First Night Boston

What was so great about New Year’s Eve? It feels silly, hard to capture, when I try writing it down. I liked the light show, whoop dee doo. Who do I think I am, that I’ll interest people by writing about how much fun I’m having? 

The sky is so blue now. I love the glow of the cloud. Light. The love of light. How those unreal lasers, those vivid crazy Disney colors, that’s what reality, that’s what perception is made of. Yellow magenta cyan. Red green blue. If you looked at the projector, looked in the direction away from the stage, to where you weren’t supposed to be looking, sometimes it was more beautiful than the actual show. The fog-machine’s swirling intricacies of tiny clouds, dissolving into sparkling galaxies of colored raindrops. The feral abstraction behind what, at the intended place of projection, was a mere circle. 

So I stood there, looking in the opposite direction to everyone. Loving the rain they grumbled about for the stars it made, its fierce flickers. Paying more heed to the lights than to the music. Looking behind when they looked ahead, trying to get to the source of things, to the raw undifferentiated roiling glory behind and underneath it all. And how hard it was to keep looking! Sometimes I could only stand it for 10 seconds, till I’d feel abashed by the wrongness of it, catch the disapproving glance (just fear I did, really) of a confused someone looking the other, the right way, and turn back around to the place of supposed to. 

Oh, but supposed to was better too. The music swaying my body along with everyone else’s. The music, the music! The vocalist’s effortless soaring, the lights as they were intended, with all the control of art, erupting into starry static when the band did, granularity of tone, then broad, wide, clear and confident as a river, as the river of light that danced in step to it, that was an aspect of it, an aspect of unified perception. The feeling of being there with everyone, of huddling away the rain. And then glancing back, not to feel different this time but to find my place, the crowd stretching on and on behind me like a parade of ancestors, the stage lights drawing a second show on the buildings at the rear of the square, like footprints, like the unintended consequences of every action. 

Sometimes when the rays of light dissolved into droplets, each one its own color, in ratios corresponding to the color of the beam as a whole, I wanted to jump up and down. I’d grin and squeeze my shoulders up to my ears like a happy child. Then the music turned to funk, the lights bouncing ping-pong balls through the air, and we were all jumping, nothing around for miles but joy.

The midnight fireworks were a burst of relief. I thought I’d chosen a light show over fireworks, told myself it was a fair bargain, but how I needed them when they came, blasting so close, the smoke more potent and vivid than the lights, but the lights too… 

I’d come here for a meetup, but I couldn’t find the people. I exchanged frantic messages with them, frustrated that they failed to read my carefully worded description of where I was. They suggested another meeting point, but then the lights came out, sparkling in the rain as I had never seen them, and I realized I could just not go. I wanted to spend New Year’s Eve alone – and I was allowed to want that. I was allowed to prefer solitude, seeing the lights on my own terms, prefer it even to a night with a loved one. Later, company would beckon again, and I’d be allowed to return. The crowd would welcome me back. 

I’m planning to go to a lot of random meetups, events, classes, etc. in January and write about some of them in this faster, more stream-of-consciousnessy way. If you’d like to get new posts in your inbox, you can subscribe below.

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