Thursday, January 3, 2008

Before There Were Blogs...There Were Spiral-Bound Notebooks

Belated, but still relevant--the NYE reflection I had been searching the archives for. Enjoy, and be sure to check back to see what else from the MS Word vault has been posted.


New Years Eve, 2001

Wellington, NZ


I sat in the sun this morning and made a breakfast of toast with honey and green tea. Filo got in at 9 this morning from work and it looks like shes not planning to sleep, again. She has a big party planned for New Years tonight, but I think I'm going to try to get to midnight Mass at St. Marys.

I take a walk down to the city, cutting through the fields and forest on the way down. It is a gorgeous day. I sit and talk with a Maori woman about what Boxing Day is as we wait for the bus. I look out at the bay and feel relieved, to be alone. I go to the bank to change some money and walk up to Catholic chaplaincy to have lunch and send some emails. Il'l be writing later today.

* * *

Walking up the hill after going into town for cigarettes with Filomena, I see a girl about my age with jet black hair and beautiful dark eyes swinging on a treeswing by herself. I'm struck for a minute it is so storybook-sad and touching that the whole scene seems to have a glow about it. Walking by with F., I feel like I'm wearing a cashmere coat arm in arm with a wife, walking by a homeless person...subtly ashamed. but i wave to her once, twice...wanting her to know that i've been there before and i'm here now swinging by myself TOO and that she's beautiful, but she doesn't see me. We round the bend and its over. it was the most private special thing i've seen all day.

F. and I clear the air in the afternoon, if you can call it that. It felt like it went nowhere. she asked me to read the letters i wrote her and if i would help her burn them. 'What the fuck!? Who are you?' 'No, its not spiteful or anything, its just moving on.' Yeah. Look, i tell her, if you want to burn those letters that's something for you to do personally that i don't want any part of. Fuck, this is weird. She's been drinking for a couple hours now. Its four o'clock.

michelle's friend dwayne is over. 'whatcha drinkin' mate?' he asks as I'm eating dinner on the back stoop. 'aw, just some milk bro.' 'yeha, good one' 'nah mate, for real, its right here. see.' 'what the?...'

more people start rolling in at nine oclock. as if i'm not having enough trouble trying to belong as it is, i've gotten it in my head that i'm not going to drink tonight. on new years eve. in a country where babies nurse on beer instead of milk. i haven't been looking foward to this party and have decided to go to midnight mass at st. mary's. 'that's a good one mate,' dwayne says, and i smile. 'you're serious? come on then, have a drink.' nah, i'm good thanks...'got my milk,' i laugh.

'yea, i'd be in church too, but the way i figure, God wants me to be having a good time. so if i'm happy, that's just like going to church, doing what God wants me to do.' i nod, trying to reason out his logic on this particular self-made form of religion. i am really looking forward to mass--i'm getting real tired of all this.

i'm sitting out front talking with some of Fil's friends Ace, Benna, and Charlet. i'm more comfortable in the company of islanders and maori than pakeha (euro nz'ers). F. is with us and she's pretty drunk. the (white) guys next door are having a party as well, i don't think she gets on with them to well. we're laughing and having a good time when we hear someone there say 'damn, that girl is BLACK!' all conversation among us stops while it continues up there. i wonder if i hear right. i immediately shoot a glance to F.. This has happened before. and i know how she is when she's drunk. one time a guy unknowingly said something about how she looked and i had to pin her arms together and take her around back; she was going to break his nose. now, she's out of her chair and storming upstairs. ace and benna laugh about it but I hear her giving her neighbors hell and i'm worried. when she comes down all the joy has gone out of her and she looks stepped-on and shook up. she doesn't want to let on to anyone, so i take her inside. she is cursing and crying and FUMING, like a searing wound had been opened up. and it has. i am seeing before my eyes the devastating effect one thoughtless racist remark can have on someone. she is so upset it scares me, and i'm powerless to do anything for her. it hurts to watch. i don't even have any words, i'm just...there. she's shaking with rage and hatred, and while i will never 100% experience that kind of pain because of racism, i can see how painful it is. that hatred is so ugly i almost can't look at her it scares me too much. she knows i was planning to go to mass and looks at me with contempt. 'go to church,' she spits. 'no, i'm going to stay with you.' 'no, you do what you want; if you want to go, then go.' i don't know what to say.

'tell me,' she asks with that fire in her eyes, 'how can you go to Church when the world is so fucked?'

i pause for a minute and then look up at her.

'i think it's BECAUSE the world is so fucked that i go to church.'

'just go then...'

i feel like a pious asshole but know there is nothing i can do for her. God, all i want is to be with Jesus--i don't even care about the hymns or the service. it's 11:30 and the city is absolutely mad. I feel like i've been thrown in the lion's den; this is what the cities that the Desert Fathers fled from must have been like.

Couple after couple weaves by arm in arm. a bottle breaks against a wall. people are yelling conversations on their cell phones in the midst of this cacophony. a girl is passed out on the sidewalk as her two friends just stand there. People dancing in the streets. A fight breaks out. I feel like I'm on a moving walkway and people are just moving on by. I'm totally sober. I finally get to Mass and am so tired from the walk and everything going on that I fall asleep during the Gregorian chant and when I wake up I don't know if Mass has ended or if its just starting. People are leaving. But it ends up being the start and the service is, of course, awful uninspiring, but I wait for Communion feeling like I've gone through so much to be here, it's all I want. After Communion I feel nothing, but as usual, am content knowing that I don't have to feel anything. After the service I am the only one left in the church--it is the most depressing lonely scene. I want to cry but feel no sadness to justify it. It is 1am.

New Year's has come and gone, literally. Like sex. A year's worth of anticipation and then 5-4-3-2-1...a ball-dropping 12 o'clock climax and its over. The whole world has felt the satisfaction and sadness of an arm-in-arm drunk-prom-night New Year's orgasm. Kneeling on a wooden pew, I realize I faked it.

I make my way back home down Courtney Pl. stepping over broken bottles and puddles of vomit. I wish a bum on the corner a Happy New Years and he nods a bushy smile. Oriental Pd. is dark and the benches empty. I sit on the beach as the waves lap the gray sand to watch a couple make love under the full creme moon. I have never had so much reason to feel alone, and yet there is comfort in being here now. a deep heavy contentment drowns any emotional response i might have to the situation. The night as become a real-life Gospel story. A chance to see how serious I am about living my faith and simply living. I can see why some Protestants refer to themselves as 'Jesus Freaks' (though I don't like that term). God, trying to live out the Gospel DOES make you a freak--but only when compared to everything around you.

I think about Zeb and a conversation we had about 'missing out' on things because of trying to live our faith to its fullest. You do. But you gain so much more. I think about Zeb, and life.

I sit on some steps before climbing the hill to write some. Then I hear this, 'Rob!' and it's Fil and Mitch running down the stairs. she's fully drunk now and wants to go dancing, though she can't even stand up straight. she wants to have a good time, all the time, and doesn't let anything stand in her way. she asks if i want to take a walk and all i want to do is go to bed, but I say yeah. We talk the long way back and I have to steady her the whole time. Then she wants to pass out on a bench in the middle of the woods. I hate her when she's like this--probably why I didn't drink tonight. I think about all those wives with alcoholic husbands and the shit they go through.

We get home and she wants to lay in the backyard, so I decide she's fine and say a quick hello to everyone still going strong, and retire to the refuge of my room. It's 4am. What a fucking night. I rang in the New Year sober, alone, and in church--It is the most blessed one I can remember.

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