There was the one where we broke up, right as you kissed me at midnight. ‘I don’t think we should be together anymore,’ I slurred. I had been pounding some tasteless mix of vodka cranberry. ‘Okay,’ you said, without protest. We both knew it was coming. I went to the bathroom. ‘I think I just broke up with my boyfriend,’ I told even drunker strangers. ‘Good for you, girl! You’re better off without him!’ they cheered. They didn’t know me or the situation but they hugged me all the same.
My college friends had come into town again. The year before we had gone to a club near Times Square. I was at my thinnest, wearing a gold dress I still hold onto even though I’ll never be that size again, never be twenty-one again. I still wore heels then but my feet didn’t hurt. I was drunk for dancing. We walked through the confettied streets at 2am and a cop took pity on me and a friend walking in just our stockings, our shoes in our hands, and offered us a ride home.
But the next year was not like the first and after our initial plans fell through we found ourselves plodding along the East Village streets, ducking into ATM terminals to keep warm while debating our next steps. That’s when we found the bar where I told you it was over. We arrived 20 minutes to midnight and quickly took pictures to make it seem like we were having fun.
After midnight, we all somehow ended up in a limo, hailing it down and getting into it as casually as if it were a cab, as if this were an everyday occurrence. There are photos of this too. It’s the last picture of us ‘together’. You lived in New Jersey at the time so you asked if you could still stay the night as planned. The limo took us to an after party. I’m not sure where it was, not even sure what direction we had headed from the bar. Inside we walked into a ballroom that couldn’t possibly exist in New York, with high ceilings and space everywhere, as if we walked into someone else’s dream. The lighting made us feel as if we were underwater. We danced slowly, knowing it was the last time. I lost track of my friends. They got home much later, long after we were asleep. I don’t believe we made love that night but I let you hold me until it was time for you to leave.
The next year’s New Year’s was much quieter. We were back together. My friends didn’t visit. I was sick. I thought maybe I could muster enough energy to go out but we just watched TV in bed. We stayed awake until midnight and then I slept until my body woke itself. We did a lot of sleeping in those days, wasting the late mornings and early afternoons drinking Bloody Marys and watching football. I’d get home to my studio apartment in the early evening and think about how far behind I was, how much more there was I wanted to do.
The year after we had moved in together. I knew at that point that it wasn’t working yet again, but I couldn’t articulate it. That New Year’s I sat on the couch and got drunk and texted my friends in other places. The next morning I cleaned the entire apartment while you slept, wiping wine stains off the walls. I glared at you when you finally woke. I made a game plan to leave. We didn’t spend another New Year’s together again. By the next New Year’s we were no longer speaking.
After it was truly over, I was back in Chicago ringing in the New Year with another man, a temporary diversion that ended as quickly and haphazardly as it started. Then one month later I met my husband-to-be. The first New Year’s together I got nervously drunk around his friends and woke up with a massive hangover. I knew he loved me when he carefully asked if I remembered what I said the night before and patiently fetched me Chinese food. Shortly after the next New Year’s we were engaged.
Now I don’t worry about what happens when the clock strikes twelve, believing that with one stroke somehow everything will be different. This year, I didn’t even make it to midnight, and I woke up all the same.