No, it wasn’t the countdown. Or the build-up. It wasn’t all the plans, or the lack of plans. It certainly wasn’t loneliness (as being alone was one of the few things that stopped time for her.) None of the typical things–the things you read about in newspapers or see on the TV news with headlines like “Beat the Holiday Blues”–are what caused her to dislike New Year’s Eve. It was something else. Something even she couldn’t fully articulate.
If pushed to explain, she’d go back to her first apartment alone. It was in the country, flanked by fields on one side, woods on the other. And across the country road was the back of a high school. Each evening the sun shone on the three stories of brick as if they composed a giant movie screen, and the opposite-facing bleachers were the sole audience to this drive-in theatre of oranges and gold.
Except the movie was always in double-speed: quickly telling the story of her day before fading to black, often with no one there to witness it.
How many times was she at work around the house, making dinner or cleaning up, when she’d look out her dirty window glass and see the nightly display already in progress? Something in her always compelled her to drop everything and run to the empty football field to watch. Even when she didn’t do just that–putting on a pair of shoes and simply standing in the cooling grasses populated by slowing grasshoppers and blurs of bats–she felt the push. The slight disappointment in herself if she didn’t. Like she had missed out on something that would never return. Like she had let something, or someone, down.
And so it was each December 31st. It wasn’t the final minutes of anticipation, nor the optimism at the turn of the calendar. With just seconds left she’d grow anxious, wishing somehow that she could slow the clock. Rush out into the empty field of her life and take it all in at her own pace. Everyone around her foolishly rushing forward. They didn’t notice. They didn’t care.
This is why she didn’t mind being alone. This is why the seconds after midnight were the hardest. There were no holiday blues, they were only painted in black in the moments after.