Edmond

0.00

2007 was the year that had killed Anna Nicole Smith and The Sopranos. 2007 included Minnesota’s horrible bridge collapse over I-35. Another year of the Iraq War. On New Year’s Eve, we gloated about this challenging year’s imminent surrender to its innocent replacement, the now-vanquished 2008.

Also this same year, I lived in San Francisco for four months, including New Year’s Eve. Because I was visiting a different city and Trying New Things (one of 2007 resolutions occasionally governing my behavior), I bought a ticket to a big bash and headed downtown for a wild night.

Well, wild for me.

Given that my Minnesota tradition is to make myself a nice dinner, a roaring fire, polish my New Year’s Resolutions, and then stroll around frozen Lake Harriet between 11:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m., pretty much anything in public would be wild for me. Visiting a gas station and buying a Kit-Kat would count as a party by the circumstances of my life.

I’m really not a fan of big bar events or big bashes anywhere, yowling cheer, and the forced fun that seems to so hard to manufacture for New Year’s. (Although I do like the shiny party hats and sparkling confetti. Confetti is like how joy feels when it surprises me, and I like joy.)

But on New Year’s Eve, I feel tangible peer pressure to be having MORE fun than you’ve ever had at night, MORE joy, MORE liquor…as if an entire year could be summarized in remembering top ten lists and frantic kisses.

Ugh.

I don’t do well under that kind of joy-pressure.

Gimmie the Charlie Brown Christmas music, candles, and a Bailey’s Irish Cream. (Oh, Mom, last night I cooked with the new wok you guys got me for Christmas. Beef, red pepper snowpea thing I found on the internet. The wok is awesome. Thanks again!)

So anyway, last year on 2007′s New Years’ Eve, I wore a flashy shirt, new jeans. Fresh hair cut. Ready. On the Muni I ran into this dude, someone I knew from around the Castro; we had talked a few times. He raises urban chickens, and we knew someone in common. On the Muni, we chatted about this and that, the holiday, the imminent party. How we don’t normally do this, but…

The evening was chilly for San Fran, but pretty cool and sultry by Minnesota standards so I left leather jacket unzipped. I had to desert the Muni friend in search of cash. Found an ATM two blocks away. Had to pay for all those expensive drinks. Even if it’s just Coke, it’s still damn expensive. $4 for a bottle of water? Sheeesh.

A guy used the ATM in front of me and I waited while he pushed his series of digits, his PIN, collected his cash, and then zipped away. Not particularly noticeable, I guess, youngish. Mid-20s. Maybe late 20s, I wasn’t paying much attention.

When I got to the machine after him, I saw he had left his bank receipt sticking half-in the machine. He had already disappeared around the corner and there’s always that little pile of abandoned receipts on top of a machine.

Of course, I looked at his receipt while entering my own PIN.

His balance was $0.00.

He had just withdrawn his last $60.

This guy was headed into 2008 with nothing.

Weird.

Was he going to a club like me? (Fuck it all – let’s get drunk!) Or did he just get cash because he’s out of medicine for his daughter? Or is he headed back to Shreveport, Louisiana because this city is too fucking expensive, he learned that the hard way. I looked for him up and down the street when my transaction was done. But I didn’t see him, where he scurried off to. Did he leave the receipt in the machine as a defiant gesture to the banking gods?

I studied his ATM receipt under some flashing neon light and then pocketed it.

The rest of the night I hung out with my ATM buddy. How tall was he again? Did I think he looked, like, young 20′s or mid-20′s? I tried to recall details about him. Did our eyes meet for a split second, one of those exchanges where you see that you’ll never meet again for the rest of your life, but hey, I see that you’re a person like me. A person with a life.

The 2007 party was kickin’ (I think that’s what the kids were saying in those days) with literal screaming, leering, yelled conversations with beer spit, actual groping (which was fun once or twice), and some generally expected drunkenness.

Was ATM Guy here? Was he spending his last $60 here?

Where would he go the next day, when it officially became 2008?

Just about every Thursday during my San Francisco tenure, I helped a Catholic priest feed people in the Tenderloin. I sound really glamorous in that last sentence, so I’m not actually changing a goddam word, but the truth is I scooped stew into styrofoam bowls and it wasn’t hard and since I didn’t make the stew, it wasn’t particularly selfless.

The priest cooked the entire meal, gathering bruised fruit and discarded food items from restaurants. A big score meant shitty energy bars, cookies, something   with sugar. I just dished it out and stood there while people thanked me profusely, feeling ridiculous for my limited contribution. But I chatted with folks, listened a bit. We joked around. I unloaded the priest’s car and washed our dirty dishes in the alley gutter.

