Sometime In a New Year

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Photo by Mike Enerio on Unsplash

It was the night of New Year’s Eve, and I was getting ready to meet Evelyn for our yearly romp through every downtown bar after midnight. It was our little annual celebration; you see, we used to bartend together at this classy cocktail joint, and both of us hated it. We had both moved on from that most transitional of jobs into something more suitable to ourselves, and this was our toast to ourselves for doing so. It wasn’t the job itself, in a sense. I mean, I loved making drinks and making people happy, and I still do. But bartending is at once a selfless and selfish exhibition in that the only way to be good at it is by offering up a portion of your soul on a nightly basis in exchange for money. You tire yourself out exclusively for the gratuity of your fellow man, but even that is not enough these days. In order to compete with the automated restaurants that operate with near perfect execution for half the price, you have to do what no machine can. You have to sacrifice yourself, a willing lamb to the whims of the public that ever demand more: more flirting, more attraction, more charisma. When the night is done, all you can do is stare at your bank account over a glass of liquor, and find solace in the company of your coworkers. Those days are gone now, and I find myself more whole because of it, but I will never lose the bond I made with those who suffered alongside me. At the top of that list of veterans is Evelyn, the girl who used to bring me phone numbers from women too shy to ask themselves.

I pulled a t shirt over my head, and as I examined myself in the mirror, a notification popped up next to my reflection. “No New Year’s kiss? Find one now on Poly!” I rolled my eyes. Should’ve paid the extra money to get the place ad free, but frugality runs in my family, remnants of generational poverty, cap stoned by parents who grew up to see the worst of the Information age. “Animus,” I spoke aloud, and a blue light glowed in response, “Call an Auto to be here in 5 minutes.”

“Ok, Liam. What is your destination?” the soft, automated male voice inquired.

“Agave Fields.”

“Ok, Liam. Auto arriving at 10:15, destination set for Agave Fields.” I finished getting dressed, throwing on a sweater and a winter coat before heading to the door.

While I waited outside my apartment I browsed my phone, killing off the few minutes I had to wait for the car. 10 best places to celebrate the New Year, Caroline S. is at Whiskey Tango, Mike B. is at Jeff H.’s house, “Happy New Year, stay safe,” from my brother, and Julie S. posted her New Year’s Resolutions, have you? I paused. I don’t even have a New Year’s Resolution, more or less a desire to post them. My thumb swiped down, and “I got my resolutions through Data Genie!” rested at the bottom of Julie’s status. I looked up, and a compact car stopped in front of me, its window displaying my profile picture and the words “Liam H.” underneath it. I approached its door, and waved my phone in front of it, causing a click as the door unlocked. I lounged into the back seat and the driverless car pulled out into the algorithmic traffic, effortlessly joining the flock of other autos.

As the car cruised along, the front facing window changed, displaying an attractive woman with her arm draped around a charismatic man. In her other hand she held her phone, and as her thumb swiped over its screen, the man changed to another man. Another swipe, and now it was a woman in a dress. She kept swiping through people until two women sat on either side of her, and they both kissed her cheeks as fireworks exploded in the night sky, leaving a gold word lingering there: “Poly.” The ad fell away, and another took its place, and soon I was barraged with a rapid fire succession of 15 second commercials. One was for an app that analyzed your style preferences through biological responses to seeing other people’s fashion. It then bought your clothes for you based on the data. I’ve always hated the incessant advertisements, so I did my best to focus on the night ahead.

I arrived to the bar after a short drive, and waiting outside of the entrance was Evelyn. Always one for nostalgia, she was wearing waist high skinny jeans, a long sleeved crop top, and black coat with the hood pulled up. She smiled as I walked up to her, “Why do you always make me wait, Liam?”

“Oh stop,” I said, putting an arm around her to bring her in for a hug, “I was just pounding away through my Poly, must’ve slept with eight people before I got here.”

“God, you’re so stupid. I suggest that app to you one time because I think it would be good for you, and you just can’t let it go.”

