Talked with Sherry yesterday. I have a phone cycle — Mom, Sherry, Jenn — Sherry before Jenn because she gets snotty if I don’t call, while Jenn is more like me and could care less if anyone ever called, Mom first because I crack up when I don’t talk to my mother for a long time, though she too could care less whether anyone ever phoned. So yesterday I called Sherry cuz it was her turn and found out the latest on all the kids’ sickness, family Christmas plans, gifts that have been bought, gifts still open for me to buy, etc. And there was mention of New Year’s Eve . . . the worst night of the year.

Okay, before I go any further I’m not one of those people who hates the New Year. I’m the opposite actually, I get a huge rush with the flipping of the calendar. Fresh start, new slate, endless possibilities, unknown future, so much potential — knowing how much I love starting over, I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve with it, butterflies in my stomach, ear-to-ear grin. It’s very exciting for me. I make new goals and become very productive and focused for awhile, the adrenaline carries me for a month or two anyway, sometimes right through spring and into summer, before I slam into the brick wall of fall. I love the New Year.

But New Year’s Eve is a whole other thing. You know what I’m talking about — parties, food, countdown, kissing that certain special someone on the stroke of midnight — NYE is the biggest most anticipated party of the whole year. Now, I’m all for parties (hell, I made a living out of partying) but I cringed yesterday at the mention of going out this NYE. Here’s the thing, there’s just too much expectation, too much pressure, no party can possibly live up to the promise of NYE. Ok, I don’t even know if that’s true, but it sounds reasonable. All I know is that I’ve been involved in some pretty shitty New Year’s Eve celebrations . . .

There was the year we went to Brampton to go out with friends to a ball happening at a hotel or someplace. When I realised my boyfriend didn’t tell me we’d be staying overnight, I should’ve given up on having a good time. But optimistic me dressed to the nines in my flirty dress and spiky shoes with no overnight travel amenities or even a pair of socks, couldn’t see far enough into the future to understand how this outfit might feel by the following evening after a day of football and beer with a big turkey supper thrown in for good measure. I was determined to have a good time, excited about going out on the biggest night of the year for the first time. And then everyone else got too stoned (except me who doesn’t do stoned . . . and by too stoned I do mean vegetative) and we never left their basement, never did a countdown, no great food, no dancing, not even many drinks. I welcomed the New Year from a lumpy couch sitting between too uncommunicative lumpy guys staring at a taped motocross race on a tiny fuzzy screen. Yee-haw!

Or there was the year we were in NB for NYE and we went out to a club with some of my friends and their boyfriends/husbands. My first experience with a typical rapider type NYE. My expectations weren’t even that high for this excursion. It wouldn’t have taken a whole lot to convince me I had a good time. For this event I was underdressed, or should I say too club-sexy dressed for the company I was keeping. The other girls had suits made just for this occasion, the kind of skirt blazer thing you’d wear to church on Sunday, bright and colourful with a longer hemline, no cleavage, etc. And let’s just say I was dressed to go clubbing on the Lakeshore. There was the added stress of a dinner to get through, because that’s what they do, go for chinese before the ball. And it was always stressful introducing my boyfriend to people because so many didn’t like him (my mother included). He was just too logical and sarcastic for a lot of people around home. But we got through the dinner and he seemed to be fitting in good enough. At the club it seemed we were all overdressed, jeans were the norm. There were no decorations, no snacks, no bells and whistles — nothing to indicate this night was anything special other than an inflated cover and some crazy rule that the bar could stay open an hour later on NYE, which only prolonged the torture. I spent the evening removing my friend’s friend’s husband’s hand from my thigh under the table, hoping to hell my boyfriend didn’t notice and cause something in a Miramichi bar that no Toronto-born boy ever wants to get involved in no matter how much of a bond he feels with the river, and also hoping the wife did not notice because she was big and burly and the more she drank the more she appeared to be itching for a fight and if there’s anything I know about rapiders it’s that if anyone was going to get flattened in this situation, it wouldn’t be her husband.

There was the year I went to the legion NYE dance with my parents, Sherry and my boyfriend. And a guy, who I vaguely recognised from the train station but did not know as well as I would in later years when I would spend Christmas with all the local misfits and orphans at his annual gathering, asked me to hold out my hand, and I did, and he dropped a huge dill pickle into my palm, forever earning him the nickname of The Pickle Man. My God! What an ass he could be when he drank! I remember just sitting there for a few seconds and staring at this pickle in my hand, the whole table went silent and then I thought my boyfriend was going to kill somebody. And the whole thing led to a big old jealous row between me and him when he wouldn’t believe that I’d never met this pickle man before in my life and there was no reason to clock him.

Then there was the year we went to the Powertrack, before it was mine. A last minute decision, nearly comical in its outcome — about a dozen people, a tray of coldcuts . . . my drunken bored boyfriend being a complete ass. NYE at the Powertrack was always stressful, that was my first experience, but I hosted three events of my own.

