On the roof of my apartment building, I stood to the side of other partygoers—some, my neighbors, others were guests—as I missed my wife. I looked down into my champagne flute, despondent or maybe sardonic in my thoughts as the booze warmed me over, when she flashed past me. A little woman, a pretty, pale woman in sweatpants and slippers and bundled in a brown winter coat, turned orange before my eyes. Monochrome, maybe? I only noticed her as one notices cold wind off the December/January river. She turned back and waved. “Hurry, we’re going to miss it!” she said.
I adjusted my glasses in a way to hide my peripheral eye so I might spy—yes, as I assumed. A man. A particularly large man. Brown-skinned and bald with eyes hardly opened, as if the whole affair bothered him. As if New Year’s Eve was, in fact, another day leading to another year of more disappointments.
The couple stood in front of me. Or I should say I stood behind them, to their right, counting the seconds until my visible breath became negligible, then a vanishing act. The champagne—two glasses’ worth—made me tipsy and histrionic and philosophically mathematical: counting down the deaths of all my breaths, wondering if, in fact, what I saw from my mouth were tiny ghosts—the souls of children my wife and I never conceived.
Finally. The booms and the crackles, the sizzling sky clutched at the year’s failing heart. The old year fell to its death, a fitting conclusion, and the new year pushed forth wet and amniotic and crying, crying, “hope! I bring hope!”
Revelers blew into their party favors and rushed to call their loved ones. Meanwhile, the couple stood there, their heads angled up. The black man engulfed the tiny woman from behind, his arms wrapped around her waist, his chin resting atop her head. I couldn’t see her face, her reaction—only her hand constantly stroking his grip, the touch of new lovers.
I looked up. The sky exploded with blues and reds, white magnesium spirals nose-diving toward the Delaware River. The show took place on the other side, over in Philadelphia, specifically at Penn’s Landing. The distance, to my eyes, seemed minute, but the speed of sound suggested otherwise.
The fireworks bloomed above, but two or three seconds later, the shockwaves pounded and penetrated my chest. The impact, the vibrations, jolted me. Not as a shock or scare, but like an awakening. As if gunfire woke me from a fog and brought forth with renewed clarity the reality I tried to deny.
Photo By: Sam Howzit