January 1, 2015: The New Year

Last year, Ben Williams sent me an email suggesting that “The New Year” was how I should’ve started the January Project last year. So, I took him up on the suggestion for this year.

READER SUGGESTION: “The New Year” by Death Cab for Cutie from Transatlanticism

Listen to it here

 (photo from www.poplistic.com)

(photo from www.poplistic.com)

JASON flops down next to ERIC on the couch and hands him an open bottle of beer. As the sounds and sights of the New Year’s Eve party whirr around them, JASON sighs and leans back, placing his interlocked hands behind his head. ERIC takes a long drink and leans back into the couch as well.

ERIC

So…new year.

JASON (glancing distractedly around the room)

Uh-huh.

ERIC

She already left.

JASON

What?

ERIC

Theresa. She already left. Like 2 minutes after the ball dropped. You were…busy. Anyway, she left by herself and, as far as I know, had no idea where you were. I’m sure you can call her tomorrow and she’ll be none the wiser.

JASON

I haven’t seen her in years. I like her, she’s still fun, but I don’t need the moralizing. This isn’t even a first date. It’s a “run into and catch up.”

ERIC (shrugging)

I think you are hearing something that isn’t there. I just relayed facts. You like Theresa. You had fun talking to her tonight. But you couldn’t be bothered not to slip away with someone else when you had the chance. I don’t think you’re immoral. I just think you’re an idiot.

JASON

With friends like these…

JASON trails off and takes a drink before sighing and speaking again

JASON

Anyway, Happy New Year, you prick. Feel any different?

ERIC

Not even a little.

JASON (waving to someone, presumably the woman he was busy with at midnight)

You ever wonder, like, what would need to happen at midnight on December 31st to make you feel really, truly different? You know…not just hopeful that this year will be better but, fundamentally, as though you were remade as the clock struck January 1st?

ERIC

You know I don’t really go in for that kind of thing Jay. This is just another excuse to party. I never understand people who are all “goodbye old year, you sucked, new year is going to be way better.” I mean, I guess I’ve just never felt any one year was so terrible or so good to earn an overall grade. Maybe I’ve been lucky?

JASON

Yeah. And we’re young. I think, at some point, you are guaranteed the old year will have sucked. Dead friends, sick relatives, loss of looks and abilities, et cetera et cetera.

ERIC

But then, New Year’s will just be a reminder that it’s only going to get worse, right? Not like you can say, “This year I turned 88, so I saw a lot of people I know die or lose themselves to senility, I’m becoming increasingly fragile, and losing what close connections to family I had. Thank goodness the New Year is coming because I am sure turning 89 erases all these problems.”

JASON

You aren’t the most fun person to spend New Year’s with, you know that, right?

ERIC (deadpan)

You wouldn’t know. You’ve been too busy in some backroom somewhere to appreciate what a blast I am.

JASON snorts in reply and then sits quietly for a moment. However, after a moment of fidgeting, it becomes clear he can’t stay silent.

JASON

You ever think about that? That we’re close to that?

ERIC

To what?

JASON

To the days when it’s all bad New Years?

ERIC

Are you kidding? You sound more like me now with that kind of melancholy. We just graduated, man. WAY too early for that.

JASON

Well, I mean, well, yeah sure. I mean, obviously. If friends die now it is not expected. Hell, if our parents did it would be early. I just mean…I guess the clock’s ticking, you know?

ERIC

Is the beer making you sad?

JASON

Dude, I’ve listened to years of you being dark and miserable. A little seriousness for me would be nice.

ERIC

Fine. But you are being silly. You just hooked up with a gorgeous girl neither of us ever saw before tonight and, unless I am totally wrong, will have a date with Theresa in the next few days. What isn’t good about tonight for you?

JASON

I just…Look, how long has your favorite band been your favorite band?

ERIC (doing the mental arithmetic)

I don’t know…12 years? Something like that.

JASON

Ok. And when’s the last new album or song they released?

ERIC

They broke up three years ago.

JASON

Ok. Right. Exactly. But you haven’t gotten a new band yet, right?

ERIC

Nope.

JASON

Do you think you will?

ERIC (a little frustrated)

I don’t know. I assume so, yeah.

JASON

I don’t.

ERIC

Oh, you don’t?

JASON

No. And I don’t think I’ll find a new favorite band either and I’ve hated their last two releases. I think you just stop at some point.

ERIC

What do you mean? I still listen to new music all the time. We go to concerts of new bands at least once every couple months. Our Dads still exchange new stuff they’ve found and think the other one will like.

JASON

Right, but none of those bands have become our new favorites. We’re leaving that phase. We don’t have favorite athletes any more, we’re not going to find new favorite bands, the celebrity crushes we had as kids all have kids but we have no new crushes.

ERIC

I’m not sure I agree, but let’s say I do. So?

