New Year’s Eve Memories

Kyra
I rang in the new year with Kyra, once upon a time

It’s January 1, 2016, and I’m waking up overheated, at the crack of dawn, to turn down the thermostat and electric blanket I had cranked up to scalding a few hours earlier.

Even in California, it’s icy in the small hours of late December (31 degrees, to be exact), but you want to be outside with your friends, drinking and toasting when the countdown hits zero. Coming home, frozen to the bone, I may have gone a bit overboard on the thaw.

Waking up, bathed in sweat in the first moments of the new year, I shivered with an eerie sense of deja vu…

About five years ago, some friends of mine had crashed out in my sweltering apartment after the night’s festivities. It was a complicated time for me–my marriage had just broken up and I was swinging back and forth between making sense of the fallout and reveling in my newfound freedom.

It was the first time I truly had a space of my own, having gone from my parents’ house to a series of college roommates and finally into the Army, where I married a man I had known for only two months.

It seems so wildly reckless in retrospect, but being in the military has a way of making you compulsively live in the moment. Perhaps it comes from the knowledge that stepping on a land mine or being whisked away from everyone you know is no longer out of the question.

At any rate, we made a go of it for seven years until everything quickly fell apart.  There was a loud argument, then I moved out to stay with friends after he didn’t come home all night, and finally I threw everything he owned out the front door of our one-bedroom apartment after discovering that he had cleaned out our joint bank account and was selling my things on craigslist in an attempt to buy a scooter and baseball tickets.

It was an ugly final scene: him dragging everything he owned behind him in a white plastic garbage bag as he told me I’d regret not having him around and me telling him I’d have ten of him by next week… and also a fine lesson in the merits of longer courtship periods.

Left alone, I panicked in the sudden emptiness, confusion over the rapid disintegration of a supposedly permanent bond, and the practical fears of wondering how I would survive with four dollars in my wallet and a student job.

Eventually making it though the rough periods, even emerging with more faith in my inner resources, I came to appreciate that while I didn’t have much, at least what I had was mine. For the first time in my life, I only had to answer to myself.

This was my apartment now.

I remember that realization suddenly hitting me one night after I woke up naked, flopped belly-side down on the couch with my cat curled in the small my back and cheese falling out of my hand. Monk reruns were playing on TV as it hit me…YES.

I can walk around naked whenever I feel like it. I can fall asleep in front of the TV eating cheese. I can do whatever the hell I want because this space is MINE.

New Year’s Eve came shortly after that, a girl’s night out. My girlfriends and I put on our best smokey eyes, black nylons and heels and went out together to eat tapas in downtown Sacramento.

We ate buttery, garlic-soaked tidbits and threw back mojitos as flamenco guitar filled the spaces around us. We laughed and joked and talked and sipped champagne as the new year rolled in.

Sometime in the middle of the night, my cousin and good friend Kyra went back to my apartment to revel in our giddy freedom for a while longer. We had hit that middle-of-the-night stage of famished partying, so I handed them beers and went to survey my fridge’s slim pickings. Pulling out tortillas and cheese (staples in most California kitchens), I started frying up quesadillas doused with salsa and sour cream and handing them to my friends, who wolfed them down in uninhibited drunkenness.

We talked and laughed until half-comotose, then piled into my bed like scattered rag dolls. Shivering, I cranked up the thermostat as my cat jumped into the sweaty heap. I awoke to find Kyra missing and my thermostat at 95 degrees (I clearly had smacked the lever to the right without paying attention).

We all met for brunch, during which Kyra told the story of her departure. Around six in the morning, she had woken up to a hot mess of blasting heater and trapped exhalations, thinking “I need some fresh air, need to get home.”

Grabbing her bra and heels in her left hand, she left my apartment expecting to find her car right outside. Then she remembered parking several blocks away and began trudging down the street. She caught the scowl of a woman cleaning out her gutters and scowled back.

Locking eyes with the judgmental homeowner across from her, Kyra suddenly realized how she must appear: smeared black eyeliner, rumpled party dress, carrying her bra and shoes in one hand and her keys in another…

“It looked like the biggest WALK OF SHAME ever, and I had to just keep walking for blocks,” Kyra laughed.

My cousin and I giggled over our Eggs Benedicts as we pictured ourselves in Kyra’s position, happy that she had given the woman a good scowl back. It was none of her business and who wakes up to clean their gutters and scowl at passing revelers at six in the morning on New Year’s Day, at any rate?

Remembering that night from years ago made me smile in the first moments of 2016, then wipe some tears a moment later. Kyra is dead now. She died last year.

She was young and healthy, going about her life with her new husband when one day she felt an odd tingling in her fingers. Within several weeks,  her hands had become numb enough that she had problems using them and she began to see doctors to find out what was happening to her.

After a couple of months, she had been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an extremely rare condition that can be, but isn’t usually, fatal. After six months, the condition would be considered chronic by our health care system.