Bands charge an unbelievable amount of money for NYE. They multiply their regular fees by at least ten. Even DJs wanted at least a grand or $1500 for NYE. For a shitty little bar back in the woods of Dungarvon, $5000 for a band for one night is a pretty hefty investment. Plus food, decorations and party favours. Add in stocking the bar beyond capacity and every year I would spend every cent I had (except a small float) getting ready for the NYE event. Going into the evening I wouldn’t have the cash to pay the band at the end of the night, I’d have to make it and more during the course of the evening. Hardly anyone buys their tickets to these things beforehand, so I’d only have maybe 20 names on a list of people who were supposed to show up. I was lucky to have friends and family who would bartend just for tips. On a busy night like that you could make a couple hundred bucks easy in tips.

NYE was the most stressful night of the year for me. The first year I think it went well. I forget which band I had that year, maybe the boys from out the road because they were cheap (or maybe that was the second year after I forked out a ton of money to a local band the year before). The first two years were kind of the same. I did the food myself. And I do mean myself. Kellie up at the crack of dawn on NYE (or had she even gone to bed) chopping veggies and making dips and putting together trays. I would work all day prepping food for 150 people, making sure last details were taken care of, lugging booze (I used to be able to carry three cases of beer like nothing), etc. Those years we did the big finger food buffets. It was a lot of work, an exhausting few days. Then I’d have to glam up for the event, which was no small chore. Every year, a different gown, the hostess with the mostest greeting everyone with a warm smile. I would bartend a little, walk around chatting with people, laugh at stupid jokes, flirt with any of the single boys (yes, a NYE event where single people were welcome), flirt with wives but not husbands, trying to make everyone feel special and welcome . . . working the room on NYE was a helluva job.

The first year I think I wore the black crushed velvet dress with the plunging neckline and all the Austrian crystal jewellry. My bra snapped half-way through the evening and I had to toss it, which seemed to only improve the tip situation. I worked the bar all night that first time. We made a killing. Sold out of everything, literally. People had a good time. I had enough money to pay the band and enough left over to pay the bills. I think I was on my own that year, not seeing anyone. But maybe my boyfriend was there the first year, it was always hard to tell with him whether he was with you or not. He could’ve been there. Anyway, the second year was way more complicated, so complicated I can’t even remember much about it, can’t remember what I was wearing, can’t really remember how it went. I think I made money. The second year was the year that my boyfriend, my lover and my ex-boyfriend were all there, at the same time, hanging out together.

My ex had driven from Toronto in some of the worst winter driving conditions ever, braved the icy most treacherous Plaster Rock highway, to declare his undying love for me and let me know he would do anything (move to NB, marry me, help me run the business, ANYTHING) to make it work with me, to make a life with me. He wanted a family and he wanted me in it. It was the most uncharacteristic and impulsive thing he had ever done. He opened up to me more on that disastrous brief visit than he ever did all those years we were together. It was pretty overwhelming.

My boyfriend was in one of those weird places that year too where he was all lovey-dovey, mild mannered and behaved, talking all kinds of crap about getting married and building a new house that would be just ours and lots of insanity.

What neither of them knew was that I was desperately trying to find a way to get out of my current relationship without anyone getting killed so I could be with the guy I’d been seeing behind everyone’s back for a couple of months. My ex figured this out before he went back to Toronto. It’s safe to say he left heart broken, which is something I’ve always felt really bad about, but what could I do? I couldn’t be with him just to make him happy. I still think he’s a really good guy, and lord knows I miss his friendship, his advice, his belief in me, his support, the way he could motivate me to do things I would never have dreamed of trying — I miss all that stuff and more, he sets the bar when I meet someone new and they’ve got to go beyond it to stand any chance, but I don’t love him in that way and I wasn’t in love with him that New Year’s either. And he was pretty pissed about it! But I’m getting ahead of myself, the showdown with my ex happened New Year’s Day, and I’m telling you about NYE.

So there I was that NYE at my club with all the pressure to have a successful night, having to be “on” for all the customers, with my ex-boyfriend, my boyfriend and my soon-to-be-out-in-the-open boyfriend all hanging out and having beers. Juggling is not one of my strong suits. And as if this wasn’t enough stress to keep me chain-smoking all night, the phone starts ringing and it’s my lover’s ex-wife calling from Alberta and she knows I’ve been seeing her ex-husband. But she doesn’t want to talk to my lover. Oh no, she wants to talk to my boyfriend. And for most of the evening I manage to keep this from happening, but eventually they do connect and while he’s on the phone I give my lover the heads up that major shit is about to hit the fan.

And I wait for it, wondering just how much stuff is gonna get messed up, sizing up the crowd and making mental notes of who I can ask to help me restrain him and which boys will jump in to help him, and deciding this is his crowd, they’ll all help him and I am screwed severely. And he hangs up and comes out from behind the bar and gives me a smile and a kiss and goes right back to his conversation as if nothing has just transpired.

