61: New Year’s Eve Warmth

61: New Year’s Eve Warmth

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

New Year’s Eve Warmth

Just like there’s always time for pain, there’s always time for healing.

~Jennifer Brown, Hate List

It was the morning of New Year’s Eve and I had no intention of having a good time that evening. I was never a fan of New Year’s Eve. I couldn’t stand the crowds, dressing up, the countdown and the pressure to kiss at midnight. Especially this year. My boyfriend had broken up with me and I had spent the past few months preparing for a lifetime of spinsterhood. I was feeling far from celebratory and wasn’t eager to usher in a bleak New Year.

My first resolution was to not get suckered into any kind of social activity, and instead spend the night sulking. Unfortunately, my friend Jay had other plans for me.

“You are not going to sit in your bathrobe alone on New Year’s Eve,” she insisted. “We’ll hang out and have a sleepover, just you and me.” I had grown to love my bathrobe with an almost obsessive ardor, but Jay wouldn’t take no for an answer.

We met in the afternoon in Kensington Market, a Toronto institution of fruit stands, cheese shops and butchers, around the corner from the city’s bustling Chinatown. As we wandered along the icy streets, Jay shouted out greetings to people she knew, which seemed to be everyone. Her final encounter was with her friend Casino Paul, a swaggering Al Pacino look-a-like in a thick toque who also didn’t have plans for the evening.

“You can hang out with us!” Jay blurted, despite my widened eyes, head shaking and attempts to discreetly kick her. Either her boots were too thick to feel my kicks or her skull was. Next thing I knew, Casino Paul was sauntering back to my place with us.

I gazed longingly at my bathrobe hanging on the back of my bedroom door. Casino Paul was cagey about his Casino moniker. Who calls himself Casino Paul and then won’t offer an explanation? Was his name even Paul? I couldn’t believe that I needed to make small talk rather than curl up with a box of Kleenex for when I would inevitably start crying at midnight. It was going to be a long evening and I was preparing to throttle Jay when we had a moment alone.

When the doorbell rang I was surprised to see Andrew, another friend of Jay’s, whom she had introduced me to a couple of months ago. I had, in fact, been appalled by the introduction, because immediately after telling her about my break-up she had said, “Don’t worry, I have the perfect man for you.” I was shocked at her insensitivity.

“Maybe I can mourn a little first? Cry for a bit? Go for therapy? Find myself before you set me up on blind dates?” I had hissed angrily.

Andrew explained that Jay had invited him over for a quiet New Year’s. He handed me a Pablo Neruda poem he had copied on a wrinkled piece of paper.

“I was thinking of how sad it is over the holidays when you are heartbroken,” he said. “This poem helped me when I was going through something similar. Maybe it will help you too.” I couldn’t turn away anyone armed with a bottle of wine and a poem, despite my inclination for solitude, and promptly let him in.

A couple bottles of wine later I was feeling slightly more gracious. Andrew was sweet and had sexy, full lips. I kept stealing glances at him, forgetting for a moment about my vow of lifetime celibacy. I caught Casino Paul kissing my cat on the top of his head when he thought no one was looking, and found his bravado less irritating. Jay kept emerging from the kitchen with fresh snacks. Despite my firm resolve, I was almost forgetting to sulk.

An hour before midnight it began to snow. The wind howled as fluffy flakes dashed across the sky, covering everything with sparkling ice. “Let’s go tobogganing!” Jay shouted, emboldened by the wine and the frosty landscape. We found an old pizza box in my recycling bin and grabbed garbage bags to make makeshift toboggans. We walked with our heads bent against the wind to Christie Pits, a park near Koreatown with sloping hills leading to baseball diamonds and rusty swing sets. It was deserted except for a group of South American exchange students who were also tobogganing. They had a real sled, a round blue disc that could fit two people at a time. Taking pity on us, with our pathetic pizza box sled, they offered us theirs. I positioned myself at the front until Jay pushed me and motioned for me to sit behind Casino Paul.

“Human windshield,” she whispered. I sat behind him, sheltered against the snow that pummelled Casino Paul as we cut a path down the untouched hill. Our South American friends tirelessly shouted “Happy New Year” each time they sent us on our descent, until soaked and giddy, we trudged back toward my apartment.

I am not a fan of the cold and I hate winter, always insisting that I was born in the wrong country. That winter night, however, was magical. The snow sparkled like tiny diamonds and the sidewalk glimmered. The streetlights bathed everything in a blue glow. The blanket of snow left everything still and quiet. Despite the frigid air I felt warm. The kindness of those around me was stronger than the frosty temperatures: Jay’s unwavering loyalty and fun, the generosity of the exchange students, and Andrew’s attempt to mend a broken heart. Tipsy on snowflakes, cheeks rosy from tobogganing, I suddenly felt more positive than I had in a long time.

When we arrived back at my place I found warm clothes for everyone to change into. We were a motley crew of flannels sipping cheap brandy to keep warm in my drafty apartment. It felt more festive than any sophisticated cocktail party, and I had to admit, better than an evening alone in my bathrobe. I leaned against Andrew, who seemed to possess the ability to transform himself into a human furnace, and was charmed to see my cat cuddle up next to Casino Paul. Jay never ran out of snacks and stories to keep us entertained. We talked well into the morning and eventually fell asleep on the living room floor, a tangle of blankets and flannel, as the wind howled outside and people in their flashy party clothes struggled to find cabs in the snowstorm. I marvelled that my icy, broken heart could begin to thaw a little on the coldest night of the year.

~Kristine Groskaufmanis

Toronto, Ontario

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