New Year’s Day – Posted January 3, 2016
I woke up beside my boyfriend with a pounding headache, a throbbing bladder, and aches in places I didn’t know I could ache.
With a groan, I rolled out of bed so I could go to the bathroom and empty out all of the booze (Lewis Grizzard once wrote that a professional drinker drinks every night of the year except New Year’s Eve, because that’s Amateur Night. Steve and I might not be professional drinkers, but no one can say that we didn’t make the most of amateur night). On the way, I found myself having trouble walking. Go ahead and snicker, it means exactly what you think it means.
After I finished taking care of business (more ouch…we must have been out of our minds last night), I returned to bed. Steve was still asleep – so deep he was still curled up facing the wall, instead of sprawled to fill the empty space like he usually did when I got up first. I wanted nothing more than to join him, but it was already past noon, and we both hated missing too much of the day, even for hangovers.
“Steve? Steve, baby—” I nudged him. Not even a groan. How much did we drink last night?
That brought me up short. How much did we drink last night? I couldn’t remember, and that was weird. I’d been pretty seriously drunk in my day (for an amateur), but I’d never had a blackout. All I could remember after maybe ten o’clock – and we weren’t really drinking that hard at that point – was something about…bells. Tolling bells, counting down to Midnight.
I shuddered, then wondered why. Counting down to Midnight was a good thing on New Year’s Eve, wasn’t it?
Enough with the weird thoughts. I must still be drunk. I nudged Steve again, then harder and more until finally I’m shaking him. “Steve? Steve, wake up, honey, it’s after noon. Steve? Steve? Steve?” By then, I was shaking him hard and he was kind of flopping around and I already knew why he wouldn’t wake up but I didn’t stop shaking because I must be wrong it’s just not possible, he’s only twenty-eight.
“Baby, wake up, baby please!” I finally pulled him far enough toward me that he flopped over on his back, and that’s when I started to scream.
His eyes were wide open and blank, staring at the ceiling. Worse, the pillow was all bloody where his head had been. My first thought was Alcohol poisoning, but there was no puke anywhere – not even on his breath – and besides, alcohol poisoning doesn’t make your ears bleed, does it?
I didn’t know CPR, not really – we’d had a few days on it in Health Class in High School, but that was nine years ago – so I didn’t even try. I just snatched up my cell and dialed 911.
Nothing. No answer. It just rang and rang and rang.
How is that possible? They don’t have holidays off at 911.
After two or three tries, I gave up on that and tried calling a hospital directly. But I didn’t know any hospital numbers, so I dialed 411, then 0.
That was when I ran out into the hallway and started pounding on doors, screaming for help. I started with Mrs. Rosario, who’s a nurse at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt.
Nothing. No one.
Finally, I just ran out into the street, barefoot and still in my PJs, screaming for help from someone, anyone, my boyfriend was dead.
Which was when I saw the New Year’s revelers, lining the sidewalks of Manhattan, still tricked out in their party clothes and hats and streamers and sparkles, lying still on the ground with dried trickles of blood coming from their ears.
And that’s where I lose track of myself for a little while. All I can remember after that point is running through the slushy streets of New York, trying to find anyone alive. That, and something about the sound of bells.
The Rest of The Story – Posted January 3, 2016
The next few hours are just…lost. I still have no idea what I did between the moment I started running and the time I woke up in a stranger’s apartment.
Well, that’s not completely true. There are a few fragments of memory, like bits of pottery dug up at an archaeological dig:
Running through streets, calling out for somebody, anybody, until my bare feet felt like dead, frozen fish slapping the pavement.
Calling friends and family, boss and co-workers, the guy I met in a bar and dated once back before I met Steve, my bank’s emergency number for if you get your card stolen – anything to make contact. Nothing.
Then I remember this…feeling. A pressure, like a vast weight hanging over my head or a storm front moving in, charging the air with something thick and dark and heavy and smothering, something that burned on the skin instead of tingled. Something that rang like bells instead of thundered.
That drove me inside when January in New York couldn’t. Some instinct told me that being outside under that pressure, that sound, the curtain of darkness advancing down Fifth Avenue, was the worst thing in the world, far worse than entering a dwelling of the dead. I was a mouse in a hawk’s shadow, and I took whatever shelter I could.
Anybody else know what I’m talking about? What was that thing? Could it have had something to do with