Some of these people I chatted up were dead, so almost dead yet still clinging to life, maybe a life that’s hopefully going to change next year. It was heartbreaking every week to see someone so grateful for the food and promising that this time I’m going to make it. I’m not going back to that bitch, crystal.

I wondered if I had ever served ATM Guy dinner.

Did we talk about rain and cops for a few minutes? A woman once explained how to keep rats out of your hair when sleeping. I wondered if ATM Guy and I shook hands and looked each other in the eye. Maybe not. He had a bank account, after all. Once I had established myself as a regular in the alley, if I missed a week, some of the regulars would say, ‘Where the hell were you last week?’ As vain as this seems, I was incredibly flattered that my absence was noticed.

But the Tenderloin was still another 20 blocks away from here, not close exactly. Not too far, though.

The 2007 New Year’s Eve party remained in progress.

Huh. Yes, I think my description – quite spontaneous mind you – of a bumping, grinding, barely-clothed dance orgy, somehow captures my actual enthusiasm pretty damn well. “The party remained in progress.”

Clearly, I was impatient to leave, impatient to get the fuck out of there, but it was New Year’s Eve and I had to stay until, you know, until everybody screamed HAPPY NEW YEAR and we are all drunk together. I had to stay for that. But when I checked a clock it was only 11:09 p.m.

My jaw snapped together so hard I bit my tongue. Jesus, why wasn’t it midnight already? Another 50 minutes? Yer killin’ me. Various times, I tried polite conversation with a few friendly guys, just chit chat with strangers, but it was really hard with my heart elsewhere. Where was ATM Guy? Is he getting paid tomorrow? Did he just cut it close this month?

By the time we began the big count down, 10…9…8… I had planted myself in the middle of everything. The screaming, the drunks, the wobbly and already-wasteds, everyone frenetic in this unhappy gloom of desperate cheer.

Wow, I’m fun at parties, aren’t I?

7…6…

Golly, I can’t imagine why nobody tried real hard to chat with me that night. I’m sure all the grimacing and teeth-grinding was sexy to other men in a ‘hardware-store-stalker’ kind of way. (I saw Zodiac, a 2007 release about a San Francisco serial killer who worked in a hardware store.)

I’m sure I came across much sexier that night. No, really. But even at the big count down, I-

5…4…

I couldn’t stop thinking about my ATM friend.

3…2…

His account number ended with xxx1910. The location of our meeting says ‘Golden Gate.’ Available balance $0.00.

1…

Total balance $0.00.

Midnight!

All that sexy teeth grinding really paid off because midnight came after all. It’s funny because I wasn’t worried about midnight the previous night or the night before that. But 2007 New Year’s Eve, we all collectively breathed easier when 2008 showed up because we all needed a new year, a fresh start.

I looked around and saw this Japanese guy, totally handsome. He looked at me with a little wary recognition, someone else non-verbally communicating, ‘This is weird, right? That this is how we celebrate a new year? I’m not very comfortable here, but I’m trying it out.’

It’s a lot to communicate in a single glance, but he did it.

I nodded in agreement and so we kissed, a really sweet and longish kiss because he was actually pretty hot. I was like, Hey. Right on.

I knew then, so did he, that we would never be in each others’ lives again, but we will always be in each other’s New Year memories. We mattered to each other for one brilliant kiss. That handsome Japanese guy made my top five list of New Year’s Eve kisses. (Actually, there are only five kisses total. But this dude is #3, so that’s pretty damn good actually for a non-relationship kiss.)

We acknowledged each other with a happy nod and I brushed his forehead with the palm of my hand. He stroked my fuzzy head and we kissed again, quickly this time. The happy swell of drunken singers pushed and pulled us further apart, we drifted on the ocean of that Auld Lang Syne song. We nodded goodbye and our time knowing each other in this life was complete.

I left the bar at 12:05 a.m.
All this merriment had exhausted me and I wanted to catch a J line to Church and Dubose before the train was coated in New Year’s barf.

Oh yes:   Fun. At. Parties.

I taped the ATM receipt in this book that I keep, a blank pages notebook that’s cardboard covered and thoroughly tattooed with the every-day details of my lie. The book mostly contains To Do lists, things I cut out of newspapers to read about further. Website addresses with good intentions to visit. Lists of phone calls I haven’t yet returned, sodoku columns of things like, 5,4,3,6 and 3,4,7, sharing space with half-composed poems, lines copied from novels, and inspirational quotes.

Next to a beautiful poem written by a fellow Warrior Monk are instructions demanding: RETURN THAT GODDAM BOOK TO THE LIBRARY, YOU DUMB ASS!

Pretty informal scrapbook, I would say.