I had to sit down I was so weak in the knees. What happened?! She didn’t tell him?! I couldn’t believe it. And rightly so, because of course she told him but he just couldn’t believe that I would ever cheat on him (despite all the times he cheated on me) and even if I was capable of doing something like that certainly his best friend (and my lover) was not. So he thought she was just trying to stir up shit, making things up. This is what he told me when we talked the next morning. And I seized the opportunity to tell him the truth, because I couldn’t stand the lies and the secrets anymore, and I wanted so badly to be away from him but seemed powerless to leave unless he released me. He was calmly disappointed with me. There’s no other way to put it really. He didn’t scream, didn’t say anything hurtful, didn’t take out the gun or throw the bed on top of me or hit me or any of the things I expected. He just told me I had disappointed him and made me leave.

And then I walked to my mom’s in the cold, went into my bedroom and had just settled in for a good “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing” psychotic cry when my Toronto ex showed up with his heart in his hands and I had to break it. Happy fucking New Year!

The last NYE I hosted at the Powertrack I decided I couldn’t handle all the food prep, or didn’t want the hassle of it that day. The previous two events had gone very well and this year I had booked “the” band, the one with a following and solid track record of filling the venue on NYE, so I figured I could relax on the DIY food and order in fried chicken, salads, rolls, that kind of thing. And I stocked the bar even heavier than I had in previous years in anticipation of this large crowd. And I prepared myself mentally to endure an evening of probably the worse country music known to mankind. I wore my shimmery gold gown and didn’t work the bar at all, but spent the evening working the room. And true to form the band drew an awesome-sized crowd. We were packed. It was a different crowd though, not the usual people who hung out there. A lot of new faces, a lot of people there for the first time.

When the countdown happened I looked around for my boyfriend. He was on the dancefloor with another girl. His eyes locked onto mine and he gave me that horrible grin that said, “I can fuck this girl if I want. Maybe I already have. Maybe I will later. Maybe I’ll make you watch.” And I figured I deserved this treatment on this night of all nights because of sins I committed the year before. I turned away before he kissed her though, there’s only so much shame and humiliation a body can live with at any given time, and I had other things to worry about than my boyfriend.

The evening had started to go wrong when we put out the buffet and all the chicken disappeared within minutes before half the crowd had even got through the line. I couldn’t believe it, there was enough so there should’ve been left-overs, but it was easy to see what had happened when we cleaned up — plate upon plate containing three and four pieces of uneaten chicken, it made me sick. I hated this crowd of cheap greedy hoarders. Oh and it didn’t take long to see how cheap they really were, every time I looked to the bar, the bartenders were standing around chatting. People were getting drunk and disorderly but they weren’t buying anything from us. It was infuriating. I had a club full of dead-beats and thousands of dollars I had to make by closing time in order to pay the band. I would finally give up and close the club forever five months later, but that was the night that broke us, we never recovered from that huge loss. I had to beg for a discount (which I didn’t get) and borrow cash from my parents at the end of that evening in order to pay the band. I was left penniless with the biggest mess after any event ever. Not only were they cheap and greedy but they were destructive and dirty too. Oh how I loathed that crowd.

And do you think that’s it, the last of the terrible New Year’s Eves? Hell no! There was the year my friend had bullets with people’s initials carved in them and I couldn’t talk to him and my boyfriend wouldn’t take him serious and I ended up worrying all night, not that he would kill the people the bullets were intended for, but that he would kill himself. That was a pretty shitty NYE.

Then there was the year we had the party at my parents place and I brought that guy I was seeing at the time, I can never remember his name just that my mom called him the cool dude. I regretted inviting him, regretted hanging out with him at all, he was too old for me, and I realised all of this during the evening, realised that what I really wanted to do was to just hang out with my friend, go home with him, have fun and real conversation . . . and maybe even see about having something more like he had always wanted. But I mean I couldn’t just abandon my date, especially in my own parents house. I couldn’t just walk away. I needed to figure out a way to ease out of this thing before it got way out of hand. That was also the NYE I chipped a front tooth, by the way, which is always great fun. Anyway, as it turned out I could’ve just walked away and that would’ve been okay. Because that’s exactly what he did. He dropped me off at my parents on the evening of January 1st, drove away and I never spoke to him again. He never called, never dropped in, it was just over. Three months tossed to the curb like nothing happened. Which was fine by me. But man I wish he could’ve done it a little earlier so maybe I might’ve had a good NYE.

I don’t think I’ve done anything since. It’s certainly been many years since I’ve done anything special to mark NYE. Maybe I shouldn’t cringe at the thought of celebrating. Maybe it’s time to give it another shot, no expectations, just to see what happens. Maybe the world has changed. I know I have.

Mood: optimistic
Drinking: coffee, costa rican, with a dab of cream
Listening To: Everybody Hurts, REM
Hair: still shedding like a god damn long-haired dog

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