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.

Closure

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


It was only reluctantly that I accepted Tracy’s invitation to hang out at Shawn’s house in the night’s preceding the dawn of the rest of my life. I had a sense I think, even before I arrived, that his final bit of business might bring me closure after nearly three long years. I got in my car, drove my parents’ house up to North Chelmsford, into the same condo complex that JonMartin lived in, past Jon’s place, and down into the parking lot in front of Shawn’s. I got out of the car, locked the door and went in.

I don’t think Shawn was there at first. I think it was Tracy, Amity, and me. Come to think of it, Shawn probably was there but in the early moments, I just remember hanging out with Tracy and Amity because I had never been very close with Shawn. He was the guy that the “love of my life” to that point had ended up with. You understand.

We played some crazy game that involved humming tunes that were on a card to try and get your teammate to guess them. I think it was guys versus girls or in the beginning it was Tracy and Amity versus me. It wasn’t particularly fun and they treated me in the same way as they had in high school, like I was a lesser creature because I had a dick. It was amusing at first. It was fun to fall into that familiar groove again, but I soon realized I’d moved on from that and I was disappointed that they hadn’t done the same.

Pete, Amity’s boyfriend, eventually showed up and he was the same old Pete — nice enough, but very hard to get a read on. I enjoyed the few minutes I spent with the whole gang of them around more than I enjoyed the early moments I spent with Tracy and Amity alone.

Soon, but probably not soon enough, it was time to leave the awkward evening. I had been hoping, after all, that when I met Tracy again just a few days before, that she wouldn’t be with Shawn anymore. Now, as I left that townhouse, promising that we would keep in touch (though I knew it was an empty promise on all our parts), I was both sad and happy she was still with him. I was sad that I couldn’t have that one last chance to see if would work, but I was happy… happy because I suspected it wouldn’t have worked. Though I still adored her fiery personality, it was clear to me that I had finally moved on.

I got into my car, turned the key, and finally, after far too long, moved on with my life.

The Return of Tracy

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


It had been nearly three years since our first and only proper date when I picked up Tracy from her parents’ house in North Chelmsford in the days following Christmas of 1997. With a short haircut, she looked just as good as she had those few times I’d seen her at ultimate frisbee on my trips back home in college. I don’t believe there was any hug or anything, though there might have been. We got quickly into my ‘87 Ford Tempo for what seemed like an exact replica of that date three years before.

We stopped at an ATM just outside Drum Hill so Tracy could get some money and then, after some deliberating, drove over to the 99 Restaurant in Lowell, just down the street from KenMills’ house. It was in that same restaurant three years earlier that we’d begun our first official date. It was my hopeless romantic hope, now that I’d finally felt done with the Big Blue Funk of 97, that it might also be the place where we began a new relationship.

I allowed myself to labor under the delusion she was no longer with Shawn until she mentioned his name halfway through lunch that day. She hadn’t mentioned him in the e-mails we’d exchanged and she hadn’t mentioned him on the phone when I called to set things up and she hadn’t mentioned him for half of our meal. I was so hopeful, despite this nagging feeling in my newly matured brain that maybe I wasn’t into her anymore after all these years, and then she lowered the boom.

She flirted and teased me the way she had back in the day and we each talked a little about college and our lives since we’d last been in regular contact. After lunch we drove down to the new Showcase Cinemas right down the street. It wasn’t a movie at the Rte. 3 Cinema as it had been three years before, but it was close enough that it felt eerie. We decided to see As Good As It Gets, a new Jack Nicholson flick, and aside from laughing at the movie we were mostly silent for the next two hours.

As we drove around a bit afterward she reprogrammed my preset radio stations to light-rock and country, and we spoke about maybe hanging out at Shawn’s house later in the week. I was disappointed that she was no longer a possibility, but kind of happy to have her back in my life, and I said that sounded good.

I dropped her off and went home. I probably talked to my cousin Billy a bit about it when I got there, assuming they were still around, which I think they were.

Christmas With The Ronzios

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


It had become something of a tradition to have The Ronzios up from North Carolina for Christmas. They arrived a couple of days before the holiday and stayed for a couple of days after. Dad was beginning to tire of it though, for a number of reasons I can’t recall. I think he felt cramped or something. God only knows. We’re all still close today though and that’s what counts. It was a tradition that was ending this year but we still had a good time.

On Christmas morning John got a Playstation, I got a heap of CDs and the Aerosmith autobiography, and everyone else got a treasure trove of stuff as well. The living room floor of my parents’ house was covered with paper and boxes and people unwrapping things and life was great.

We ate dinner with my Aunt Joanne, Uncle Austin, their kids, my Auntie Donna, and my Grandma. I think the Ronzios took off and had dinner elsewhere. There was more present opening after dinner but mostly I read my book and thought about my upcoming reunion with Tracy.

When everyone else was gone, we drove over to Auntie Lil’s brother’s place. For a number of reasons, I never called Lil’s brother Mark my uncle. Lil wasn’t even my real aunt. She was my mom’s cousin, but we’d always grown up with her around as if she were an aunt.

At Mark’s place we hung out with the Ronzios some more and eventually a bunch of us guys, from all generations, ended up in the basement watching South Park and bonding over the crude humor of Mr. Hankie the Christmas Poo.

Titanic

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


I drove home from Bradford that December with a feeling that things were changing. The funk was over. I was going to see Tracy again. My cousins were coming up for Christmas. I was going to spend New Year’s in New York with my college friends. Winter break didn’t seem like it was going to be so lonely this year. It didn’t seem like something I would have to fight to get through in order to return to school at the beginning of the year.

On the night I drove back from Bradford, hardly any of my family was around. My Mom was probably working. My Dad was probably drinking. John was certainly off with his friends, if he had even returned from school yet. I decided to take in a movie at the brand new Showcase Cinemas in Lowell. I decided to go see Titanic.

I think I went to an early show, maybe a 4:30 or something, so that I got out at around 7:30, just as it was getting really dark. The theater was immense and the stadium seating was just spectacular compared to the single level seating and the sticky floors we were used to at the old Rte. 3 Cinema. Even if the movie sucked, my movie-going experience was going to be terrific.

As James Cameron’s epic unveiled itself before me I marveled at the beauty of surround sound for the first time in my life. I was dazzled by the sheer reality of the effects. And in the end, I cried like so many others did, recalling a story my mother had told me about how one of my great-great grandmothers had almost purchased a ticket for the doomed oceanliner.

It was a moving experience and a great way to begin my vacation.