the here and now

We thought we’d be stuck home yet again on New Year’s Eve, not that that would’ve been a bad thing; we’d had nice times before, the two of us alone or with dinner guests to cook with or for, like back in San Francisco when we ate sick food with the Gendy-Willeys in Michael’s Mission District home. At the last minute, though, Calvin’s uber-nurse, Beth, came through; she's home for a stint from the Islands and had some spare time to give. So, we nabbed the chance to escape to Georgetown, a twenty-five minute drive from home, to join our buddies, Luke and Sarah, in the hours before their other guests arrived.

We’d been invited to their nighttime gathering, though couldn’t stay late, seeing as though Beth would need to leave shortly after five. Nellie came along for the drive, winding through thick fog rising from earth and river, the winter’s first snow adorning trees and hills along the road. I felt anxious the entire drive, Calvin having had a morning grand mal plus a few partials just as Beth arrived. It didn’t help matters that we were trailing what appeared to be a drunk driver—just above freezing at three o’clock in the afternoon on wet streets—or perhaps someone texting at the wheel.

As we pulled into Luke and Sarah's drive, the large oaks and granite escarpments dressed in white, we watched as their son Jacob’s grandparents helped him down the steps and into their car. They were taking him to their place for the night.

He’s so much like Calvin, I thought, watching Jacob step cautiously while in his grandparents’ grasp.

Michael and I hugged them wishing them a merry new year, then watched the three of them drive off into the fog.

Inside the house, our hosts asked how we'd been.

“I’m feeling kind of anxious,” I replied, mentioning Calvin’s fragile condition, the psychological and physical burden of the long winter vacation, the crazy drivers, the icy roads outside. Seeing my worry, Luke and Sarah swooped in for a group hug.

“It’s a Christy sandwich!” Luke exclaimed, and I melted into their embrace as Michael looked on, a fond smile on his face.

Immediately, I felt better. The bourbon Sarah had poured me hadn’t hurt, nor did the image of her in a full-length striped lycra dress, furry fingerless gloves and elfin slipper-socks.

While there was still some light, we stepped outside into the cold. Luke reached into a large box of fireworks and handed me a Roman candle with which to light a pile of wood he'd doused with gasoline. I felt honored to be given the torch and, with one eye closed, I aimed good and hard on the pile of kindling twenty yards away. He lit the candle's end and on the fourth flare I hit my target igniting the fire. Everyone cheered, then Sarah took a try, after which we toasted a new year and watched Nellie race crazily in the snowy woods trailing some sort of wild game.

As we huddled close to the fire, giant oaks fanned above us in exquisite bouquets of branches and hardened buds. Mist drifted and settled on the river below the butte. There, in the quiet of the snowy glen, the four of us shared a moment most sublime, the beginnings of a bonfire singeing our toes.

The hour we were given to spend went too fast, and so I suggested that Luke and Sarah—Jacob safely with her parents for the night—come home with us and leave a note for their impending guests telling them to make themselves at home, enjoy the fire, the food, the grog. Luke joked that we should call Beth and tell her that we had car trouble and that we’d be three hours late getting home. We all laughed and hugged and said how much we loved each other. We reminisced about our first New Year’s Eve together four years earlier and how we’d poured molten lead into water—Luke's family tradition—making strange shapes from which we tried to decipher some deeper meaning. And though I can't recall the exact words, I remember Luke thinking my lead shards, arranged in a particular way, looked like they spelled out something like jesus child fuck yeah, and how we laughed so hard at that.

Our spirits livened, we said our goodbyes and drove off, our toes nearly frozen. At home we ate more goose-pork-chicken-kale soup and the same salad I make every night. Both were delicious. As I sat in front of the fire in our wood stove, I looked through Michael’s river photos and we spoke of spring and Nellie and New Year's and Luke and Sarah, and of how wonderful they are and how we’d love them even if not for Jacob and Calvin being like two peas in a pod. We consciously hoped for a better year ahead for all of us, though being forever grateful for what we have right in the here and now.

Photo by Michael Kolster

No comments:

Post a Comment