Two memorable New Year’s Eves both involved a missed turn-of-the-year ball drop. They were back-to-back in my Heavy Dating Period between marriages, in the mid-‘90s in New York.
The first started on a cold, windy night when I drove into Manhattan to meet a Long Island guy for dinner and a Broadway show. The man was a good, generous person, but by the tiramisu and espresso it was obvious this was both a first and last date.
We had planned after the show to experience the ball drop in Times Square, a first for me, but the thought of standing amid throngs of shivering twenty-somethings in my three-inch spiked boots with someone I hardly knew did not appeal. And what if I had to pee? So we hugged good night (and goodbye) around 11, and I headed to my car very much alone, and then north into Westchester County on a dark and winding parkway as snow started falling. In minutes the evergreens along the side of the road turned white, and I weaved my way around icy patches, afraid of spinning out of control. Cars were few, of course; in those pre-countdown moments all but the craziest of New Yorkers had the sense to revel in place.
Just as the radio announced that the ball was dropping, “10, 9, 8 …” I discerned a road block through the falling snow. A policeman motioned me to stop and roll down my window. He poked his head into my car. His mustache was dappled with snowflakes, only inches from my face.
“Happy New Year," he said softly. And for just a second I imagined someone was going to kiss me at midnight, after all.
"Why are you driving in this snowfall all alone?"
I was tempted to tell him that I had left a date and that I wasn't a total loser. I wanted him --hell, I wanted somebody -- to be with me right then. And he was the only fella around and he seemed really caring. He leaned in closer ... and sniffed.
He cared all right -- if I was sober. The first seconds of this infant year and I was being inspected for drunk driving.
“Take it easy, ma’am. It's going to get even worse out there.” I pulled away through the now blinding whiteout and inched my way for an hour, back to an empty house, quite miserable and as alone as I had ever been in my entire life.
The very next New Year's Eve was another snowy one, and my favorite, ever. The guy I was newly dating was smart, funny, and hunky; my son called him “The Studmuffin.” We flirted like teenagers, finished each other’s sentences, harmonized “Imagine” while tickling each other and decided that everything the other did was just adorable.
I was hot for this man in that intoxicating way when you’re still longing and teasing but you know you will soon become lovers; a tantalizing, tantalized state that can’t last very long. We had both wanted to make love but had held back, liking each other more and more, just letting the heat rise.
So this New Year’s Eve we hunkered down at my cozy suburban house by a crackling fireplace, kissing and laughing and conversing. He sprung for the Beluga and the Cristal champagne and I cooked his dream meal: chili, coleslaw and chocolate cake.
As we nuzzled and talked and fired up, I teased him that he would be sleeping in the guest room and he looked a bit puzzled. But when I took his hand and led him there I closed the door, with me inside. And we celebrated the New Year by celebrating each other, very slowly.
I missed the ball drop for the second year in a row but this time in decidedly better fashion. We had our countdown in bed at midnight. I always wondered if it were possible to greet the year in such a rousing fashion. Forget the Fear of Flying “zipless fuck.” I had hoped for a climactic, heavens in harmony, “three, two- ONE,” all’s-right-with-the world," karmic, “come together right now” explosion my whole life.
And -–drum roll please and ring them bells -- it was. And the only one I ever had that spanned two years.
For breakfast I whipped up shirred eggs and the remaining caviar in little porcelain cups I had never used before, which we spooned lingeringly to each other. And we lazed away the day all touchy, watching the snow fall, listening to the cool jazz station with Sade and Dave Brubeck and Mel Torme, feeling the sweet start of a new relationship as well as a new year.
Ah yes, Studmuffin and I were together about six months, but what delicious months they were. It was too hot not to cool down, and that was ok for me at that point in my life. I got happily married a couple of years later. He met and still is a loving partner of the ex-wife of a famous columnist I read every week. But we still keep in touch now and then and reflect about that harmonic New Year’s Eve back in the ‘90s. He refers to it as “precious as gold.”
Two successive turns of the year. Two totally different outcomes.
Keep the faith.