New Year’s Eve 2020

Since the pandemic, no parties, no people
on the street waiting for the ball to drop,
just my husband and a couple of friends.

We drive to our cottage near the beach
to celebrate new beginnings
someplace new, at least to get away
from the sameness that has begun to suffocate:
the same four walls, same floor and ceiling,
even the Amazon boxes that collect weekly
in the recycling.

Here the walls are a different hue, the floors
more even and a tad darker, everything is slightly
not the same. The grocery store nearby sells
similar things, but in different arrangements:
bread, milk, bananas in different corners.

We scroll through TV channels for a host different
from years past, this one just as chipper
but less recognizable. He will do for the alchemy
we require this year.

A toast to something different: a vaccine
for the people, a sip of normalcy in which
dinner at a restaurant doesn’t seem so reckless,
where a movie on Friday night seems
an escape and not a risk, no jumping from a plane
tethered to an instructor for a steak and a salad.

I tick the boxes in my head: no more shutdowns,
no more masks, no more line in the sand
for political factions. I want the variety
of small shops open on Main Street,
a heated mall in which to circle inside
during winter, a place where restaurants
are all open and at capacity, even the bustle
of rush hour traffic as people travel
to and from actual jobs.

But in the end, I simply want my family and friends
to be safe. I want the clock at midnight to reset
and all the pain, annoyances, and deaths to stop.
An old woman wakes to New Year’s fireworks
someone has set off in the adjacent cul-de-sac.

She reaches for her husband
but he is not there, not since he died in July
from Covid. There were fireworks then as well.
She remembers seeing the sky
after the nurse called to say
he had passed: pink and blue pulses
of light amidst crackles and pops.

She remembers feeling nothing,
a suck of air in and out.
Her eyes puddle and she thinks of her two sons,
how they stood in her living room and each made calls,
planned a small ceremony for four days out,
to which almost no one came.

She closes her eyes and makes a wish
she knows cannot possibly come true.
Her mind rearranges memories and she struggles
to remember the name of the store
where her husband bought his suits,
wondering if it will ever open again.

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