I’ve been blessed to ring in 38 new years. 38!
As a child, in our MC Hammer pants and crimped hair, I remember dancing the evening away to Janet Jackson and Color Me Bad with my sister and childhood best friends, Andy and Misty Lei. We’d watch the ball drop on television, and at midnight, we’d toast with a fancy bottle of Welch’s grape juice poured into our plastic cups. By 12:15, we were tucked in bed while our parents finished their game of Rook.
Oh yeah, we were the epitome of cool.
The adult version of many of my New Year’s Eves wasn’t much different than that of my childhood. Music, the annual ball drop, the toasts. There were new friends and a few children added, but the anti-climacticity of the night continued. We attempt to recreate the Outback’s Wallaby Darneds, and drink them anyway when we fail. The children play basketball downstairs while the grownups get moderately buzzed upstairs.
Ironically, though we thought we were far too cool for board games as children, as adults, nothing brings out the competitiveness and laughter like a round of Battle of the Sexes or Cranium. We find ourselves checking our watching by 11:00. Not that we aren’t having fun, just that with age comes a certain appreciate for bedtime.
Sure, I’ve had other types of New Year’s Eves as well. Juicy first-love experiences and divorced, home alone experiences. More often than I care to admit, I rang in the new year sound asleep, curling up with a good book by 10 and out by 11.
However, the most unforgettable New Year’s Eve transpired last year.
Trust me. You won’t be able to forget it either.
John is a huge fan of Mexican cuisine, so as is somewhat of a traditional, we planned to visit our favorite local Mexican restaurant on New Year’s Eve. I was hesitant. I’d just had the PICC line inserted a week earlier, so I was hyperaware of germs and infection. My body was still extremely fatigued with joint pain and muscle aches, and my heart rate wasn’t yet under control. Going out in public was a chore, not only physically, but also emotionally. I was self-conscious, tired of responding to well-meaning friends’ questions to which I still didn’t have the answers. I was new to the confusing and complex world of Lyme; I just wanted to stay home in my little bubble until I finally felt like me again.
But John was insistent. It’ll be good for you, he said. You love this restaurant. It’ll be just the two of us for a change.
I caved, namely because, as much as he’d had to care for the kids and me, I couldn’t disappoint him. I spent over an hour getting ready. I moved painfully slowly back then and had to be cautious not to lift my hands above my head or I’d pass out. I wore a heavy sweater to try to cover my weight gain, which would later seem like no big deal when I topped the scales even thirty pounds heavier.
The ride was bumpy, but we made it. I used my cane to maneuver into the restaurant and was thankful when the hostess seated us towards the back, away from the hustle and bustle and noise.
I sat across from the man who had loved me on my darkest days, and I thought maybe he was right. Maybe this is a good idea, after all. It’s easy to lose one another, even in the best of times. Now, more than ever, we needed to reconnect.
I ordered my usual, fajitas for two. The waiter assumed John and I were sharing, but I explained that it was all for me. We always get a kick out of their expressions when I say this. I guess if I were a larger person, waiters wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. We continue ordering, explaining that we use the leftover steak, onions and green peppers the next morning for one of John’s famous omelets.
A bit later, the waiter brings John a beer and me my go-to drink, a fuzzy navel. It’s a safe drink. Just about anywhere you go, it’ll taste the same. Since I’m not a fan of the taste of alcohol –at all –this drink allows me to gain a relaxed state without the nausea or hangover. With all the medicine I’d been on, I hadn’t had liquor for months, so I was looking forward to this.
Sadly, it was the most watered-down girly drink I’d ever encountered, but not to ruin the evening, I drank it anyway, slowly. John and I talked and talked, enjoying a little bit of normalcy in our world gone mad, for nearly an hour. Both of our plates were clean, aside from the mound of leftovers reserved for tomorrow’s breakfast. We were full, and for a little bit, I’d been able to converse with another adult about something other than Lyme disease, medical options, or extending my leave of absence.
I slurped my fish bowl drink, which at this point was nothing but melting ice. I absent-mindedly twirled the straw around, stirring the ice, listening to John talk, and contemplating if one more drink would be excessive. Probably, considering the beta blocker I had taken that morning.
That’s when I noticed it. It had been hidden beneath the ice, but between the melting and my stirring, I had unearthed something. John continued talking, and I used the straw to hoist the mysterious thing from my glass.
It took a few seconds for my brain to register what I was seeing.
Once I could see it though, it would forever be etched in my brain.
Oh, my good Lord. I drank the germs, blood and adhesive from a little, used finger Band-Aid.
I couldn’t speak. A million thoughts ran through my head. I’m supposed to be avoiding germs, and I basically just drank a Band-Aid!
It was still wrapped around the end of my straw when I said, “John…”
He looked. He blinked. Twice.
Is that a….
He couldn’t say the word. To announce it would mean it was true.
Yes, it’s a Band-Aid. I just drank a Band-Aid. A used finger Band-Aid!
Now, you have to understand that my husband is the most patient human being in the world. He works with about 750 hormonal teenagers everyday and has yet to hurt one. He’s had plenty of opportunities to lose it –disrespectful student,disloyal ex-wife, helicopter parents, a demanding son. Ample room . He’s right up there with the saints.
So it was interesting to see a side of him I’d never witnessed as he fell apart.
But, but, this is our favorite restaurant!
We got engaged here. (No, we didn’t. I said no that time.) Still! We almost got engaged here!
Oh my God, you have a PICC line!!
There was a Band-Aid in your drink!
Watching his thought process was highly entertaining, so much so, in fact, I giggled at his protectiveness and momentarily forgot the potential disaster in front of me.
At that moment, the manager, a sweet little guy who always swings by our table to make sure we are receiving great service and food, made his fateful stop. John took the lead. Calmly.
She has a band-Aid, a USED Band-Aid, in her drink.
The manager looks at me, and I timidly hold up my Band-Aid flag straw.
He takes the contraband into his hands. Now it is his turn to freak out.
You go. You no pay. I so sorry. You no pay and never have to come back. This bad. I sorry.
And then he quickly tucked-tail and ran, never to be seen again.
John once again said but this is our place?!
Not anymore, sweetheart. Not anymore.
I’m sure some poor server or cook lost his or her finger bandaid while scooping up the ice for my drink. I’m sure that manager was immediately in the back, checking fingers for paper cuts. He was looking for the culprit, the answer, and the justice.
But for me, it was just one more thing in a long list of are-you-kidding-me odds and realities. It was the kickoff to a new year with a life that would host more questions than answers, only one culprit and zero justice.
For kids, Band-Aids make it all better. In this case, there’s no Band-Aid for my life, no quick fix to healing. No Band-Aid for Lyme disease.
But if I don’t laugh, I’ll lose my mind.
So, yeah, I drank a Band-Aid once, and I survived. Enough time has passed. I can laugh about it now.
You can, too.
Bet your New Year’s Eve toast won’t have the extra somethin’-somethin’ mine did that year. Ha!
Keep coloring, my friends. May your 2016 be healthy and happy and Band-Aid-free.