I pulled back from the hug so she could see my sarcastic grin, “Well, you should know by now I’m old fashioned like that. At least I gave it a try, it was a shit experience though.”

“Yeah, you still haven’t told me why you deleted it.”

“Come on, come on, let’s go inside. I gotta get drunk one last time this year.”

Agave Fields was minimalist and clean. After entering the main entrance one could choose to go into the depths of the dining room, where waiters swirled through a chaos of tables, or you could take the stairs, rising above the pandemonium. We always chose the stairs. The top floor consisted of small, intimate tables and a long bar, all dimly lit by lanterns and candles, making it almost impossible to take clear pictures in. It was a nice reprieve from the aesthetic backdrops of the clubs, designed to show off how good people looked inside a place, as opposed to actually exist in it. But best of all, the top floor was known for being a dead zone from the internet; the owner, a grizzled Mexican tequila salesman named Santiago, had made the decision to block out service, as he thought it prevented one from fully focusing on the experience of taste. I remember meeting him here one sleepy afternoon when I finished work early. We sat next to one another at the bar and talked a lot about tequila, but he told me something I always remembered. Santiago said, “Free from all the noise, you can focus clearly on what the body is feeling,” and as if to emphasize his point he inhaled deeply over his glass, before taking a satisfying drink of his mescal. “Smoky, sweet, and exactly what I wanted.”

After settling into a couch that overlooked the city from a window, we ordered our usual: two beers and two neat pours of mescal. Evelyn pulled off her black hood, and her short, dark hair fell out messily. The sound of hand drums, flamenco guitar, and sweetly sung Spanish words filled the air, just loud enough to allow a private conversation between two people from being overheard. “Even on New Years this place doesn’t get too hoppin’, huh?” Evelyn asked, smelling her glass of liquor before taking a sip. After tasting my own mescal I said, “People prefer a place to dance, I guess. That and this spot has no WiFi or anything.”

“Yeah, I suppose that is a deal breaker these days. So, have you thought about your New Year’s Resolution? I saw you didn’t post one.”

I shrugged, “Honestly, I just don’t know what I want to change. At this point in my life I don’t know what I want, or even what I need.”

Evelyn laughed, “You are so hopeless, you know that Liam? Listen, there is an app-”

My eyebrows raised as I drank a long drought of my mescal.

“Don’t give me that look! Just try it, it’s called Data Genie.”

My hand waved in protest as I set my glass back down on the table, “Nope, not interested in having some machine tell me how to live my life.”

“You don’t have to listen to it,” she said with a smile, “It’s always up to you to decide what life you want to live. But suggestions never hurt, even if it comes from some data sifting algorithm.”

“Did you use it?”

She nodded, “I did. It told me that a good resolution for me would be being more open to experience, to try something new next year.”

I grabbed my beer, and pulled out a cigarette. “Care to join me?”

“I’m not drunk enough yet for one, thank you. While you’re out there you should check out that app though. It would be fun!”

“Ok, ok,” I gave said as I walked away, “As long as it doesn’t look at my porn habits.”

“What good app doesn’t look at your porn habits?” she called from behind me as I walked towards the stairs that headed up to the building’s roof.

Over summer, the roof is lit up with strings of lights, and the restaurant brings out chairs and hosts live music; over winter, it’s solely the realm of people smoking cigarettes in the chilly winter air. I walked over to the edge of the roof to lean over the railing, and took a deep drag from my cigarette. It was a beautiful night, and soon, the skyline of the city would be outlined with the colorful explosions of fireworks. I pulled out my phone, and saw a text from Evelyn. It was a link to the Data Genie app. I scoffed, but reluctantly I pressed it. I hope this isn’t like the last time she recommended me an app. Fucking Poly. The memory made me shake my head as my phone downloaded Data Genie. She had told me that ever since we quit bartending I had stopped talking to girls, primarily because she wasn’t there to force them to give me their numbers. She said, “It’ll be good for you to hook up with someone once in awhile. Poly even analyzes your porn preferences to make sure you’re sexually compatible.” You know, I tried it. I swiped, I matched, and then I saw her.

