In A Year, Serial Vol. 1 (pp. 1-5)

PART ONE:
January

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CHAPTER 1
 

January 1st
     Outside my bedroom window is an oversized vine maple that used to have these fat bigger-than-my-palm leaves. All autumn the wind would whip them against my window, and some of them- still wet with rain from last night’s storm or this morning’s dew- would press their faces against the glass and stare in at me. Sometimes I found this mildly invasive, but I’d do my best to ignore it. This morning there’s none of this. The leaves have all dropped, and now it’s just branches between my window and the window of Larry Halburn, our across-the-way neighbor. Larry has a couple ferrets that sleep on the windowsill. I do not think it is far-fetched to assume that these are not his only ferrets, but that these are merely the ones that sleep in this window. Larry is that kind of man. I swear, sometimes these ferrets, in their waking hours, press their faces against the window too and stare through the branches at me. This I find more invasive than the leaves, but less so than when Larry does it. I will invest in curtains with my next paycheck. This morning there’s not much sound in the room except the wind shivering through the branches. The ferrets are still sleeping. I think it’s possible Larry went out last night for the holiday. All is still, peaceful in the way I love for New Year’s day to be. And then, from time to time, there is the gentle snoring of the guy lying next to me.
     It is embarrassing to admit that I don’t recognize him from the back. I’ll call him Ben. 
     That I don’t know anyone named Ben feels irrelevant.
     I read once that the way you sleep with a partner can be a major indicator for the future success of your relationship. Not the way you sleep with your partner, but actually how you sleep. I survey the current situation. Maybe-Ben is sleeping with his back to me, curled into the fetal position. This, according to this article, is an indication that he is seeking safety. And most likely that he doesn’t think I have any to offer. I’m sure most therapists would deduce from this that we are not meant to be. It’d be different, I think, if I’d woken up with my arm around him, my face pressed into his very Ben-like shoulders, cooing in his ear. But since I woke up on my stomach after a very graphic sex dream involving McCauley Culkin and a tub of unsalted margarine-- I think things are just as I suspect. 
    Which is sort of a shame, since Maybe-Ben seems like a good guy. 
    I should brush my teeth. That would be a good thing to do, hygienic. Besides, so far, I have failed to keep any of my five New Year’s Resolutions. Disappointing. 

    1) Stop hooking up with guys who you’re not actually interested in.
    2) Always wash your face before bed.
    3) Stop drinking too much.
    4) Stop snacking after midnight.
    5) Brush your teeth as soon as you wake up and before you pass out. 
   

     This is most disappointing because I really set the bar low this year. Usually I’m promising myself a ridiculous number of very I-Love-Myself-I-Love-My-Life type things from a giddy place in the midst of my champagne buzz sometime around 12:03AM. And these things -- Go to the gym every day! Go to that acupuncturist Mel keeps recommending! Keep a dream journal! Cook for yourself at least five days a week! Try hot yoga! -- never happen. Not because they’re hard, I don’t think, but because they’re all things that, at the very core of my self, I don’t give a shit about. 
    So yesterday I sat down with a pen and paper and made an actual list, and carefully selected five things, for reasonability’s sake, that might make me a little bit of a better person this year. 
    And then, not even 12 hours later, I got so drunk that I slept with Maybe-Ben and then passed out, only to wake up at 3:42AM, vomit and then eat half a bag of Cheezy Doodles

    Maybe-Ben is twitching in a kind of cute way in his sleep. Like a happy dog. 
     I slide out of bed and close myself into the bathroom. 
    Mel is always leaving her yoga clothes hanging to dry in the shower. She says it’s to “maintain the integrity of the fabric,” which I never understood as I’ve never thought of spandex as a fabric with a whole lot of integrity. 
    I brace myself on the sink before daring to look in the mirror, but when I open my eyes it’s not so bad. Morning-after, residual make-up always looks better than I anticipate and I remember for a second why I’m reluctant to wash my face. This is the kind of thing I always wish I could put onto a resume: looks great in day-old make-up. 
     “That’s a desirable skill,” I used to argue to Mel. 
     “It’s just lucky,” she’d argue back, “and you can’t put good luck onto a resume.” I knew she was right, but it pissed me off anyway, so I gave up talking to her about it. I don’t like to think one of my most reliable skills is simply good luck because where does that leave me.
    “Mmmm. Morning, Kenzie.”
    It’s Maybe-Ben. Awake. How is it that he knows my name and I have no idea who he is? I snuck a peek at his front on my way to the bathroom. I’ve got nothing. Of course, this isn’t a Lifetime movie moment, where I awaken horrified to find A Stranger In My Bed. I remember seeing Maybe-Ben around the party last night. He was posted up next to the punch bowl, talking sports (?) to this barrel-chested guy people were calling “Lego-Man” all night. 
   Maybe-Ben is predictably handsome. He’s got a flop of blonde hair that always looks a little messy and alluring. He’s got good bone structure, a lovely jawline, and must be 6’1” or more. I never hear stories about girls who wake up next to some stranger who’s horrible looking and ill-mannered and the world’s worst. I’m sure it happens all the time, but no one ever writes about it. He’s always handsome and charming, but she wants nothing to do with him anyway because she’s all fucked up and probably a total lunatic. 
    “Oh shit! You’re up!” I call through the bathroom door. Not a very sexy way to greet someone in the morning, but things come out of my face sometimes that I don’t expect. “I’m just-- freshening up.” I shudder to hear myself say this. Freshening up is a phrase I hate. It reminds me of douching 100% of the time. I’ve never understood why it’s more polite than just explaining precisely what it is you’re actually doing.
    Maybe-Ben is moving in my room. I can hear the creaking of bedsprings and floorboards. “Cool, cool. So. Last night was fun... You have fun?” 
    Mouth now full of toothpaste: “Mmhmm. Fuh!” More creaking. Please don’t come into the bathroom with me, Maybe-Ben. I don’t know you like that. 
    And then, of course, the door opens.
    And then he goes “Hi” in this sometimes-I-think-it’s-sexy-to-just-say-hi-to-a-person voice, like: “Hi”.
    So then, I don’t know. Because I don’t really want Maybe-Ben to still be here. And I can’t think of a clever way to find out his name, since he probably figures I already know it. And I feel embarrassed because I really should already know it. And I feel a little guilty because it’s obvious that he’s trying to be cute and I should let him, but I don’t know where that will get us. Because I’m not really looking for a permanent Maybe-Ben situation. Not even semi-permanent. So I start to smile at him the way I smile at men before finding new and creative ways to get them out of my apartment. But before I can say “Today is gonna be so busy because--,” I hear “Love Train” playing in the bedroom, and remember that I spent $1.25 last night buying that ringtone because, according to drunk me, “I should really have more love. Just everyday. Just, like, love everyday. Everyday love.” And so it is suddenly clear that my phone is ringing.