It was New Years Eve. A night infused with romance or at least infused with the potential of romance. I came alone to a party at a friend of a friend’s. His parents were out for the night and about 20 of us, all 18 to 20-something’s, mostly of the nerd variety, had a posh house to ourselves. I came alone but I also came late hoping that I could stop by, do the meet and greet and while the party was going strong I’d disappear before anyone realized I had no date. Otherwise, I had to explain to the guys that I couldn’t get a date for New Year’s Eve.
Unlike the curbside prophets in the classic moment in the movie, “Say Anything” I wasn’t alone, “by choice”. I was just alone. And it was miserable to be without a date at a party I knew would end with everyone pairing up for a New Year’s Eve kiss. But it was even more miserable to spend the night at home alone in my room until it came time to countdown from 10 with my parents and Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve.
So there I was at the party.
My plan was working pretty well until two unexpected things happened. First, my friend’s friend had a goldfish pond in his entry way. I discovered the wading pool with the giant goldfish about halfway through my meet and greet tour. I sat down on the side of the indoor pond, coat still on, and started wondering how fast I’d have to be to grab one of those things out of the water. I absent-mindedly sipped on the champagne that someone had handed me and as I watched the circling koi thought about how much the champagne tasted a lot how I assumed urine would taste. I looked up to tell our host that his champagne tasted like pee when the second unexpected thing happened. A girl. I swallowed my pee drink with a gulp.
She stood there, talking to the host, smiling, laughing, her hand on his arm and then she turned and looked at me. Her smile faded for a second. I think she was trying to figure out if she knew me. She didn’t, but I wanted her to. I smiled and then she smiled back and walked over to where I sat. I forgot all about going fishing for Koi. I almost forgot my name as she introduced herself, Stacey, and waited for me to introduce myself. She had long hair, a soft, round face with dimples in her cheeks and a brilliant smile. Her eyes sparkled and as I rambled she laughed and made me glad I’d come to the New Year’s Eve party all alone.
We talked for a long time and the party went on around us. The crowd seemed oblivious to us and us to them. I was getting details. She was in her second year of university, studying to be an engineer. I told her she didn’t look like an engineer. She seemed a little insulted and asked me what I thought an engineer looked like. I told her I just didn’t picture her running a train. She laughed and then couldn’t decide if I was serious or joking.
“An engineer. You know, we figure out how to build things like bridges or create things for manufacturing.”
“Oh,” I said, “An architect?”
“No, an engineer. Are you serious? What year are you in anyway?”
“I’m in 9th grade and proud to say the biggest kid in my class.”
Wrinkling her nose at me she said, “I’m tempted to believe you but I happen to know Joe didn’t invite anyone under 18 to the party.”
“I didn’t say I was under 18. I’m a slow learner. Is that a problem?”
“O.K., seriously, what are you studying?”
“O.K., seriously,” I said, “I don’t like that word but I’ll still tell you. I’m in my first year of anthropology and I’m planning on specializing in archeology.”
“Funny,” she said, leaning back and looking me over, “You don’t look like Indiana Jones.”
“Ouch.” Mentally my wheels were spinning.
Sense of humour. Check.
Ability to reference movies. Check.
Thinks I’m funny. Check.
Turns out she was home for the Christmas break. Another week and she’d be back in classes at a school about an hour and a half away from where I lived. Normally, after seeing a girl like Stacey, it would have taken me weeks just to have the conversation we’d had and another month to work up the courage to ask her on a date. The ticking clock pushed me past my typical blundering shyness. “Look,” I started, “I think you’re amazing and I’d love to go out with you. Heck, I’d like to spend every free moment of the rest of the Christmas break with you. I know we just met but I think…”
“Sure.” She said, interrupting my sad attempt. “I’d like that too.” She looked at me and she smiled, dimples at full power and her dark eyes twinkling like starlight.
I became vaguely aware the countdown had started and then champagne corks were popping and people were running around giving and getting kisses. We exchanged a very quick and very self-conscious kiss and though we’d just met that night I wanted to punch every other guy that walked over looking for their own ‘New Year’s Kiss’. Once it was all over she walked me to the door and explained that she’d promised the host, her friend, that she’d help him clean up after. We said “good night” and she handed me a slip of paper as I opened the door to leave, “Call me.” She said, smiled and turned and walked back toward the kitchen. That night, on the way home, I prayed to the God I wasn’t sure I believed in and said a simple two word prayer over and over. “Thank you.”
…to be continued…