I am thinking, reflecting on what the last year held and what the new year holds for me.
Last year, it was a silent night, post-Alpine Christmas. Andrew went out to Connecticut with friends, and I stayed home, soaking in a bubble bath. Wondering if things would ever change; if things would ever get better–with him, with us, with my career, with…everything.
The phone rang.
“Happy New Year,” F said, “I just wanted to wish you a happy new year.”
“Oh,” I said, “Let me call you back when I’m out of the bath.”
And so began a piscine night of epic proportions…fish cooked; mermaid soaked; phone submerged, etc.
I got out of the tub and rang him back. He was finishing dinner–a meal of fish and greens that he’d cooked for himself in his small apartment. We had spent much of the year three-leg jogging through our respective recoveries as our marriages crumbled about us–the two of us still clinging for dear life to a friendship that had been lifegiving in many ways–so it was normal that we’d wish each other a happy new year.
We spoke for a moment about pleasant things, ignoring the obvious: the fact that he’d turned down my invitation to the opera at the very, very last minute (i.e., that very morning), and my evening gown, purchased for the occasion, was angrily slung over the bedroom chair.
Then he dropped the phone. Into the sink–the sink full of water that he’d just washed fishy dishes in.
And so began an adventure of strange back-and-forth phone calls on strange numbers; a call to the Apple Store on 5th Avenue; and me begrudgingly donning a sweater, tights, and boots to venture out into the freezing night in pursuit of an iPhone.
We met at the Apple Store, open 24 hours, the new year being no exception.
It could have been the opera. It could have been dinner. It could have been anything under more normal circumstances. But it was Meredith and Frederic and the Apple Store it was.
We spent the night in the cold, looking at electronics. He purchased an iPhone.
“Do you like this case? Or this case? Or are the fingerprints going to drive me nuts? How do I use things thing without getting…fingerprints…all over it?” he worried, reverting to the foppish Frederic that everyone knows and loves.
“I don’t know,” I said. I spent that last year saying that a lot, “I don’t know.” And in my professional life now, I always tell people, “I don’t know,” is never a wrong answer. Yet it always felt wrong to me to say, like I should have known better.
We bought the iPhone, activated it, and stepped out into the breathtakingly cold night. Cyclists sprinted past without warning, coming in a herd out of Central Park like a bizarre troupe of ants or cockroaches fleeing a woebegone pantry. Descended into the subway tunnel at 59th St, right next to Bloomingdale’s, and after a quick kiss on the cheek, he was off to the opposite-side platform.
Uptown; downtown. The night had left me in the quiet stillness of a Manhattan subway station shortly before midnight on December 31, 2008.
We stared at each other, briefly, across the divide before the silver subway car came along and swallowed him up. I lingered on the platform, waiting for the Downtown 6, before finally resigning myself to head deeper into the belly of the beast and catch the Downtown 5.
The train sped into and out of 59th Street as I began to understand what was happening to me. This was it; this was the end and the beginning. Everything was about to change. The cold had been a kind of baptism, almost, reminding that the things that hurt couldn’t be numbed away; that cold was still a feeling; that I still had a life to live and had to get out and set about living it. Now.
The lights went off on the train. Flash, flash, flash. Happy New Year. Happy midnight. Happy everything.
In true New York fashion, all of us in the train car stared at each other as the lights flashed and the conductor came on, wishing us a happy New Year. No one moved a muscle, no one reveled, just quietly accepted that something had changed; something was different; and when we emerged from the subway tunnels at our respective destinations it would be a new year.
In 2009, my life changed. I moved; I traveled; I found a job I love; I commenced the long, slow waltz back down the aisle.
And on this last day of 2009, I’ve pulled last year’s gown out of the closet; pressed it; and will put it on tonight. Salvaged it from the pile of angry bedroom detritus and will wear it–new body, new life.
There’s no such thing as a perfect life, you know. There’s no such thing as laid plans always coming to fruition, no matter how carefully you budget and schedule and think you can control for the best and worst.
If you had asked me ten years ago where I saw myself at the end of the first decade of the new millennium, I probably couldn’t have told you, other than that I would hope for it to be right here, right in this moment–pain notwithstanding–surrounded by these incredible people, and trippingstumblingfumblingcelebrating my way through whatever comes next.