Once in a while, I stumble upon the ATM receipt when I flip there accidentally and I wonder where he is. We spent last New Year’s Eve together, this guy and I. I know him. But I’ll never know if that was his worst New Year’s ever or maybe just typical, shrug-your-shoulders kind of way. He could be a millionaire this year, his software genius finally having paid off.

I stare at ATM Guy’s receipt as I type this.

The book is open to this page, because I’ve thought about him a lot today. Last night, I did my Minnesota New Year’s Eve:   made this awesome wok dinner and walked around Lake Harriet. The temperature was around 4 degrees. I found this out because today I whined to my pal Dave, “It felt like it as 2 degrees out there last night.”

“Well, you’re close.” He told me. “It was 4 degrees. Way to go with that tradition where you almost die of exposure alone by a frozen, deserted lake. Good traditions you got there, frosty.”

But I didn’t go alone. I took ATM Guy with me.

Told him about my year. Asked him about his. He’s quiet. I mostly see the back of him, walking away. But I can still kinda see him in my mind’s eye. I somehow managed to remember him a little bit. Honestly? I wished he had sent me a sign last night, just something to let me know that he wished me a Happy New Year too.

Is it so much to ask for a sign? Something free – he doesn’t have to spend money on it.

Later today, New Years Day, I had beers with a man I mentor, a newish friend. He’s a filmmaker and I admire him. He’s a strong, tender man. He’s trying to make the world better the way that he knows how. Today we listened to each others’ trials of grief and fear, love and hope. He had some big stuff in 2008. I gave him some raspberry jam. He gave me a CD of his recent film work hugged by a simple green ribbon and we were both delighted by the exchange, these perfect gifts of affection and effort.

He stood up to leave and flipped up the hood on his heavy jacket.

A large sprinkle of sparkling red and blue confetti came shooting out of the hood, over the table, sparkling onto us both a little bit. Just like someone had thrown it at midnight.

We laughed at the sparkling crap.

“Sorry.” he said sheepishly. “I didn’t even know it was in there. Me and my lovely lady went to a party last night, big thing.” (He didn’t say lovely lady, but I thought it sounded sexy to write ‘lovely lady’ and I didn’t want to reveal her specific name.)

“No, no,” I said almost in tears. “This is perfect. I like New Year’s confetti and I didn’t have any this year. That was totally surprising and perfect. I love it.”

Thank you, ATM Guy.

I was thinking about you too.

6 Responses to “0.00”

  1. Jeffrey Says:

    Belated happy new year, Edmond. That was a powerful story you shared. My wish for you is a year (and a life) full of blessings, moments of pure bliss, faithful friends dear to you, and all the right things right for you. My life is richer for knowing you.

  2. Edmond Says:

    Happy New Year, Jeffrey! I’m delighted you enjoyed the story…I really do think about this guy sometimes. And now others know of him too, which is cool.

    All the most wonderful things to you this year as well, bud. I hope for you wonderful things and may you not-wonderful times in 2009 help you remember the wonderful things even more fondly.

    Edmond

  3. Glow Says:

    Edmond
    I read your story entitled “0.00″ and was drawn in from the beginning. You are a very good writer-I love how you pay attention to small details, bring the reader along with you on your ‘adventures’.
    I’m a WM from ST.Louis and that’s how I found your story (tacked on to Joanne Mahler’s comments).
    I just want you to know that I really loved reading your story-it really caught me-don’t know how or why. I loved it. Thanks
    Glow

  4. Edmond Says:

    Thank you so much for the lovely comment on my website, Glow! I’m absolutely delighted the story caught you – it did me too. I worry about ATM Guy from time to time. I like that others know about him now too.

    Thank you for taking the time to write me a note – you touched me.

    Edmond

  5. Jennifer Miller Says:

    Edmond,

    The tears are right there. Waiting. Thinking about you, the hot Japanese guy, the confetti, Crystal and the Priest and, of course, the ATM guy.

    Each and every word captures the essence of each and every one of us. There is something so very comforting about your musings about the ATM guy. Perhaps we are not as alone as each of us imagined. Perhaps we don’t have to try so hard every New Year.

    Now, the tears are rolling down my cheeks. Could we all really care so much about each other?

    Jennifer

  6. Edmond Manning » Blog Archive » The End of Days Says:

    [...] My tradition on New Years Eve is to walk Lake Harriett just before midnight. I reflect on what the year held for me, for my friends, my birth family, and family of choice. The days of sorrow and those where I shined right back at the sun. This year, something different: Zombie Ron and I are attending Billy Elliott at the Orpheum Theater. We’re dining in a favorite, elegant Thai restaurant. Ron’s wearing a tux and I’m wearing a new suit purchased in 2010 for two significant days:   one cousin’s devastating funeral, and another cousin’s joyful, glorious wedding. [...]

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