Wednesday, January 01, 2014

As the smoke clears

For the first time in my life, I failed to celebrate new year's eve with my family. It's our family tradition, see: Christmas with my uncle's family, then New Year with my dad's family. (They were only 2 siblings.)

Not that I was out of the country. I was actually sick in bed. It started with an allergy, that became a cough, that became a flu, that became asthma, and who knows what else.

So on new year's eve I had to forego decorating the medya noche table - it has always been my role for more than a decade now - and instead I was lying in bed, trying to find comfort and get some sleep.

Just before midnight, at the height of the neighborhood fireworks frenzy, Mom and Miguel came up to invite me downstairs. I just said that I'd go down when the dust had literally settled.

Although I felt sick, I showered and dressed up to join the festivities - just so I wouldn't be such a killjoy. I waited until 1am, hoping that the pollution from the fireworks would be more bearable.

But even before I could leave my room, I felt it. My breathing was compromised, maybe by 10%. Going out would be a disaster. But how could I snub my own family? I should at least show up to say hello, give my regrets, and excuse myself.

The moment I stepped out of my room, I could feel the dirt particles from the air entering my lungs. 30% lung capacity down, I thought. Holding my breath or covering my face made no difference; everywhere the air was thick with dust. It grated against my lungs.

By the tine I made it to the dining room I felt asif I was at 50% capacity. I stayed only long enough for a very short exchange:

"Sorry guys, I can't stay. I can't breathe - asthma."

My sister says, quite naively, "Why don't you puff?"

In my head I'm thinking, "Because you don't just put on a bulletproof vest and then jump in front of a tank."

Instead I just say that I already did, and that I don't want to overdose. I hurry back to my room without taking a bite of the delicious spread. I steal a glance in envy. I don't even dare stay long enough to ask for a plate - that's how bad my asthma was.

Thirty minutes later in my room, after weighing the pros and cons of ovetdosing, I puff again. My heart starts racing, and I develop a dull headache.

But I'm wide awake, and hungry. I can hear everyone enjoying themselves downstairs. I imagine the Spanish-themed buffet, especially the paella that my sister-in-law had cooked.

As I hear the tinkle of cutlery, I am definitely jealous.

I've been forgotten! I tell myself. They probably think I'm asleep. I consider calling via mobile phone to ask for some food to be sent up. But I think it's such a donya move. I content myself with reading 'The Brothers Karamazov'. Dostoevsky will be my new year's fare, I tell myself.

At 2am I hear a rustling in the bathroom. Miguel! I call him. I am relieved as I see him stick his head into my room.

"Could you ask Ate Vicky to bring up some food?" Okay, he says.

Fifteen minutes later there's a knock at my door. Vicky brings up a plate of paella, gambas, baked mussels, and barbecue. Followed by a saucer with cheeses, grapes, and melba toast. No chorizos. But hey, I know how to be thankful.

As I eat the best medya noche ever in the solitude if my room, I tell myself: "Ah, you are a spoiled brat princess."

And with that, I greet you a happy new year.

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