December 31, 1999
Happy New Year, Mac.
Maybe this year will be better than the last.
I stood up from the wired café computer and carried my empty mug to the bar. The barista smiled up at me through lowered lashes.
It was nine-thirty on New Year’s Eve. I was overdue for a bar party with Marco and Rafael. I’d stopped in here on a whim, to see if maybe Mac had responded. He’d sent me an email on Christmas Day from Tony’s account. I’d been sending all this random shit to Tony’s Yahoo address. Notes from Spain. Anger at him. Frustration with Kacie and then with Meli. I’d been using his email like a confessional.
And Mac had been reading them. He wrote on Christmas Day to apologize and I’d gotten it on the 27th, after I said goodbye to Mom and Dad and came to this café to send Tony an update on how that visit had gone. It’d been there, Mac’s response, apologizing for eavesdropping via email.
My six months of Barcelona were over. Tomorrow Marco and I would board a train to Venice. From there, I’d venture on to Croatia and Montenegro and Greece. It was two weeks before I must return to San Francisco; I planned to fly out of Athens. This would be our second trip to Italy, but first to Venice.
Dad sneered at my waiting until the last minute to make such a long trek from Spain. Why hadn’t I done this earlier? What if the travel plans fell through? What if I was late to start classes in San Francisco?
“They’ll survive,” I’d said.
“Take lots of pictures,” Mom had said.
My send-home packages were already taped up and shipped and all I had was a backpack, four unused disposable cameras, and a notebook. The semester had been a success. Even my Barcelona shrink would confirm that.
Tonight, Rafael had planned a meet up of all the various characters we’d spent time with to say goodbye. Except not the Russians.
“You are finished?” the barista asked, pulling the mug toward her across the counter.
“I guess I am,” I said.
“Enjoy your evening then. And Happy New Year.”
A year ago, I’d been laid out on Tony’s bed smoking a cigarette and riding a buzz, listening to Fighting Gravity while he painted and Chris played cards and Kacie flipped through a magazine. We’d gone to Joel’s for a grown-up dinner Tabby prepared. We’d had a fight. Joel had asked me to leave. Kacie had confessed to sleeping with Jason. There was drama.
Six weeks later Tony was dead.
Six months later I was in Spain.
And now, a year later, still wounded but healing, I was ready to … what? To what? Face life in San Francisco? Finish my degree? Or walk into former Soviet province Croatia and never come out? What would I find east of here that would not also be west of here?
What was there except this life that went on without my best friend?
New Year’s Eve 1999 and at midnight the computers would crash, assuming it was year 00, guessing life no longer existed, erasing 99 years of world in favor of 00. Chaos. Financial collapse. Riots in the streets.
Or a fresh start. A new beginning. Rebirth.
Maybe nothing would happen. We’d just keep breathing and living and counting. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, years.
Time was fucking with me.
It was time to drink. Maybe find someone to flirt with. Maybe forget, for just a little while, how much work this life was going to be.