Karen Rivers

New Year's Eve

Karen Rivers

Because it's New Year's Eve, you should write something here for posterity.  One day, you'll be older than you are now, and you'll scroll through and say, yes, there it was, New Year's Eve, 2014, let's see where I was.  Let's see what I thought.  

What do you think?  

Mostly that instead of seeing the New Year as a fresh slate, maybe ALL time is a fresh slate renewing itself over and over; an Etch A Sketch screen being shaken clean every minute, every second, leaving only a faint trace of what was there before.  Why do we hold our breath all year and exhale when the date flips to January 1?  It's so ridiculous, and yet .. "Now it's over," we say.  "We've gotten through that terrible year."  As though our troubles know enough to cluster themselves within the confines of twelve precise months measured by the journey of the moon and the sun and the number of times our hearts broke and it became impossible to carry on, although we did anyway.  Our troubles daren't follow us across the enormous chasm of midnight, December 31.  We've set it up so they can't. 

Haven't we?


Yet people don't say, "Well, 2014 is over, it was a good year, I'll be sad to see it go."  Why not?  Maybe the good times, too, are held within the same specific bounds as the bad ones; as though each year is a ship sailing to us over a new horizon, either, say, a pirate ship filled with marauders or a cruise ship with a decent free buffet and nightly comedy shows.  It's so all-or-nothing with us.  What's up with that?   Whole years are erased by singular bad events.  We shake the Etch A Sketch harder and harder, taking the good times out, too.   You know what that's all about.  2010, you'd say without hesitation, erasing the screen once more for good measure, trying to get those marks to vanish for good.   But really, 2011 wasn't a cakewalk either, leaving a shadowy pattern on things.  Surely good things happened, but what were they?  You look at the faint tracings but can't seem to recall, can't redraw them from the lines that are left.   


Anyway, you're not even that sure you had any troubles in 2014, excluding that one terrible headache and the way your eyelid has been twitching for three straight weeks.  But those aren't troubles.  That's nothing.  The kids are fine, if awfully moody lately.   "Mummy," says The Birdy from the back of the car, "Can I use a swear?"  

"No," you say.  "Why?"  


"Please?"  she says, "Just once."  


"Fine," you say.   "OK, just once."  


There's a silence and she looks out the window at the Christmas lights going by and the other cars and a man walking a small white dog on a retractable leash, the dog weaving itself around a bus stop sign.  


Then, "Fuck you, Mummy," she says.  "Just fuck you."  


You pull over.  You're laughing or crying.  What does it all mean?  What does everything mean?  


"Are you angry about something?"  you manage.  


She shrugs, noncomittal.  She sings a song from Frozen.   She says, "Why aren't you driving, Mummy?"  She pinches her brother on the leg.  


Well, there's blue sky today and the air is cold as a knife's blade and the dogs are curled on the bed asleep and the kids are currently watching a movie and what are troubles anyway except for something for your brain to curl around and worry smooth like a pebble being polished by the turbulent sea?   The sea makes that pebble beautiful, you know.


The calendar is turning over so make some resolutions, damn it, because it's what people do.  Resolve to be kinder, to be more open, to find yourself unexpectedly happy more often, as though those things can be pre-arranged.  Yes, you say to 2015, this year I will be unexpectedly happy, happier, the happiest.  Why not this year?  The world is a dark round thing that uncracks slightly on the stroke of midnight and through that crack you are allowed to pour the decisions you've made about yourself such that when it closes again, it's sealed in there.  A deal.  So, happiness.  Why not?  You don't want to lose 10 pounds or bleach your teeth or even floss more or get more exercise or save more money, you just want to move through it all in a lighter way, aware of the way the air brushes against the skin on your face, the way the sun moves through the clattery covering of frost on the grass, the way it all keeps spinning, the ball of the Earth -- tiny and irrelevant as it is in the galaxy, in the Universe, and all of us just ants running around on it, believing too much in our own troubles -- rolling through time and carrying us with it, all of us holding on tight to each other, to the idea of something more.