New Year’s Eve celebrations in Orange, Massachusetts, involve a long parade of giant puppets through the center of town.  A farm truck  tows revelers playing Thin Lizzy loudly, and your shirt feels sleeveless, spiritually.  Your sideburns ghost down over your cheeks, regardless of your gender.  A friend has manned the sweaty interior of the broad-assed mayoral figurine in prior years–this year, he’s elsewhere, celebrating with others.  The fog grows in the streets.

But the evening really begins in a parking lot, a church parking lot, where you eat mediocre Chinese food out of a bag in the front seat of a Honda Fit, double parked behind a minivan.  The New Year tastes like MSG.  The New Year is already giving you heartburn.  The New Year promises further gaseous outpourings, at inopportune moments.  The New Year is like that, sometimes.

The church, when you go in, smells like warm wax and peppermint and sweater must.  The light has gone yellow, and the night is already an aged photograph of itself.  Other people’s parents begin to fill the benches.  The New Year has a high clear voice, and a guitar, and you will forgive it for a long interlude where it forgets to sing the songs you hummed in a dark backseat on the way home from countless family outings, and sings meandering love songs in Portuguese instead.  The New Year has a way of breaking promises.

The New Year is fireworks over a midnight river.  And your cold feet, swimming around in someone else’s boots.  The next morning, the New Year will be a fever.  The first coming days are flavored with menthol.

And the months keep coming, waxing and waning in expectation, fattening and lying fallow in turn.  The fields fill and empty.  The foam dries on the inside of the pint glass, and the furnaces churn in their cyclical way through the secret hours of the night.  The next New Year flickers into view, and it is so many missed steps down the long staircase.  Two pots of chili, sitting squat on the spattered stove in the dim kitchen, fat with their own importance, leaking steam the way the dog’s lungs do into all of the rooms.  The New Year piles cheeses onto the dining table.  Red waxed, blue ashed, firm-rinded.  The New Year leaves its boots on the porch.  And blows smoke into your hair.

The New Year puts the hair of the dog into your glass, and a pickle in your cold hands, and demands that you dance in the kitchen.  Your feet recall their motionless pew from eleven months ago, and their gestures are sausage-clumsy across the tiles.

The New Year asks, in a dark hallway, if you are happy.  From somewhere behind the curtains, you hear its clear, high voice from last winter, singing.

It wants you to know that it played real good, for free.