Seas Between Us
And seas between us broad have roared
(“Auld Lang Syne,” English tradition)
New Year’s Eve holds no charm for me, one year blending seamlessly into the next by a simple tick of the clock, all this nonsense about resolutions just a way to make excuses. But my husband loves the pageantry, especially when we are traveling, each country with its own insanities and customs he wants to experience. And so we venture out, join in — we eat twelve grapes at midnight in Madrid, buy our small son marzipan pigs in Vienna, dodge a firecracker battle in Paris, tiny sticks of gunpowder spitting sparks onto our faces, our coats, our mittened hands.
And now in London, I would much rather be wrapped in a blanket, watching the spectacle on television with a cup of tea. My son is thirteen, would rather be sleeping or listening to his mp3 player. But here we are, layering fleece and sweaters to hop on the Tube toward the Eye, to watch the cars of the ferris wheel tumble like a giant firework that refuses to leave the sky. We exit the station, and I can tell it will be bad — streets packed shoulder to shoulder, one undulating mass pulsing toward the square. Some, in a burst of British impoliteness, shove through like a snake with a poisonous head, the leader creating space, the rest slithering behind before the hole can close.
I grab my husband’s jacket, insist that he keep my son in front of him, fearing the drunken disarray looming beneath the surface of the crowd. We inch ahead, unable to see where we are going, and things get louder, uglier. People move back against the grain now, some drenched with sweat, a few with bloodied scalps, bottles thrown in irritation across the sea of heads. We decide to move sideways, escape to a cul-de-sac where we cannot see the Eye, but maybe can glimpse the fireworks. Birthed from the stream of people, I sigh until I notice my son is nowhere in sight. Not normally prone to hysteria, my whole body convulses with panic as I turn toward my husband — find him, find him now. I wait alone outside a closed coffee shop, berate myself for my lack of mothering skills, my poor judgment, my hands cupped over my face like an oxygen mask, as if I have forgotten how to breathe. When they emerge from the crowd, my son in front, I leap to hug him. Seeing my panic, he doesn’t object.
This is when I crack, turn and sob with red-faced ugly gulps into my husband’s chest. I hate this, I hate this, I mumble, over and over like a mantra that will mystically erase this feeling, this one moment where I understand, for the first time in my life, how a woman could (pockets weighted) walk into the sea, could climb high atop the Tower Bridge and throw herself willingly into the Thames.