Clare ordered an Old Fashion, while Ivy sipped on a pear margarita. With martini in hand, I toasted to us and to the night.
It was our annual three-part Christmas extravaganza: Each year, Ivy buys the trio an Italian dinner in Hell’s Kitchen, Clare finds tickets for a Broadway show or ballet, and I purchase copious amounts of cocktails at a bar we could never really afford. This night is our gift to each other, and it’s one of my favorite New York holiday traditions.
“Where will we be in 5 years?” That’s the annual question, typically asked toward the end of the evening. But the real query is buried behind this little fortune-telling game we play. What we’re truly wondering is, “Are you planning on leaving New York anytime soon?”
And then, there are the silent questions and concerns:
“Should I pack my bags?”
“Where are we going next?”
“Is there really anywhere else you’d want to reside?”
(“Because I don’t know how to live in this city without you.”)
I’ve had similar thoughts about other groups of friends as well. There seem to be certain people you meet in life, and, for whatever reason, you become utterly addicted to their personality. Your stories unassuming collide, and suddenly there’s no turning back from the altered narrative you will tell.
I can’t guess where Ivy, Clare, and I will be in six months, much less five years—our lives have never worked that way. But I know what we’ve been doing for the past four years (thanks to some blog documentation), and I can assure you that the empty bank accounts, the endless PB&J's, the relentless job searches—it's all been worthwhile.
Do you see us?
There we are, crammed in the last row of seats on a Chinatown bus headed toward Virginia. A woman asks what drugs we’ve been taking and unabashedly hits on Clare.
Now we’re running through a park in the Bronx, lost and carefree on a Saturday in late August. The sun never sleeps, and neither do we.
Whoosh. Two express trains fly through the Prince Street station at deafening speeds, so Ivy and I scream inappropriate words as loud as we can. You would, too, if you were only making $18,500 a year.
There’s beautiful Clare, with California sun sprinkled across her cheeks. She’s walking down the aisle, and smiling at her husband-to-be. They are surrounded by people who love them.
We nap in Ivy’s Harlem apartment, sprawled lazily across the bed with elbows and legs all tangled, their owners unidentifiable.
Now it’s late. But we ride the train together, happy to have a friend for the long commute back to Queens.
There we are once more.
We cry when the world is unpleasant. Then, we pick ourselves up and move on without a glance toward the disagreeable past. In these moments, we are often our strongest and brightest.
I can’t tell you where we’ll be in five years.
But I can tell you I loved the last four.
So I toasted to us, and to the night.
To the friends in the room with me, and to the friends milling about our fascinating city. To the friends who live far away, and to the friends who assume they’ve been forgotten.
Cheers to the hazy future.
Cheers to the enthralling past.
And, of course, cheers to 2014.
Editor’s Note: I’m not ashamed to admit that we always end this classy night in a McDonald's around 2AM, ordering questionable value meals. However, I am slightly ashamed to admit that this particular year, we also sang Christmas carols to those on staff who were willing to listen.