Historically, I don’t do much on New Year’s Eve. The planning, the sparkly dress, the build-up that this night is going to be perfect – I’ve done it before, and usually, it lets me down. I think part of me is afraid I’ll end up under a disco ball at 12 a.m. amidst confetti and make outs with no one to kiss – like the geek up against the gymnasium wall watching the other kids dance. Or worse – maybe one of my girlfriend’s boyfriends will feel sorry for me (like they have in years prior), and kiss me so I don’t feel left out. I am usually single, hate high-heels, and am not great at planning things in advance – so its not really like I avoid New Year’s Eve as much as we often miss each other because I don’t care quite enough.
This year, my sister was upset because she gained weight over the holidays, and she was acting like a furious pregnant woman in labor. “Go hang out with your friends” she snapped, but who makes New Year’s Eve plans the night of New Year’s Eve? She was my plans. After walking on the treadmill in the garage for two hours, she stopped trying to bite my head off. She explained why she was upset, “I can’t go back to school a fatty.” I tried to make Moscow Mules – but I bought diet ginger beer on accident, so they had that unpalatable fake sugar aftertaste. We looked through movies. Nina says I only like depressing movies, but all she ever wants to watch is Pineapple Express and documentaries about climate change. We agreed on American Beauty, which, believe it or not, I had never seen.
I love those characters. I love the neighbor kid who only smokes a variety of governmentally-grown weed that’s thirty times more expensive than the regular stuff because it never makes you paranoid. His father, the gay neo-Nazi with his swastika-ed china and heavy guilt. His wife, who is basically dead already but you never find out what made her the way she is. Most of the people I know have secrets like these characters do – the difference is they let you see theirs.
We never see what the people we know say at their therapy appointments – all the thoughts they think on their way to work. We don’t know each other’s stories, not really, because we present certain faces to the world. If people ask us how we are, we give them the short, polite, proscribed answer, “I’m good, how are you?” but there’s so much underneath all that. You see one person – one life – but there are so many men and women just beneath the surface. They order drugs online and go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. They can’t let anyone in because they lost someone, or they keep partners around them because they’re terrified of being alone. If you could just pierce the skin, you’d find entirely different lives than the one you thought you were looking at. I know that’s true for me, at least. We are soaring over the clouds or filled with blackness, but other people don’t know – and they won’t know. That’s why when someone gives an honest answer, its refreshing to me – I think there’s a beauty in it: “Well, Joan says I need to move back from San Francisco. She’s worried about me, and wants me to live at home again. She thinks I need to be in therapy. So that’s where I’m at.”
To me, I think life is beautiful when your heart is at rest. You move towards the world because you think its so beautiful. Sometimes the walls of my room, my showers – everything is mundane, colorless, and stressful, and I can hardly stand it – but that’s wrong. I think that’s fear. I am excited because I think I am getting better at seeing life for what it is – maybe it just gets more like this as you get older. What I know now is life isn’t beautiful when you’re far away from it – like you’re looking at it behind plate glass. Its beautiful when you’re on a journey towards discovery – on fire with curiosity.
I also loved the scene where Kevin Spacey’s life flashes before his eyes, because its just what my collection of life memories look like. I don’t know about you, but I’ve only got a handful of memories that really stand out – mere moments – many of which aren’t that memorable. Lester remembers lying on his back at BoyScout camp watching falling stars; the first time he saw his cousin Tony’s brand new Firebird; the yellow leaves of the maple trees on his street; and the sight of his daughter, Janie, at the front door.
My brain periodically spits up a few scenes – always the same ones which just rotate through. A first kiss on my dorm room bed. Holding my pink Little Mermaid suitcase the night my sister Kimmy was born. Sand dunes and ice plant in Mendocino on a road trip we went on as kids. Sitting on a chairlift with my grandma as she told me to look closely at a snowflake with all its barbs and arms. That’s probably 65% of what would flash before my eyes when I died, but I remember those things so clearly. I remember exactly how I felt, the quality of the air, the look of the room, the feeling of the kiss.
Remember how, in the movie, they talk about how there’s so much beauty in the world, that sometimes its like you can’t take it? Its overwhelming? I wish I could just stay stuck in the place where I know this is true. Just take that electricity, that zest – ball it up and put it in my pocket. Who says I can’t do this, though? People start over all the time.