Everybody’s making resolutions. I’m not. I’m done setting myself up for failure.
I’ve done it all. The diets, the gym memberships. Read all the Oprah recommended books. New Year, new you is bullshit — it’s the same old you, just 365 days later.
Change doesn’t come with a slogan — at least not for me.
It was New Year’s Eve and I decided to spend it at home, alone.
Now don’t go feeling sorry for me; this was how I wanted it. I couldn’t attend one more party, couldn’t do one more countdown with a room full of drunken and desperate people who thought the calendar turning from one page to the next meant they got a do-over — a new year to be their best selves. I had enough of that. So I bought some junk food, ordered a pizza, and sat down in front of the boob tube. I was going to ring in this New Year with my best bud, Netflix.
And it was grand. At least for a few hours. However, around 10:30, I heard a loud blast from outside, and a few moments later, the lights went out.
Happy fuckin’ New Year to me, I thought.
Looks like I wasn’t the only one in my apartment building who decided to sit this year out. I stepped into the hallway, thankful the emergency lights were on, and there were seven or eight of us who had filed out of our hovels, looking for an answer to the power outage.
“Sounds like a transformer blew.” It was the guy from 3B, Chris … Carl … some name that started with a C. He looked relatively calm, considering.
I heard someone call him Elliot. Looks like I need to get to know my neighbors better.
Elliot, who I thought was Chris or Carl, waved me over and asked, “You’re Paisley in 3H, right?”
He knew my name, and where I lived. That was either flattering or worrisome.
“Yeah, that’s me,” I said.
“I guess you didn’t want to venture out tonight either, and with this power outage looks like we made the right choice.”
“What do you mean?”
He motioned for me to follow him into his apartment. I was either going to see what he meant or meet my doom, I wasn’t sure.
But then I saw it. This wasn’t just a building outage, or even a block outage. The entire city had been swallowed up in darkness. There were a few car headlights coming down the street, but other than that, it looked like we were in outer space. I noticed Elliot staring at me, and it made me nervous.
“You’re not going to kill me, are you?” I asked, only half joking.
Elliot laughed. It was a nice laugh, a friendly one. The kind of laugh a psychotic serial killer would not possess — or so I hoped anyway.
“Not unless you want me to,” he said. Now it was my turn to laugh — definitely not a homicidal maniac.
The others had joined us in Elliot’s apartment, and he graciously said, “No need for us to be alone on a night like this.”
We all brought in candles and lanterns, then set them up all over Elliot’s place. I could see that the layout was similar to mine. But he had an extra bedroom, and it looked like he’d done some upgrades that gave it a homier feel than my stale old cookie cutter apartment.
“Nice place, Elliot,” an older gentleman said. “Did you do some remodeling?”
Elliot nodded. “I did some work a few years back. It’s a hobby of mine.”
There was a collective head shake, as we all looked around admiring Elliot’s handiwork.
There was another explosion that lit up the sky. Some of us screamed — okay I screamed. But if you had heard this sound, you would’ve been terrified too.
Then a silence settled over the city. It was more than just quiet, it was as if the explosion sucked the sound out of the universe.
Elliot tried to lighten the moment. “I’ve got some goodies here if anyone’s hungry.”
But the older gentleman, I think his name was Lenderman or Linden, was staring out the window. We all could see how scared he was.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Paulson. The city will figure it out and have the power back on in no time,” Elliot told him.
I was wrong about the old guy’s name too. Geez, I really needed to get out more.
A woman tried to comfort Mr. Paulson, and don’t worry I won’t even try to recall her name. She sat with him in the living room and held his hand.
“Let’s try our best to enjoy ourselves. I don’t have a lot of food, but I’ll share what I’ve got,” Elliot said.
“I have some food at my place,” a short woman called out. “I’ll bring it over.”
“Me too,” said some guy with red hair.
Then a tall skinny dude offered up some food, and a girl with a giant tattoo on her back volunteered something form her place as well.
“Everyone pair up and go back to your apartments together. This way no one gets lost or hurt.” Look at Elliot, a natural born leader — definitely not a killer or a psycho.
I paired up with tattoo girl and brought over all the junk I intended to enjoy by myself. She brought a delicious pasta dish and some wine. It was a regular potluck, and before long, the mood was quite festive.
Tall skinny dude was trying to get reception on a portable radio, but there was only static. We were having a pretty good time getting to know each other better and sharing stories as if we were old friends.
I was even beginning to relax. It was actually a fun New Year’s Eve party.
Ah, but I spoke too soon. Seconds after that thought wound its way through my brain and into my consciousness, there was a loud banging on the door.
We all froze right where we were. It was definitely not the friendly knock of a neighbor. Elliot, the consummate leader, made his way through the group and said, “Who is it?” There wasn’t a hint of fear in his voice. No one answered. Again Elliot asked, “Who is it?”
There was a rustling sound, followed by hushed voices. Then footsteps moved away from the door, down the hall, and up the stairs to the next floor.
No doubt looters, looking to take advantage of the outage, and maybe hurt people in the process.
“Let’s try and stay calm.” Elliot said. “You all can stay here tonight. Strength in numbers, right?”
Was he some kind of motivational speaker? The dude just seemed to know exactly what to say.
Even with the reassuring Elliot, I was still a bit freaked out. As if he could sense this, Elliot came over and sat down next to me. “Are you alright, Paisley?”
I was going to say, “I’m fine,” because that’s what I always say when someone asks me if I’m okay. But for some reason, looking at Elliot’s friendly face, I wanted to just vomit up all these feelings I had inside.
“No, not really,” I said. “Another year, and the same old shit, you know? I don’t even know what I’m doing. I don’t know my neighbors, I stayed home alone, my life’s a mess, the power’s out, and now some people might be looting our apartments while we sit here and —” I stopped short, embarrassed by my rambling, then I tried to take it all back. “I’m fine, really, I’m okay.” I looked down at the plate in my lap, wanting to disappear into the pasta Alfredo.
But Elliot was either a sweet sincere man or an expert bullshitter because he chuckled a bit and said, “I love your honesty, Paisley, especially on a night like this. I feel some of those same things. Guess that’s why I decided to lay low tonight too.” He shrugged. “But I’m glad I stayed home, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to ring in the New Year with you.”
He smiled. It was beautiful. I giggled like an idiot. I don’t know what was coming over me, but I wanted to grab his face and kiss him. Elliot was saved, however, by the tall skinny dude, who said, “Hey, it’s almost the New Year.”
We all raised our glasses and began the countdown.
“A pretty great night, wasn’t it?” Elliot said
“Yeah, it was.” I smiled.
Elliot placed his hand on my shoulder.
Maybe this will be a good year after all, I thought.
And it started out very promising indeed, when Elliot kissed me just as the clock struck midnight.
Happy fucking New Year to me.