How many years had I watched her, laughed with her, cared for her? She’s my best friend, and even those nights when we fell asleep next to each other in bed I never was tempted to reach over to touch her. I mean, I definitely was, but there was no way I was willing to risk our friendship. One false move, and it could shatter, and then I’d really be alone. But there she was on my phone. Evelyn. I swiped yes on her, panicked, and then deleted the app. I took another long drag of my cigarette, and blew the smoke out over the rooftop.

Data Genie finished downloading, and I opened it on my phone. An inquisitive looking animated genie floated on my screen, and a text bubble floated above his turban, “Touch my lamp to learn your Resolution.” I touched the lamp. I didn’t feel like Aladdin. The genie’s face became even more thoughtful, and after a brief pause his fingers snapped. “Your New Year’s Resolution is…” A zoom in to the genie’s smug face, and a text bubble reading, “Chase after your desires, in a way you desire.” I stared at the screen, at that ethereal genie and his taunting smile. I lifted my cigarette up to my face, but my hand fumbled into my phone, and it fell. It bounced off the railing and I made a desperate swipe to save it, but it was too late. It toppled off the roof, and I watched it shatter onto the ground below. I looked over the edge, drew back, and laughed. C’est la vie, so it goes, and that’s life. One more drag of my cigarette before it joined my phone in the graveyard below.

I returned to the bar and ordered two shots of tequila, and brought them with me back to our couch. One of her eyebrows raised as I handed her the shot glass. “Oh, I guess I knew this was coming eventually. Wouldn’t be right to say hello to the New Year without a shot. What is it?” I sat down on the couch next to her, “Something new. I was thinking about your resolution.”

“How thoughtful of you. Did you get that app?”

A nervous laugh escaped from my lungs, “I did actually. But…”

“But…?”

“I dropped my phone off the edge of the building.”

Evelyn threw her head back and laughed. “Oh my god, you are such a fucking idiot. You must’ve downloaded Data Monkey’s Paw by accident,” she was beside herself from laughing, and I couldn’t stop laughing either. “Did you get a good resolution at least?” she willed herself to ask between giggles.

“Funny thing is, it was actually a good resolution. First time a data sifter was ever useful for me, and look what happened.”

Her green eyes locked with mine as she took a drink of her beer, “So what was it?”

“It told me to chase after what I desire.” My throat felt as though it was collapsing, but it was already too late. I had made up my mind.

“And what do you desire? Didn’t you already say you didn’t know what you wanted?”

“Well, I do. I guess I never really understood how to go about getting it. You wanted to know why I deleted Poly, right?” Someone in the bar yelled, “Two minutes!”

Evelyn nodded her head yes, with a low “mm-hmm.”

“I saw a girl on there that I really care about. In a way that goes beyond what people usually use Poly for. She was the only person I swiped yes on, but afterwards this crazy feeling of nervousness washed over me, and I deleted the app. Sure, I was scared she wouldn’t match with me, but it also just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t the way I wanted to tell her how I felt.”

The same voice from before, “One minute everybody!” Evelyn didn’t break eye contact, and her one sided, curious grin never faded. The nervousness was gone, I was committed. Deep breath. “Evelyn, I’m not interested in hooking up with hundreds of girls on Poly. I was never even interested in the girls at the bar. I want one person, and I want to share a bed with them, and cook them breakfast in the morning. I know it’s rare, and I know love is hard and unforgiving, but fuck, I believe in it.”

“Why don’t you tell her?” she asked, and wordlessly we both lifted our glasses of tequila up as the final countdown began.

TEN, NINE, EIGHT — “I didn’t know the right way to tell her.”

SEVEN, SIX — “But I do now.”

FIVE, FOUR, my hand resting on her back, THREE, our glasses raised, TWO, no more doubt, ONE, you can do this.

As fireworks lit up the sky, our lips came together — smoky, sweet, and exactly what I wanted.

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