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How are you spending New Year's Eve?
They say who you spend NYE with, you will spend the rest of the year with.......
The Harbour Master Cruise was not for us, so we jumped off, just as the passage to land was about to be lifted away and the ship's handler was unwrapping the ropes to cast the ship to sea; he smiled, a polite smile. He had seen it all before.
We both dawdled, didn't speak, looked anywhere but at each other. The dark Bajan sky falling heavy on us and no one else around to take us away from ourselves. His fists were clenched, I noticed. His feet took him in small circles until they purposefully took the direction of the sound of traffic and the main road. He hailed a taxi and we both jumped in, glad to be sped away from the emotional wreckage we had made for ourselves and our own sapping disappointment. I gave the driver instructions to our hotel on the other side of the island. The driver was polite and then quiet, it was double the normal fare - it was New Year's Eve, and a long drive was good. The windows were lowered and the island breeze gushed in to fill the spaces and we drifted.
There was a bar back at the hotel, it would be quiet with all the guests away celebrating, but perhaps we would sit there for a short while and not care, the pianist would play to us only, we might wait until midnight, cheer a small glass of fizz with the barman and then call it a night, like any other. There might be a chance we would be conciliatory, retrieve some small peace.
I looked over, then grabbed and squeezed his hand. He took it away. A short while later, he muttered more to himself "I'll never be good enough for you". I felt guilty that was how I had made him feel, or perhaps it was his insecurity and he was playing on my guilt, it all depends on how you see this. The driver, impartial, in his rear view mirror, I knew, had looked at me. The drive was long.
We had to make a stop at a petrol station and he left the car, while the driver sat quietly with me. Then he said in his Bajan twang "Not all men know how a woman likes to be treated". He said it so straight, more like an explanation and I knew he meant no discourtesy. I didn't say a word. It was almost 11pm. "Where's the party for New Year's Eve?" I asked. "There's only ONE party on this island, it's a street party in St James, Second Street" he said. He had returned to the car. "Take us there." "We are going to a street party" I said offering an olive branch*.
As the car rolled into St James, we were glad when the chaotic sounds of celebration built up to white noise and the revellers surrounded us. Women poured into tight hourglass dresses, men in polished holiday Abercrombie & Fitch and Polo, as we stepped out at the start of Second Street which had been sealed for the party. We agreed a time for the driver to return to pick us up.
Second street was alive, lined with wine bars and fancy restaurants with open facades, revellers pouring out of bars, onto the street and into the next bar. The street was one big open atmosphere. The night was perfectly dark and warm. It was easy to mingle with the crowd and we did, never being alone with each other. We were thrust into the crowd on the street as the countdown began, brief fireworks exploded in the distance at midnight, like neon spiders across the night sky. Followed by something I had never seen before, hundreds of white doves released into the air. In a rush for their freedom.
The best laid plans with the best intentions, can come to nothing. What a waste of a life to be trapped. We kissed each other. The party was over and our driver was waiting.
*The olive branch derived from the customs of ancient Greece, symbolizes peace or victory and was worn by brides.
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise