Soon it will be 2011. I’ll be sipping wine or champagne in my new shirt, bought with borrowed money especially for the occasion. With my new hair cut, the one that bankrupted me and left me with $7 in my bank account. But you can bet I’ll look good in the Facebook album. You can bet that when I look back in years I won’t remember how on edge I was, that I’ll only see the hair cut and the sparkly shirt and think that everything’s okay. I’ll be hoping that others think that too, and that I don’t drink so much wine that I can’t keep up the mask.

And I’ll be wishing, you can bet on it, at 11:59:59, for something to happen.

Wishing that maybe next year I’ll have more than $7.

Wishing that maybe next year I’ll have someone to kiss at midnight.

Wishing that maybe next year I’ll be stumbling home to my own apartment downtown.

I’ll make this list in my head, in desired order, of what I’d like the universe to bring me next year. And I’ll send it out there. I’ll bargain with life and luck for what I want, make promises to be better or nicer or appreciate things for, if only the universe’ll let me have them.

Not even all, but at least one, okay?

New Name

So, I fell behind on Reverb10, and I honestly don’t have much intention of catching up on most of them, but this one caught my eye:

December 23 – New Name Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

I’m not going to address the prompt, per se, but the subject of having a new name. I love having so many different things people call me by, be it nicknames or endearments. My mom’s always called me Bunny, I’m known as Hez to lots of people and Hezza or Dud to a few. I’m even “wife” to someone, though our marriage is only Facebook official.

This year I got a new nickname: Heather Mae.

Heather Mae is my honorary Southern name. I met a lot of Southern Americans this year (well, more than I’d met before and more than I expected to meet in England!), but this name was bestowed on me by my hilarious friend Alycia.

Alycia and I at Housesteads

Alycia Jo (not actually her name, but her Southern name as well) is from Georgia. When she and I are together, we’re sort of like a whirlwind. We never stop talking and laughing. I have so much fun with her. We spent a lot of time together in the second semester, because we were taking all the same classes. We spent even more time together in August, ranting about our dissertations and going out to dinner to make sure we fed ourselves at least once a day.

This kind of picture is pretty typical for us...

One particular weekend we did a high ropes course in the Lake District, with our friends J Lo and Becky Sue (also her Southern name… J Lo can’t have a Southern name because she’s Jenny from the Block). We also spent the entire night watching Disney movies. In my mind, that night sums up my friendship with Alycia. We laughed so hard it hurt and it was the best break I could imagine from writing a dissertation.

At the high ropes course!

When I went back to Newcastle for my graduation, I spent most of my week with Alycia and her mom. They were nice enough to let me sleep on their floor for the duration, and it was so great to see Alycia again. It was like we’d never left, I think our conversation pretty much picked off where August 26th had left off.

Me and Alycia at grad.

When I think of Alycia, I think of laughter and having fun and taking silly pictures. Also, of Mulan. Because even though she won’t do it in front of people anymore, we do a great duet to I’ll Make a Man Out of You from Mulan.

Alycia gave me one of my favourite Christmas presents this year:

Merry Christmas y'all

Heather Mae, my new name in 2010.

What if

Startled awake to the faint hum of the fan: no such thing as silence, now. The cat snores, a plane flies overhead. The house settles around me.

I remember the sound of silence, pressing from all sides, deep in the night. I remember the blue lit street below, the cool window beneath my fingers.

What if?

That’s the phrase that woke me.

Light plays on my walls, sneaking through slits in the blinds as cars pass by, as neighbours turn on porch lights. Outside the streets are snow quiet, holding their breath.

What if?

The bed creaks as I shift, uncomfortable, to avoid the question. Will myself back to sleep. Sleep.

I remember the sound of silence.

If digital photographs could fade with use, could bend at the edges or show my fingerprints, they would be falling to pieces. If holes could be born in treads of your thoughts, along oft revisited moments and favourite memories, mine would be worn through. When all that’s left is ghosts and memories, when I’m haunted by questions and possibilities, it is the longest night.

What if?

Sleep is impossible now, the question too insistent, pounding through my head and echoing in my spine. Drowning out the sounds around me with it’s incessant demand for an answer. I remember the silence.

I climbed up a mountain, and looked off the edge
At all of the lives that I never have led
There’s one where I stayed with you, across the sea
I wonder do you still think of me?

The longest night

Stay up all night with bated breath, pressed against cool windows, frost spreading over glass. Watch the mottled snow, the hushed world under dancing Christmas lights. The sleepless.

Those who see ghosts around corners, whose memories dance like unwanted sugarplums. The lost, the lonely. The ones who would rather forget, those whose heart aches to remember. Those who wait under mistletoe or airports or for phones to ring. Those whose fingerprints wear the edges of photographs. Those who ache to wake up next to someone. Those who wish to escape. Those looking for a way home, driving further and further with each tired tire mark.

Watch the world drift to away and hope it comes back.

Those who stare past their reflection. Those with masks, those with grandiose plays and moves to hide behind. The silent. Those who bear the burden of the people they could have been, those who sink under the weight of their what ifs.

Those whose only hope is to survive this and hope for morning. Who think: if I can get through this, the longest night, surely I can get through what’s to come.

lights by me

Fast forward

You know how you get to that point in the book where everything seems wrong, and you’re just waiting for everything to work itself out? You keep reading all night because you have to make sure it ends up okay. That’s where my life is right now, but I can’t speed up to the next page or glance at the ending. I just have to wait.

And I’m not good at waiting.

I have nothing good to say about my life anymore. I keep trying to put a positive spin on it, for myself and for the rest of the world. But I’m failing miserably. A few people have already seen behind the careful mask. Others will inevitably see it crack soon.

There are good things in my life, but they’re increasingly lost in the endless nothing of my life. Even when something good happens, it’s small and fleeting. I try to hold on to it, but the truth is that I can’t connect to it the way I used to. I’m deaf and mute, outside and in the corner.

I wake up every morning wanting just to go back to bed, to wait out the 12 hours until I can sleep (if I can sleep) again and live in my head. Days, weeks, months go by without anything tangible. At the end of the day I think that it shouldn’t have existed. That it was wasted. That I was merely breathing, functioning from one moon to the next.

Can I just fast forward to the part where I find some meaning? I’m not asking for anything life changing. Even a crappy job would do now. I just need something. Anything. Because right now, there’s nothing.