I was sitting on our cold balcony floor and my eyes were glued to the sky watching fireworks burst like blazing phoenixes. I wondered if the Chinese who invented fireworks ever knew then that their invention could make people, no matter the age and background, happy. I wondered if they ever knew that lights breaking against the velvet sky would be a perfect way to make our joys and triumphs heard and seen. Did they know that fireworks can take one’s breath away? Did they also hold their breath when they saw the first flicker of light soar into the heavens?
As I caught my breath, I searched for words that could capture the unwanted feeling of being all by myself, under the enchanted sky promising a new beginning. This is how I waited for you.
When I was young, my aunts always made me jump as the clock approached midnight on New Year’s Eve. They said it would make me taller. I thought my height was okay, I didn’t want to be any taller, but I jumped anyway because I was told that New Year’s Eve just isn’t the time to question superstition.
As I pulled the cheese off my last slice of pizza, I thought about jumping on New Year’s Eve. I thought maybe not everyone who jumps on New Year’s Eve wants to get taller; maybe some jump because they enjoy the feeling of springing free off the ground. Maybe they want to check if it’s true that feet aren’t made only for walking but, among other things, also for kicking the air. Maybe jumping makes it easier to believe that when arms are stretched wide enough, it wouldn’t be so hard to imagine they are wings.
Maybe people jump so they can sweat the sadness, fears and frustrations away because they know that sweating is more acceptable than weeping on a New Year’s Eve. Maybe they jump because they want to feel. Maybe because over the past year, they had forgotten to feel real feelings. Maybe they jump because jumping on a regular night wouldn’t be as fun. Maybe jumping makes them forget. Maybe they jump because they fear that if they don’t, there wouldn’t be another chance to do so. Maybe they jump because it’s like dancing, but a lot easier.
Maybe too much happiness is making their bodies bounce, and they can’t help it. Or it could be love—they jump because jumping into love is less fatal than falling into it. Maybe they jump because jumping says things that words can’t. Maybe some people only need to jump to realize that they can, like a sheep only needs to jump to know that it has a bell attached to its neck.
I didn’t jump on the eve of 2014. Instead, I watched the sky, thanked the Chinese for inventing fireworks, ate pizza, fiddled with my phone, and watched the sky some more. It was just like yesterday that I was bidding the old year goodbye. Three hundred and sixty five days, it turned out, are not enough to learn how to say goodbye. But 365 days are enough to make memories, win some and lose some, and be poetic about it.
You were a bad-hair day, forgotten keys, unanswered phone calls, awkward dinner. You were wrinkled shirt, slow Internet speed, spoiled Java rice. You were the constellation of pimples on my face that hurt so much I couldn’t smile. You were cracked lips, spending money on unimportant things—and I missed a flight because I overslept.
You were the risk I never take, spilled soda on the couch, rain water leaking through the window, favorite tree killed by Typhoon “Glenda.” You were “Wish you were here” and “If only I met you some other time.” You were cold bath and “I have nothing to wear today.” You were a missing button from my favorite shirt and a piece of meat stuck between my teeth.
You were unfinished letters, dusty books, last bite of burger that fell on the floor, and migraine for two days. You were a road turned into a parking lot, corrupt politicians lying on national TV, an unannounced blackout on a scorching summer night, and mosquito bites that left dark marks. You were a battery-empty phone, a stutter in the middle of a sentence, and watching friends get married and have happy lives. You were eating alone and having a conversation with the pasta on my plate. You were the snobby old lady at the cashier’s, blinding camera flashes, a stain that won’t go away, and misspelled words unnoticed. You were “God, I miss my son.”
But you were everything I ever wanted you to be.
You were my first tattoo. You were island-hopping and small talk with strangers. You were blowing the candles on three birthday cakes, finding starfish on a seashore, and free museum entrance. You were late-night dipping in a pool while watching the moon, five-day-old pizza that still tasted good, and a pair of jeans that fit so well it doesn’t need a belt.
You were all-expense-paid travel. You were I-laughed-so-hard-I-peed-on-myself. You were a fortune-teller thinking I believed her. You were the nine fiction books I read this year. You were a kalesa ride in Intramuros, Skittles for breakfast, and finding out that my five-year-old shirt still fits.
You were slipping in a flood but no one saw it. You were Sunday afternoon when I learned that my article got published. You were I-delivered-a-speech. You were my daily view of sunset from my office desk, dried leaves falling like confetti from heaven, and my to-do list all crossed out.
You were almost falling in love. You were I’m-glad-I-didn’t-fall-in-love. You were remembering an old joke and laughing all by myself. You were a gorgeous ring around the moon. You were happy tears. You were I-hosted-a-friend’s-wedding. You were I-said-no-and-meant-it.
You were a pink bikini, love notes and doodles in my notebooks. You were my baby hedgehog eating from my palm for the first time. You were girls’ night out, sleeping under the starry sky, and let’s-hug-like-otters-do. You were giving clouds funny names, unexpected guests, pillow fight, free donuts, and singing along to Maroon 5 songs in full volume on a rainy night.
You were my son waking me up in the morning to show his drawing of me in a polka-dot dress with a flower in my hair. You were the smile flashed across his face and the twinkle in his eyes when I told him that it’s the best drawing of me I’ve ever seen.
You taught me so many things, too, 2014. This year, I learned to trust myself and the people around me, to listen, to apologize, and to forgive. You taught me to not hurry, to lend a hand, to always be fair, and to never forget to say “Thank you!”
My dear 2014, thank you. The night you came, I didn’t jump. I only sat down and watched the sky. I’ve never looked down since.
Marriane Elnar, 26, works in Financial Times Electronic Publishing Inc. (Digital Advertising Operations) and blogs at heymarriane.blogspot.com.
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