We had been lighting fireworks
as early as 8 that night. I was over at a house of someone didn't
know, filled with even more people I had never met.
These were all the extended family
of the one really
good friend I have left in New Orleans
, and I was a
to them, but it didn't seem to matter.
We blared Sandi's car speakers and watched all
these teenage boys strut their stuff
, loading rocket
after rocket into a five-foot-tall steel tube, littering
the neighborhood with paper wrappers and spent
. Sandi and I were flirting with the teenage
boys, reflecting on our own teenage pasts, realizing
that we were to never have them back again. And it
was ok, for the most part
The pyro group kept switching from the front yard to
the back yard, where the canal came right up against
the house, the nearby nickel plant blotting out the
stars in a haze of orange. It looked like a demented
domestic warzone, all this smoke and sparks among
squat houses and parked cars, warped streets and
outdated Christmas displays.
But where was I for the big moment, where the boys
spent the last and biggest rockets and people were
screaming from the radio broadcast in Jasckson
Square? I was in the house, staring at the phone,
waiting it to ring. I was to get a call from a friend, Shmuel, I have only talked to online, and I was determined to
get it, so I just sat there, waiting. It was his idea to
call me at this awkward time where everyone is
likely to pick up the phone just to see if it works, so
in this house I kept watching people who lived there
pick it up and call friends to wish them Happy New
Year. I couldn't snatch it out of their hands, so all I
could do was hope that he would keep calling until
he got through.
This would have been the first time we were to
speak on the phone, and I was eager to hear his
voice. I had heard his singing voice on an MP3, but,
you know, it's not the same. Fifteen minutes went by
and I was beginning to doubt. I had stopped
drinking an hour ago to be nice and sober for this call,
and it looked like I had just wasted a head buzz for
nothing. I laid down on the couch and fell asleep.
Then Sandi's husband starts yelling for me and hands
me the cordless. Shmuel said hello and then I did. Then
we pretty much talked the way we do online, and I
was just trying to hear as much of his voice as I
could, since by this point the whole backyard was
coming inside to make mudslides. But it was hard
because he was so soft and I was so loud.
I don't remember much of what we talked about, but
I remember I wasn't nervous like I'd thought I'd be.
He told me he shaved his head as a start of the new
year, and I wished to myself that he was there with
me to keep me company, to be my friend in this
house of loud and thick-headed strangers. To drive
home with me after everything had blown up that
was expected to.
We talked for a half hour or so and he said he had
to go with his friends before the bars closed. He was
an hour ahead of me, so New Year's had come and
gone before he called. So I said goodbye and then
went back out to the slowly dwindling chaos as the
boys ran out of things to blow up. After a while I
conked out again on the sofa, waiting for the time when I
could drive home, when I could sit at my computer
and put my thoughts into words in an attempt to use
this phone call as a way to start the year off right.