Feliz Año Nuevo, Feliz Año Nuevo - By Natasha Kolar
Cancel the reservations. Call the caterers.
The deposits – let those go. I’m sorry, Mom.
“Where will I go?” I wrote down in chalk on the sidewalk.
“Where for Christmas?” I whistled while I worked, studied, jogged in place.
Not on a Bangkok honeymoon, breathing into a foggy scuba mask
and spooning at night after satay. Peanuts and jungles.
I would not be wearing a diamond ring, my grandmother’s
diamond to ring in the new year in Niagara,
watching the water – all the water in the world
falling down. So loud. Where would I chant
those falling, falling numbers until zero slammed the lid
on all that was 2002 – summoned a new year.
Another hopeless year.
Maybe not hopeless. Where could I go
to spend the holidays in labor, working to bear
a beautiful, single newborn year? I had plenty of blood
and guts and sweat to spare
if it meant wanting to live when I turned 22.
Take me there, I said.
My pastor said, Yes. You can go there.
There are 30 small children who want to meet you
at el orphanatorio. They have open hands and open faces
and you will not see Tyler in their faces. You will see God
away from Los Angeles and sidewalks.
So I climbed into the van and burrowed 100 miles deep
until I found the gate to El Sauzal – a home
for ninos without families and
mujeres without husbands.
I stayed inside the gates for 10 mornings and 10 nights.
Maria taught my hands to feel
when dough became sticky enough to cook a hot tortilla
over an open flame. Eduardo shared his popcorn,
and I learned to eat around the boogers.
Games of tag and soccer sweated the salty sadness out of me,
put weights into my heavy limbs for bedtime.
No tears. No thoughts about years.
Just moonlight and novellas. Todays.
Sweeping dirt out of hallways and combing ratted,
dusty hair offered “us” and quieted “me.”
The mournful wail that sang in my liver
in November spread – it grew into a Sunday morning
chorus of claps and seven year-old sopranos
singing Spanish carols and filling up all the space.
There weren’t so many cracks in my organs
when December had 30 X’s on the calendar
and the New Year came. And there wasn’t so much space
on my fingers because if I had eleven hands,
each of them would be held – the fewer rings the better
because rings get broken and lost
and stolen and hands make life and noise and heat.
So we clapped and hollered like happy people
when the disco ball dropped to the ground
and the man said in English “Happy New Year!” We jumped
up and down, tasting the English words on the muscles of our tongues
(Happy New Year!)
and laughing like you and her and he and they
were the only people in the world that mattered
to us. Even Graciella, in her corner, couldn’t
sulk for long – those thirteen year old eyes
softening with each blast of a firecracker
because even she knew that no one is forced to be alone.
Because the world is brimming with souls just waiting
to say yes and hold empty hands. Sometimes
not the soul you want to say yes, but thirty
sparkling souls like tiny mirrors reflecting all
the beautiful and tragic things.
And God I think.