This is the same balcony that Gabriel asked all the guests not to go out on tonight, since they had just cleaned it, and building management was supposed to be painting it sometime next week. I am looking down at the street, where one car is passing slowly by the front of the building. The car is a taxi. My brow is perspiring. In the background, some of the guests seem to be looking my way. Concerned.
This is me, back on the love seat, looking at my watch. Carter is standing up from the love seat, after just having watched me watch my watch for some minutes. I am thinking, "Thirty-seven minutes. Thirty-seven minutes."
Here is Morton, hand on my shoulder, face red, telling me about an equation that he has discovered but not quite refined. Morton is younger than I am and makes more money than I do by doing the same job that I do. He dresses poorly and has sour breath. He has been drinking nothing but white rum on ice all night. "It has to do with expectations," he is saying. "The closer we get to a long-awaited moment, the less time there is for things to change sufficiently to impress us, or surprise us. The less time there is, the closer we get, the lower our expectations. The greater our disappointment."
This is me, asking him if he could possibly graph such an equation. If he wouldn't mind. Maybe right now.
This is me, making a face at the music, which I find too loud.
This is a young coworker of mine who demands to be called "Elvis," though Elvis is not his real name. He has brought a short blond girl with very significant breasts who follows him around everywhere he goes through Gabriel and Deborah's apartment and who never says anything unless spoken directly to. She smiles a lot. Indiscriminately. At everyone. Elvis is leaning toward me, saying, with great vim and feeling, "That's too bad. Well, tell her I said hi." I have just, moments earlier, responded to his question, "Where's Hellen, man?" with, "She is not here. She is dead. I have not seen her for six months. She's not feeling well. She is in Montana. She is with loved ones and loving ones." Elvis' girl is smiling at me.
This is me, head between my knees. In the background, faces. Faces.
This is Deborah, kneeling next to me, speaking to me in whispers, in serious tones.
This is me wondering if I can take another millennium.
This is the countdown. "Ten, nine." Everyone is wearing cheap-looking paper hats and holding flutes of champagne in one hand and noisemakers in the other. "Eight, seven." Notice the smiles. Many are looking at a clock on the wall. "Six, five." Some are holding hands, some are embracing. "Four." One couple in the background, kissing, arms around each other's necks. "Three." I am saying, "I know what comes next."
Or... wait. Am I in this one?
Craig Boyko (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sometimes student at the University of Calgary in Alberta. He's constantly being shushed by his next-door neighbor.
InterText stories written by Craig Boyko: "Decisions" (v6n1), "Wave" (v6n2), "Gone" (v6n6), "Ghettoboy and Dos" (v8n2), "These Are from New Year's Eve" (v9n6).
InterText Copyright © 1991-2000 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 9, Number 6 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1999 Craig Boyko.