The Longest New Year’s Day Ever

The following reflection was written in 2003, when I was between 25 and 26 years old.

As I drove up to Haverhill early Wednesday morning to pick up Louann from her job working the desk at a hotel just off Exit 49, I felt finally free, as if the Big Blue Funk of 1997 was over. Seeing Tracy again in the waning moments of the year and realizing the feelings were gone had been the final step. I was ready to move on. And New Year’s Eve ‘97, it turned out, was to be the beginning of the rest of my life.

I remember arriving at the hotel to pick Louann up just as the sun was rising. We had a long day ahead of us and the plan was to get underway as soon as possible. I went in to let her know I was there and we probably hugged and then we were off.

With Louann riding shotgun, I drove back down 495 past my own Chelmsford exit to the south and west to meet up with Prok at his place. The plan was to take his car to New York, where we would meet up with Kerry, Rachael, Amanda, and Jason for the evening’s festivities. We were making good time and it seemed we would arrive in New York late in the afternoon on schedule.

Things didn’t turn out as planned though. Prok had just gotten the car and we spent a hefty portion of the morning running around the Fitchburg area trying to get his car registered and such. By the time his car was finally all paperworked and ready to go, we were actually way behind schedule and we didn’t know what time we’d make it in.

The drive was uneventful but fun. I rode in the back, if I recall correctly, and we talked and listened to selections from Rent and all was well. I might’ve even related the story of seeing Tracy again. I can’t remember.

What I do remember is that when we arrived at Kerry’s house on Long Island Kerry was already long gone. She’d had to leave for the city without us to meet up with Amanda and Jason, who were coming by bus from Boston, and Rachael who was coming in by train from Philadelphia. Kerry’s Mom drove us to the train station and told us where to meet up with them and then we were off.

When we finally got into the city we were all hungry and we grabbed slices of real New York pizza from a stand almost as soon as we got off the train. We didn’t know, after all, whether we’d be eating dinner with them or whether they already would have eaten or what. It was a few minute later when we all met up in the station with a barrage of hugs and smiles and “How’re you doing?“s, and it was then that they told us they’d planned to eat at Friday’s in Times Square.

Being low on cash, I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu while we all caught up on what had been going on for the last couple of weeks since school had gotten out. Amanda and Jason were pretty civil, but I think you could see the beginnings of their breakup right then and there.

After dinner we walked around the city a bit. Rachael bought me a black wool-type winter hat from a street vendor, afraid my ears would freeze without it. Eventually we made our way to the Village and into a cool record shop stocked mostly with vinyl. After that, we made our way to Times Square.

We stood near the New Amsterdam theater, which was home to the Broadway production of The Lion King at the time. Everyone was cold but we were warmed by each other’s company, except for Jason who spent the entire night whimpering and quasi-praying for it all to be over. Jason, wonderful person that he was most of the time, was insufferable that night.

Several things stick out at me still when I think about that night. There was a guy that kept eyeing the girls. Jason was too busy whimpering and Prok was too busy checking out guys or something, so that sort of left me as the defacto guy of the group to keep my eye on this creep and make sure he didn’t get too close. He did eventually make his way closer to us though and I kindly bumped my backpack into him, which shooed him away.

At some point, though I didn’t see this with my own eyes, someone pissed on Louann’s shoe. Later on in the night, after the ball had dropped and we were making our way back to the train, the girls were being pushed around by the crowd and twisted a couple of ankles on fallen police barricades.

On the train our neighbors were crazy and some of them were drinking or smoking pot. I just wanted to go to sleep, but I didn’t and I think that was mostly out of nervousness. When we got back to Kerry’s house the guys went downstairs and the girls went upstairs. Jason and I decided to let Prok have the couch because he had to drive Louann and I home the next day. I curled up with my spot on the floor and went to sleep.