On the evening of December 31st, she tucked 2016 beneath her arm and gingerly traversed the basement stairs, dodging a pair of roller blades and a saggy salt bag that had not yet made its way to the softener. A little short of breath already – 2016 was heavy – and hampered by the brush of cobwebs across her face, she lugged the Years Gone By box from the shelf and straightened the crick in her back before opening the lid.
A smell like pumpkin innards – Halloween – rushed out at her and the pop of July firecrackers made her sit back on her heels. Frogs leaped amidst poinsettia leaves and cicadas croaked in time with the 9th inning roar at Wrigley Field. Moldy tennis shoes reclined alongside graduation gowns, flip-flops slapped in time with the snow shovel scraping the sidewalk.
Darker things, perhaps, residing at the bottom of the box. House fires and hospital stays, the funeral stink of blood lilies.
She tossed 2016 in and quickly closed the lid.
Upstairs again, black kitty on her shoulder with his whiskers twitching inquisitively, she contemplated the New Year box. She had stenciled 2017 in a color bright as sunshine on the lid, but now, faced with the blank lines in her notepad, she thought yellow to be a foolishly optimistic choice.
So many demons to conquer, so little time.
She picked up her pen.
#1. Lose weight! Never mind that she had lost twenty pounds three years earlier and had kept the weight off. She could always lose more.
#2 Overtime hours, lots and lots. (Because new car and stupid internet and dear God, everything else that cost too too too much)
#3 Exercise. Well of course, duh.
The list was much the same as 2016’s had been, and yet it had nothing to do with what she had found in the Years Gone By box. Losing weight, in fact, looked almost trivial compared with frog song.
Kitty purred and nudged, and finally bit, just enough to get her attention.
“Stop,” she admonished, and underlined 2017 on the box.
So many demons, so little time.
What if . . .
Kitty yowled. Now. Pet me now. And, abstractedly, she rubbed his ears.
Wait! What if there is ONLY now? What if the one demon - the only demon - is time itself? Time, always hurtling her forward, always making her cry, always passing before she could grasp a hand or kiss a tear. Time, making her older, adulting her children, bending her parents. What if there is no time? What if there is only now?
Now the light is slanting in through the bevels in the west window, making a pattern like purple raindrops on the linoleum. Now the kitchen still smells a little like Christmas gingerbread and Regina Spektor is singing on the iPod, an absurd song that lifts the soul and breaks the heart all at once.
Now the cat is feeling horribly neglected.
She picked him up and kicked the New Year box to the bottom of the stairs.