Ah, holiday season. I found myself in yet another party where the only people I knew were nowhere to be found and the loudspeakers were blaring loudly enough that I had very little hope of hearing what any of the strangers might say. I sipped on my apple cider and checked Snapchat yet again. Some people were singing along; I didn’t know the song.
A cordial scene of friends meeting again stirred at the doorway. He waved me to come closer, and when I did – only mildly interested in being introduced to yet another face I would forget in minutes – we all shook hands and exchanged names. She had a wide smile and a recognizably American accent; I took an immediate liking to her.
Our host disappeared into the crowd before I could say a word, so I turned to her and found myself lost on words. I’m not good at talking in uncomfortable situations.
‘It’s been quite a year, right’, I quipped. The remark was a commonplace platitude for this time of the year and I acknowledged that with painful certainty. ‘It can’t be over soon enough.’
‘Why? Has it been a bad year?’
I stammered, a little taken aback that the year that had universally been judged as The Worst Year Ever had not affected her as much as it had the whole world. ‘I mean, not that bad, I guess it’s just been a weird year for everyone… World politics and celebrities…’
She didn’t seem the least bit bothered. ‘I guess if you want to see it that way. But I’m naturally a very positive person and I would rather look at all the good things that I have and be grateful for that than dwell in the bad things. There is already so much negativity in the world, and if I can I want to take a bad situation and think, how can I make it better?’
I ran into her again just before midnight. She made her way to me with determination, and when she got to me, she pressed something in my hand.
‘It’s rose quartz,’ she explained. ‘It’s supposed to bring you love. You said you’d had a bad year; I think you should have it.’
And then she was gone, lost in the crowd gathering outside to welcome the new year with loud shouts and cheap glasses of sparkling wine. I put the stone in my pocket. It felt smooth and cool against my skin. I’m not the one to believe in magic tricks or happy voodoo; I don’t need a rabbit’s paw to bring me luck because I’ve always made my own. But this was more than a lucky charm to ward off the evil; it was a present, however small, and its magic wasn’t based on an illusionist’s trick but a friendly gesture. She was but a stranger, but she had reached out and offered me kindness. The stone would serve as a reminder that inherently, humanity is good. I guess that was kind of a sappy thought.
I made my way to the patio when the crowd started counting down the seconds. I rang in the new year lost amidst a sea of strangers, feeling that sense of isolation that I sometimes do, but it was slowly shifting away like a curtain being pulled aside to let the light in.
I think I will be okay.