Thursday, 5 January 2012

Auld Lang Syne: a short story

My fridge was consistently stocked with a box of white wine.  Dry white wine.  Everyone thought it would always be this way.  I always thought I’d be the one with the spacious apartment that was built during the last Great War, the tangled Christmas lights tossed into the closet haphazardly, the stack of varied magazines as a coffee table.  I always figured I’d be able to drink coffee throughout the day and only have my own lack of appetite to worry about.  But, as I quickly learned, things don’t last.
            It began with John.  He was handsome; I was stubbornly independent.  I met him while working in the office of a construction company, filing papers and conducting company wide surveys.  I was a pragmatist of sorts; I was set on a certain track of owning a closet full of shoes, of drinking too much, of eating sushi out every Thursday night.  I worked early mornings, caught the bus at six to make it to work for seven.  There was laundry on my floor, a cupboard full of candy, rows of dresses in my wardrobe.  This wasn’t what I’d always be doing, I knew that; I had not gone to university for four years to study English only to become an accessory to fork lifts.  I did not necessarily desire to be another gear in the mechanisms of highway construction and arrogant architects.  I always figured I would enjoy things now, while I’m young, I could worry about having a real career later.  That’s what they always said, You’re young, worry about it later. 
            “Hello love, you look dashing in that dress.  I brought champagne.”  John had a crooning voice, a sort of lilt at the end of his sentence, like everything was punctuated with a question mark. His deep receding hairline was handsome on his face, the narrowness of his cheeks and greenness of his eyes serving as a reminder of his novelty.  I suppose he was a sort of cookie-cutter man, the type I went mad for: intellectual, sensual, well-dressed.  I had dated several other versions of him before.
            “Good.  I hope it’s dry”
            New years had come around again, full circle, imposing its overinflated ego on everyone.  There was always so much pressure on this day, this evening, to be fantastic.  It was considered an indication of what the New Year would bring; often, much of the same.  Resolutions would be formed, and then broken a week later.  Weight-loss memberships would inflate, then plummet two months later. Closets would be cleaned thoroughly, then oversized coats and broken vacuum cleaners would resume their original positions.  The year would masquerade as being something New, something Fun, would call itself Opportunity, only to reveal itself later as having the same receding hairline as the year before.
 John and I had been invited to a party on the top floor of a hotel.  The penthouse, I suppose it was.  His friends were of the yuppie variety: mad with entitlement and thin silk ties.  I can’t say I wasn’t drawn in, but I liked to think I played the detached card well enough to fool them.
            “Johnathan, do you think my lips are too red, or are they just the right kind of red?”  It was an answer I didn’t care to hear, but they were words to fill the cab.
            “They are just the right kind, like blood red strawberries.  They’re much too much for my heart, really.”  He reached over and took my chin in his hand and kissed me wetly on the mouth.  His teeth were like jagged hedges, neglected by the despondent homeowner.  I entertained myself by running my tongue along each crevice, imagining how the overlaps and pointy eyeteeth formed each word.  His mouth was a math equation I was busy solving.
            “Yum.  Cordova and Abbott, please.”  I instructed the cab driver, anxious for a glass of champagne.  I didn’t particularly care for New Years, and planned on spending it drunk and spouting off movie trivia.

            The room was filled with the Chemical Brothers and I made a beeline for the cocktails.  Johnathan gathered around his co-workers, recently married and perfectly groomed.  He was anxious because his best friends had all been married in the past two years, plucked off, one by one, like flower petals. His bachelor sensibilities tended to repel all things domestic and comfortable.  His sofa was leather and stiff and modeled after the sixties and his liquor cabinet was unlocked; he wasn’t planning on having children anytime soon.  This suited me fine.  Children and marriage were things I knew I’d want to do later, but later being a far distant future, perhaps in another dimension, a place where I wore flower-print aprons and rolled dough.  That place was not yet here.
            I poured myself an extraordinarily strong corpse reviver just as one of the wives sauntered up to me.  Janice was tall and blond and had the kind of eyes that made you wonder if she had a soul or not. 
            “Felicity! Darling!  Tell me, where did you find your dress? It is absolutely darling!” She was also the kind of woman that sugar coated insults with compliments.
            “Ah, this.  I found it second hand.  Fit like a glove.” I think I saw her choke on her tongue in slow motion.
            “Just Lovely!  Now come dance with us!”
            The rest of the evening found vodka giggles, sore feet, flirtations and weekly gossip.  I amused myself seeking out faces in my champagne bubbles, and  I revealed to whoever would listen that the European release of The Shining was actually twenty-four minutes shorter than the American version.  I sat with the other women as they commented on whatsername’s whorish ways and whatserfaces’ out-of-control shoe shopping habit, paying each topic a generous heaping of false attention, just so I wouldn’t be sought out as the traitor.  I didn’t care to argue myself out of being a communist tonight.
            I was beginning to regret agreeing to come to this party.  I had told Johnathan I had nothing in common with anyone, and I had been anticipating this intense need to get intoxicated.
            “Mmm, it’s almost midnight.” I felt Johnathan’s breath on my neck before I heard him speak.  I was ready to just leave with him now, go back to my apartment and make love to him on the leather couch until two am.  I didn’t care about the procedures or protocols New Years insisted upon; the Newness of it all demanded something of forgiveness and review, and I wasn’t particularly partial to sentimentality.
The husbands and wives began to chant together, converging upon each other with the greedy eyes of a bureaucrat.  For them, the stroke of midnight held so much importance, so much weight.  The way they spent tonight is the way they would spend the rest of the year. 
The women grinned and the men put down their drinks.  Feminine hands ran up suit arms and rested at the elbow.  This moment was frozen as a moment of significance for them all.
“Three… two…”
Johnathan pulled me in front of him, looking into my eyes with such intensity, I couldn’t tell if he was drunk or not.  He reached into his front pocket and began to kneel down.
“One!  Happy New Year!”
I saw him mouthing something, but couldn’t hear what words were formed over the horns and clinking of glasses. 
“What?”  He pulled me down to his level and I felt his lips before I heard him say, “Will you marry me?”

Felicity closed the trunk at the foot of her bed with a final thud.  Glancing around her barren apartment, she maneuvered her way through the maze of boxes and grabbed the bottle of wine sitting on the bed-side table and screwed off the cork, pouring a generous amount into her glass without looking.  Her eyes never left the top far corner by the front door.  The white washed walls were more like a tinge of gray now, tiny holes remained as reminders of old calendars and photographs that had been pinned there once.  She took a large sip of her wine.  It could have been water.  That one spot, up on the left, bothered her.  Between the edge of crown molding and dark wood doorframe, there was an inch of green tape.  The doorbell rang, and she didn’t even flinch.  She couldn’t remove her eyes from that green tape.

No comments:

Post a Comment