One night, shortly before the six-month limit, Kyra was lying in a hospital bed, posting on Facebook about how much she hated the beeping noise made by the machines in her room. That night, she had a sudden heart attack and died.

I can see her, almost feel her next to me again for a brief moment as I picture her escaping into the cool air of a fresh dawn with her shoes in hand, hear her giggling between sips of coffee as she recounted the tale of the uptight early bird making sure her house was perfectly neat.

No one could have known, back then, how little time she had left.

And I catch the brief lingering memories, one by one… the scent of garlic and butter, the icy sweetness of champagne, the feel of a warm fuzzy cat purring against your skin as you slip into dreams.

And I think about how these moments will be what remains as we carry on through the unknowable paths of tomorrow.

I miss you, my friend.

I won’t forget you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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12 thoughts on “New Year’s Eve Memories

    1. I’m sorry to hear that… That must be very tough.

      I suppose the longer we are alive, the more loss we will experience. I’m lucky to have my parents still around, but it won’t be forever. Not for any of us.

      I’ll send you good thoughts from California and hope you have good memories of your dad to think about when you’re sad.

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  1. I loved this story. It is very sad, of course, and having moments such as holidays or anniversaries reminds of those we have lost.

    I have lost many loved ones, both friends and family. starting from a very young age including all 4 of my grandparents, most of my Aunts and Uncles, many friends and cousins and both of my parents. I am 47 now and I really can’t count the number of times I have been a pallbearer, much less funerals I have attended, and have done at least a dozen Eulogies which is important as it shows that I loved these people and they, as well as the families, loved me back. The last time I remember being able to count was in High School and at that time I had already been a pallbearer multiple times and had been to over 27 funerals.

    I am not going to lie, it has taken a toll on me and I have had many days of deep depression due to some of the events involved, things I have seen or had to do, and decisions that had to be made, or were made because of the events that I will regret all my life. I also have some horrible images in my head that I wish I could erase but can’t.

    While I do feel sadness and at times depression, I am reminded of the people that I have loved and lost and with it comes a very serene feeling when I think about the time that I had with them. Life is short and no matter how badly we wish we could turn back time we can’t. The best we can do is make the best of the time that we have ahead of us and remember our loved ones fondly.

    When I think of my Dad, or the many others, I think about the happy times we had. Writing this I can hear their laughter, smiles, jokes, sense of humor, words of wisdom as well as words not so wise, mannerisms, the way people walked, what they liked, what they hated and all of the amazing times we had. These memories make me smile and I am thankful for the time we did have together

    This story in particular reminds me of a close friend whom I miss dearly. LOL I used to steal her sister’s phone and text her messages pretending to be her all leading up to something completely inappropriate and just plain wrong. It was one of my favorite things to do and was a long standing game we played for years. There are many other memories as well but this is one of my favorites.

    I wish my friends, and family, were still here and I feel lost and alone without them sometimes but I also feel very blessed to have had the time I had and to have the memories I have of these people. I will take a bit of sadness and depression any day over not having spent the valuable time I had with these people.

    Of course we all have different beliefs and while I am not super religious and definitely don’t fall under the conventional beliefs I do feel comfort in knowing I will join them someday and in a way I look forward to that day. Preferably not anytime soon but someday as I still have things I want to do and many more years I would like to spend with the ones I love.

    When my time does come, and it will, I would like to think that the people will look back and remember the good times we had and that a smile forms along with that inevitable tear. It’s good to be loved and remembered.

    Your story of Kyra is very touching and while it is sad it warms my heart knowing that she is remembered fondly for the good times and not solely for the loss. I believe her spirit is around and that she takes joy in being remembered for the fun times and probably taking that same ridiculous walk of shame as she forms her own ethereal smile thinking of you. 🙂

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    1. That’s awful, I can’t imagine losing so many people. Maybe you’re unlucky, but hopefully it’s partly because you know and love so many people?

      I’m not particularly religious myself, though I think it’s impossible to know all the answers. Spirituality is an individual, personal journey…

      I don’t know what to expect on the other side, but I do believe it’s important to appreciate the time we have with people and remember them. You never know when they will be gone.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s exactly the point to my thoughts on your blog. While many would read your story and feel it is very sad, I read it and I think about how blessed we are to spend the time that we do have with the ones we love.

        Circumstances change, and we change over time and it’s the wonderful people that we’ve had in our lives that made us who we are today.

        I’ve lost a lot of people but I’ve loved many more and I’m thankful for the time I had with them. I’m not unlucky in this regard, instead i feel very fortunate to have had, and still have, many people in my life.

        I love stories like this as it shows a point in time and with it the people we were close to. With them gone it makes the story even more touching as they are remembered with a smile, as well as a tear.

        The best we can hope for is that those we love remember us for the good times. It’s just my 2 cents but it’s how I would like to be remembered and I’m sure Kyra would love to be remembered fondly as well. 🙂

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