The idea was to party with Angela, but she got angry because I spent Sunday watching football with my dad. Because we only have a few weeks to see each other over break. But that also means I only have a few weeks to see my dad. And besides, she wasn’t complaining about how she burned a whole day shopping with her sister. It snowballed from there: I don’t call enough, she doesn’t like my college friends… Next thing you know it’s New Year’s Eve and I’m single.
And my plans involved her friends.
Mom and Dad invited me to the Wolski’s with them, but I’d be the only person there without an AARP card, so I pass.
Home alone with beers, I surf through the cable channels. But with midnight approaching I consider the possibility of champagne. Toast this new year without Angela.
I go to the wine cellar, but get sidetracked among my old stuff in the basement, like the Legos and video tapes like the original Terminator. And there’s my old runner-sled. It’s way too inviting. I suit up and hit the hill out back. The snow is compacted, so I fly, fast and out of control. And laugh like I haven’t in years. A completely in the moment, not fueled by fermented spirits, but just pure elation laugh.
At the bottom of the hill I spy the river. It’s quiet. The center is slow-moving water, the edges, thick ice. The river doesn’t know arbitrary markers like New Year’s that say you’re supposed to be with a crowd, with people to affirm your happiness, someone to kiss at midnight, to promise. The river is kid-me, throwing in sticks just to watch them float, oblivious to the politics of pleasing others, balancing friends and family, etc.
Which is probably why I walked to the edge of the ice and hammered with my sled until a chunk broke off. A floe, a raft, large enough to ride slow down the silent river. Me and the cold and the winter constellations and the silence, and yes the fear, and the approximate feeling of being ten.
They’d probably call the fire department, rescue me with the hovercraft. Maybe that is what I wanted – to be the helpless child. Angela would say I wanted the attention. I would say I wanted the peace.
Martin Brick’s fiction has been published in many places, including The Beloit Journal of Fiction, Vestal Review, Pindeldyboz, and Sou’Wester. He was raised in rural Wisconsin, but currently reside in Columbus, Ohio.
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