I inherited my vocal disdain for New Year celebrations from my mother, a major cynic when it comes to hyped-up party holidays. This image offers the best visual explanation of my disenchantment. I’ve also historically been let down by this arbitrary calendar changeover, most notably during a small gathering in which I got into a whisper-fight with my vegan then-boyfriend because he wouldn’t kiss me at midnight due to the fact that I’d been eating ham.
For me, this year is new for more reasons than its updated age. After a false start in middle school and a thwarted attempt to attend Northwestern, I have finally made it to Chicago. Everything is making me tear up all the time, like when I watch Amelie. In fact I’m pretty much walking around like American Amelie in my own freezing, Midwestern version of Montmartre. (That’s probably an overly generous comparison, for me and for Logan Sqaure. I doubt Audrey Tatou ever attempted to pick a wedgie over a calf-length down coat while waiting for the Métro.)
My new environment feels jarringly fresh. The old-school radiators hiss Parseltongue at unanticipated intervals. I consistently walk into the pantry and momentarily wonder where the toilet went. I fumble in the dark rather than search for the scarce, elusive light switches. I stride across the living room, turn in a circle, and cross back, as if attempting a ritual to summon a demon that will decree for me where I shall store empty Sterilite bins, economy packs of IKEA tea lights, or a basket of Goodwill-bound clothing (that will in all likelihood sit unnoticed for a year until I either donate it or re-integrate it into my wardrobe out of laziness).
My friend from high school, we’ll call her G, ended my systematic pacing with an impromptu visit and a last-minute dinner reservation. Little did we know, New Years Eve dinners mean set menus. Bougey ones. Including champagne that costs what I’d expect to pay for a month’s worth of electricity. Thus I accidentally wore a $10 dress to an $80 dinner. And G realized she left her wallet in a friend’s car. Also, a shaved-pated, tattooed, plaid-vested bartender gave me his number, but revealed via aggressive text messages that he was more interested in being an early-morning bedfellow than a friendly neighbor. Apparently, not wanting to go on a first date at 4 a.m. means I’m playing “hard to get.” It was certainly a night of surprises all around.
On this first January evening I feel aimless, and awed, and on the brink of my first post-grad panic attack. But I have noticed that, regardless of the hour, when I put the key in the door of my new apartment, I’m struck by a sudden internal urge to poo. So I know I’m home.