It’s the last day of 2007, and I’ve had to take Jonas back to our Greenpoint apartment because he was disastrously drunk at the party before 9 pm, largely off the bottle of liquor he’d bought me for Christmas, of which I’ve had none. I am staying here for a bit, sleeping on a couch in the windowless two-bedroom basement apartment he shares with three Pratt students and about four thousand roaches. The couch is nicknamed Typhoid Mary for unknown reasons, and I don’t intend to ask. Jonas sleeps on a twin mattress on the living room floor, and this is where he is passed out now, snoring contentedly, still wearing his boots and leather jacket. I pour some bourbon into a chipped floral teacup and sit looking at him, waiting for the year to end. The apartment is eerily quiet except for the banging of the radiator pipes.
A few moments before midnight I let myself into the backyard, one of the few perks of this apartment, though it’s not much - a row of now-barren forsythia bushes and a stunted tree, a weed-studded patch of concrete, an old wooden picnic table, and a rusted broken washing machine. I sit cross-legged on top of the table and look at the houses around me, their backyards, their dark or lighted windows, their clotheslines strung from tall metal poles in each yard.
Greenpoint lies silent. The flick of my lighter seems to echo as I light a cigarette. I inhale, listen to the paper crackle. The sky is peppered with more stars than usual as the night is unusually cold and clear. I watch my breath and the smoke drift up towards the sky, blur and slowly dissolve. My fingers are cold — my sweater is flimsy and I haven’t got any gloves — but I don’t care.
I know it must be midnight when I hear cheering. Back doors open, pans are clanged, I hear shouting in Polish, people are hugging in the lighted windows. The next door neighbors emerge on their porch, banging pans and shouting. The motion-sensitive light above me flicks on, and the backyard is flooded with light. I remain frozen there, spotlit. One of the neighbors notices me as he heads inside.
"Happy new year!" he shouts.
"You too, dude," I say, and the door slams behind him, and I flick my cigarette away, and then it is silent again.