New Year’s Eve

She put on her green high-top Cons with the silver frog pin on the left toe, wide-wale corduroy overalls, and a camo t-shirt, plus a plastic magenta hibiscus behind her ear. There were grey spots under her eyes from staying up too late the night before. After everyone went to bed, after the thermostat dropped the house down to a chill, she had a habit of planting herself by the record player with an afghan and the headphones plugged in, imagining that she was a singing star. The record spun, giving off soft crackles even when the music was over, until she lifted the needle and swiped the dust off with a brush in a gold lipstick tube. If she needed to be alone when the others were still awake, she would go to the basement, where it was always cold, and curl up by the space heater, toasting balls of bread on its ledge while she read poems or novels. But now her friends were knocking, pressing their noses into the window by the door, grinning, ready to drive around the suburb trying to out-intellectual each other, and she was ready to be kidnapped. She loved the hormones that caused her to pulse with excitement and desire, suddenly and without warning, even in the midst of the incredible boredom of classes. The hormones also regularly crushed her to a pulp, making her fall in love with impossible people, have raging fits at the drop of a hat, and cry for whole weekends after eating too much. She never got drunk and never broke the rules, didn’t know where a person would go to find some weed. She never lived the rites of passage that rock bands eulogize in their forties. Still, rebellious joy was hers as much as anyone’s, despite her unintentional innocence and obedience. She sucked at every straw of honey she found: Dylan Thomas, silent film stars, Philip Glass, staring into people’s eyes. She threw on a coat and got in the car and let it take her away. Two hours later they’d climbed to the top of Suicide Hill with plastic sleds, overlooking a thousand suburban homes with Dick Clark on TV as the ball dropped another year on the world. They watched snow sift from clouds colored violet orange from light pollution, watched as if they had just arrived from another planet. She gulped cold, sweet, sober air as if it were her first breath on earth.

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