I finally woke up at 12:30 today, tangled in my bed linens, my oversized T-shirt stuck to my back with sweat.My head was pounding.
The last time I looked at my clock before I fell asleep was around 3 a.m. I'd collapsed in a heap on my stairs, sobbing, too exhausted to get in the door and take off my coat before I lost it completely. My mascara had left my lashes entirely and streamed in tiny black rivers down my cheeks to the tip of my chin.
I. Hate. New Year's Eve.
I tried so hard to make the most of it this year: I bought a bar package to spend the evening with Tim and some new friends. I spent the day physically preparing, drinking water and making a healthy dinner before I left the house. I spent a full five minutes just on my eyeshadow. I was wearing a sequined top, for God's sake.
I was so game. Mostly. (My Facebook statuses and tweets from the day might suggest otherwise.)
Oh, hell; I was doomed from the start. New Year's Eve and I just have never gotten along. Maybe it's the expense. Maybe it's the always-dashed expectations. Maybe it's the universal shitshow. …Maybe it's Dick Clark.
My fondest memory of New Year's is from high school. (Most of my fondest memories are from high school.) My group of friends spent every big night together in the basement of Eric's parents' massive house in Overland Park. That was our place. We all brought snacks and sodas. There was a pool table, a sectional that snaked around the entire room, and a huge TV equipped with every video game system. (My one-button attack on Rival Schools for Playstation was unstoppable.) There was a hot tub outside, and we were always invited to bring our swimsuits.
We chased each other around the room. We told bad jokes. We ate too many Doritos and Soft Batch chocolate-chip cookies. Gabe drank cans of Heee Haw and lost his mind on those sugar highs.
We never really did anything… But even the tamest nights at Eric's were wonderful.
Kyle was my best friend all through high school, and every New Year's, he slipped upstairs and out the front door just after midnight. He was never gone long. Then, one year, he asked me to come with him. And we walked. That's all. He left just after midnight every year to take a walk.
We talked a little, but mostly, we just wandered together through that maze of McMansions, our breath suspended in the cold, fluorescent air. Just reflecting. And it was the best.
Last night wasn't terrible. For a lot of reasons, it just…wasn't right. Few New Year's celebrations have been since then. (Most, actually, have been just plain wrong.)
But for everything that wasn't right, the person who grabbed me at midnight certainly was. With noisemakers in one hand and champagne flutes in the other — with three and a half months behind us and, well, a lifetime in front of us — Tim and I kissed like the world was ending.
"No matter what happens this year, I want to be there for you," he told me after our kiss. "I know there will be challenges, but I'll be your rock." That perfect midnight moment hangs in my mind tonight, long after my past-noon wakeup and a day spent brunching in Bridgeport and pajama lounging with Kung Fu Panda 2 on TV.
And if the whole point of a New Year's Eve celebration is to welcome the next 365 days with optimism and hope, then I guess last night actually was a success. Despite the raccoon eyes, too-strong drinks, bad karaoke and this morning's emotional hangover.
Because 24 hours later, as I reflect — though that high school walk in the suburban dark has been replaced by a quiet, ordinary Chicago Sunday with my cat — I feel a peaceful invincibility. Happy New Year.