Happy New Year

It’s the stupidest thing, right?

It’s well after midnight and a few years in these mountains tells me I can count on a road block on the highway between the craft school and Tinyville, so I decide to wait it out even though the party is dying down. I don’t want to drive home anything shy of sober and what’s another hour under the stars, anyway? There’s a bonfire and we’ve had our fireworks—enough to put orphan Annie to shame—and snow is in the forecast. Catch the winter sky while you can, I tell myself. Avoid the cops and stay up late so the time change to Oregon isn’t that bad once you get there.

And before I know it the crowd has thinned, I’m still too tipsy to drive home, and a small group of us are walking away from the bonfire atop Conley Ridge and in the direction of the Craft House on campus where I have parked. Except no, not now, I do not want to drive. And no, not now, I do not want to say goodnight.

So everyone leaves except for S, the noble blacksmith in Tinyville whom I first met when he was a student over a year ago up on campus. We’re both from the PacNW so we can talk powder and caffeine without missing a beat and no one else understands but we don’t care. His dog of eight years spooked a few hours ago when we had the fireworks and hasn’t turned up yet. I tell him I’ll walk back along the ridge and look for her, taking my time before driving home. S says he’ll walk with me.

Back at the bonfire, which is unmanned and smaller now but whose coals will likely burn for the next three days, there is no one around. Even with the coals burning amber and orange, a thin coat of ash white along the edges of the burn pile, the stars are still bright as ever above the pasture where we’ve walked. There’s no sign of the dog but it somehow doesn’t matter, and when S reaches for my hand I know what to do.

I am kissing S, kissing S, kissing S by the bonfire and it is all so silly and so fitting I could almost laugh. For weeks I’ve been thinking about how there is something blinding me in my attempts at relationships—something so bright that I can’t even see it, even though it’s real and has power over my life and circumstances. And tonight, as the final minutes arrived, members of the party shouted out from their disagreeing watches: “Thirty seconds to 2008!” or “Three minutes to 2008,” and while I stood next to Eichelberger (just in from grad school, one night only), he opened his cell phone and leaned over to show me the digital clock, which read: 12:00 a.m. and then he smiled and gave me the best hug ever, saying: “Happy New Year.” And as if all of this wasn’t enough: a pasture full of friends and coals to light my way into 2008—I find myself here with S at three in the morning, smooching my way to sober while consciously laughing at myself for such miniscule pleasures.

On my way home there is no road block and I do not invite S to my house and I am driving safe, safe, back up the mountain and praying I can sleep in tomorrow before attending to the tasks at hand. I’ve always felt it was important to set your intentions before one year bled into the next, and as I reflected today all I could think of was the next six months—how I wanted to write the best I could while also becoming more present and invested in the lives of the people I care about the most who live nearby. I set this intention and then went to the party, where all kinds of other intentions—most of them not pre-planned—silently worked themselves through the party magic in order to pair S and I up at the end of the night. In effect, everything felt washed out by the end of the evening.

On our walk back to the cars, we talk shop about snowboarding and past lives. There was no harm done in tonight’s debauchery and when S leans in for a “Good luck on your trip” and goodnight kiss, I oblige, hanging on for longer than the stars above might have recommended.

And a goodnight it is. Good enough to sleep on, and for now, that’s fine by me.

Happy New Year, everyone, however you got from 2007 to 2008.

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