JASON

Doesn’t it scare you that we’re losing passion?

ERIC (laughing a little)

No. Definitely not. God no! It’s a damn relief.

JASON

What’d you mean?

ERIC

I mean, I couldn’t be happier about it. I don’t mind just enjoying music, just watching sports, just liking the look of an actress. I like mellowing.

JASON

So you don’t care about the days of having so see that concert or dating your dream girl are gone?

ERIC

Not even a little.

JASON

I can’t believe that.

ERIC

You should. I’ve never been like you, Jay. My passions bruised me, they beat me up. It was a burden to give as much of a shit as I did. Thank God for growing out of that.

JASON (disbelieving)

Well, it scares me.

ERIC

It shouldn’t. You’re not the type to need passion.

JASON

What the hell does that mean? I care about stuff.

ERIC

Sure. But like…in a healthy way. If someone you liked said no to going out with you, you’d be…whatever, pissed, upset, sad, annoyed—for two days and then move on. You wouldn’t spend months morose and convinced the one person you could be happy with just said no to you. Remember when I realized Todd wasn’t gay, just really nice? I think I cried every night for two weeks. Erica turned you down for prom, you asked out Gretchen three days later and dated her for six months after that. You rebound quick.

If you lost your iPod, you’d save up and buy another one and rebuild your playlists. You wouldn’t fixate on the sentimentality of it all and what those songs in those order meant to you. Hell, when your phone had the capability to play music, you gave you iPod away. I still worry I’ll lose mine on the subway someday.

So, no, you shouldn’t worry about losing your passion because…passion is just obsession dressed up as socially acceptable. You have a healthy interest and appreciation for things. That’s better than passion.

JASON

But what about…dreams and stuff.

ERIC

What about them? Do you have any? Did you want to gold medal in luge? Did you want to write an Academy Award winning screenplay? Did you want to make a platinum selling record?

JASON (hesitantly)

It wouldn’t be the worst.

ERIC

No, it wouldn’t. But that’s exactly it. You’re sort of, kind of interested in those things because, hey, it would be cool. But your goals have always been, like, get happy and stay happy. Have sex. Hang out with your friends. Maybe someday do the marriage and kids thing.

JASON

You make me sound like…some lazy asshole.

ERIC

No. Not lazy. Not an asshole. Normal. Calm. Smart, actually. More people get destroyed by passion then fulfilled for it. Healthy contentment does not get movies made about it, it is true, but it is a way healthier path. Don’t mourn that which destroys, you know?

JASON

But what if I want to be the kind of guy who risks it all for art or love or politics or….whatever?

ERIC (sighs, puts his hand on JASON’s closest shoulder and squeezes)

Then the good news is, you can start at any moment. Find something to pursue self destructively and do so. It’s so easy anyone can manage it.

Neither says a thing, both take drinks at different moments. Eventually ERIC releases his friend’s shoulder.

ERIC (with another sigh)

Look, you know the cliché about living lives of quiet desperation? The thing, most people live lives of quiet contentment. Not too good, not too bad. Just right. Like the porridge. And honestly, that’s the harder, more noble thing. Being loud and splashy, burning bright and fast in failure or success? That’s relatively easy. It’s harder to go through life and accept just good enough, you know?

Those are the people who still look forward to New Years despite being 90 and losing friends left and right. Because life’s been good and liable, more often than not, to stay that way. They’ve learned to accept things as they come.

JASON (quietly)

Sounds like denial.

ERIC

I don’t know. I always kind of thought it was realism. Life’s not all bad or all good but, overall, you get friends, you have fun, you kiss people, they kiss you, occasionally you get naked together…time passes.

JASON

And that’s enough for you?

ERIC (shrugging)

I hope so. Not sure what I can do about it if it’s not. For now though, it is 2 AM. I’m sitting on a couch with my best friend who’s decided to be mopey for the first time ever. So I’m going to take him for pancakes at the 24 hour diner around the corner. They’re going to be incredible pancakes. Then I’m going to walk home, slip into my bed with brand new clean sheets that I put on just this morning, and sleep until…whenever. Then I’m going to watch a movie in bed while drinking coffee. After that…eh. We’ll see.

JASON (after a long pause)

I’ll eat the pancakes, but I don’t care for being called mopey.

ERIC (standing up, offering his hand)

I have to buy you pancakes instead of trying to find some handsome guy to share those fresh clean sheets with. You’ll deal with being called “mopey.”

JASON grabs the hand and lets ERIC pull him to his feet. They begin to move towards the door.

JASON

Like you were ever going to try to hook up tonight…

ERIC

You don’t know. I may have had ideas.

Dialogue begins to fade out.

JASON (quiet)

The day you have ideas about meaningless sex—

ERIC (quieter)

I contain multitudes.

JASON (quietest)

You contain…

They become inaudible as they leave the apartment.