Hey guys, Flobo here. After last year’s Holiday Story, I figure I make it into a new tradition. So without further ado, here is another Holiday Story about love, life, and The Wintertime:
I love New Year’s Eve. Sure, there was that whole “renewal” thing, and that was fine, but for me the last night of the year has practically all of the magic that Christmas used to have. I got really good at faking delight when getting a present or a stein of eggnog, but you couldn’t fake the date changing from December to January. That was absolute and for that I was grateful.
And I wasn’t the only one. Resolutions put pen to pad about the finality of things. “Next year was going to be different, but for now let me think about how I screwed up.” Whether it was that argument you shouldn’t have had with your boss or keeping that toxic friend around, the holiday could be seen as a decision to never make such bad decisions again. Until at least, the next bad decision comes along.
One– as my mother would say –“Old Year’s Night”, I was in a diner sipping on a hot cup of the house brew. Outside began to snow, and the thought about having to go back outside led me to nurse my coffee as long as I could. Like most diners, the cup was bottomless, but I wasn’t so sure how much Joe my body could take. There were the huddled masses outside, clutching their overcoats while the multi-colored shopping bags swayed in time from their hips. The whole scene would look good in an oil painting; the kind that would be shamelessly reprinted and sold for seven dollars on the street corner. My first resolution is to buy one of them.
An old man steps into the nearly empty diner, shivering from the cold. His jacket looked warm enough, but I suppose he was a victim of the humid wind this city tosses around during the year. He crumples his wool hat in his hand as he slides up to the counter. Sticking his finger up to the waitress, he orders himself a coffee of his own. He’s old school; definitely from a different time. Most people would have holed themselves up in a department store to warm up without so much as looking at the merchandise, but not him. Paying for something eased his conscience, or at least that’s was my summation.
You may disagree, but I don’t consider myself the talking type. There’s just so much more you can learn in silence. However on this last night of the year, on a night where all unorthodox decisions could be wiped clean by midnight, I sat up from my seat and took my coffee cup with me. It soon found a home next to the old man’s cup on the counter. He shot me a glance, and then went back to work blowing on the surface of his beverage. This was purely ceremonial, as the effect of blowing on a hot cup of anything was negligible but I looked on with interest anyway. I leaned over to him before sitting down at the stool next to his.
“Lovely weather we’re having,” I smirked.
“Sure is,” he replied. “Cold, isn’t it?”
“Yes sir. Tell me you were trying to get home.”
The old man ventured to try his first sip of his coffee. When the first drops left the cup and landed on his lips, you could tell it was just a tad too warm, but it didn’t stop him. He took that first sip with satisfaction before returning the cup to the counter.
“Oh no,” he said. “I’m meeting a lady friend of mine.”
“Lucky man,” I said. “You and her been together long?”
“Actually,” he said with a smile. “Tonight is to be our first night. We’ve been friends for a long time but we just kind of decided…”
I watched him take another sip of his coffee. Now more comfortable with the temperature, he took a hearty gulp.
“Decided to what exactly?”
“Well son, she was the one that had my heart for years. We never made much of it to be honest. But when we were teenagers I told her that if we were both alone that in fifty years’ time we would meet in Central Park by our favorite bench on New Year’s Eve at midnight.”
“So she’s there now waiting for you?”
“I hope so. I haven’t seen her since.”
He downed the rest of his coffee in a resounding gulp before asking for another. I waved off the waitress for a refill of my own.
“You haven’t seen her in fifty years? What if, for whatever reason, she didn’t show up?”
“I’m not sure yet. All I know is that I will be there.”
He glanced at my watch, a relic from a bygone era where people kept the time on their wrists instead of their cellular phones. It was twenty five minutes before midnight, and a particularly cold midnight at that.
“If you don’t mind me asking sir,” I said, “But have you seen anyone else in the meantime?”
“A forward question, but one I’m willing to answer son,” he said with a smile. I have, but in the back of my head she was the only one for me. I’m sure you would understand.”
“I do. Even if it’s not my place to,” I said.
“That’s all I ask.”
His second cup came in front of him and he made quick work of it while I looked on, in awe of him. He could be heading to the most blissful rendezvous of his life, or the most crushing heartbreak. Spending five decades thinking about someone really messes with your brain chemistry, or so I would think. I watched him as he bundled his coat, toss a couple of dollars on the counter, and put on his hat. He looked over to me and gave a knowing nod and wink, just like what I gave my father on the night of my high school prom. He went out with the cold night air as he came in, with his wool hat on top of his head. I chuckled to myself at the sight.
Suddenly, looking back on a single year’s bad decisions just seemed silly.
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