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 total stranger 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 fuses. 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like a demented domestic warzone, all this smoke and sparks among squat houses and parked cars, warped streets and outdated Christmas displays.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.