January 3, 2012

One As Much As The Other

I watched the second hand tick towards early dismissal, in sync with the sound of the copier. She walked into the back room with a stack of charts and placed them in the file cart. "Don't touch these. Not 'til next year." She had an edge and a soft spot.The work got the edge; I got the soft spot. "You must be excited to leave," she eyed the clock. "Heading to upstate NY again this year, right?" I only nodded, refraining from delving into the geographic particulars of upstate, central, western, and the exact location of my heart. I wasn't sure I knew those coordinates any longer. "You two have yourself a little tradition." Is that what we had already? A tradition? I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure of much.

I left on New Year's Eve, later than I had in the past. I drove through the dark with the only guarantee that I would arrive sometime between dinner and midnight. The curves in the road, the uphill climb, the steady descent, I knew the lines of their silhouette between the moon and dark sky. The same way I knew the curves of his face, the dip just above his chin. A face I last saw months ago. Months of silence. The road grew quiet the farther into the mountains I drove. The only headlights were my own. For miles. I kept the radio off this time and rode with only my uncertainty. As the hills peaked higher, even my uncertainty sat still and quiet. I didn't know. I didn't have to know.

The house lit up golden yellow against the backdrop of treetops and mountain peaks. I let myself in through the garage door. Country music seeping through the hinges, but I barely opened it all the way before he put my bag down and scooped me up in one fluid motion. As always. He made me a plate of food, despite the too many times I said I wasn't hungry. I ate everything, including the seconds, by the time the rest of the guests, three to be exact, arrived and we took our places around the deck of cards. As always. His fingers at the nape of my neck and I am a terrible liar. We watched the ball drop and they joked we would be asleep before them. We were, wrapped up in handmade, homemade afghans, under the flickering light of the Twilight Zone. As always. I knew. I always knew.

This year we got home later than we planned but right on time to open the bottle of wine and turn on the television. I flipped between my favorites and notsokindly asked her to stop snoring and to please wake up and she did. As always and I knew. We watched the ball drop and old faces and semi-new faces. Newer faces, at least. "Has it really been six years?" I asked. She answered yes, but she didn't have to. The crowd in Times Square looked cold, even though the night was warm, and I waited for the clips of New Years around the world before I turned the TV off and went to bed. I set my alarm for morning coffee and thought about New Years Eve nights and New Years mornings and all of the accidental traditions I stepped into and lost and made. Through some mix of never knowing and always knowing.

And perhaps that's a resolution for this year: to trust what I don't know and what I do know. One as much as the other.

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