New Year's Eve in Los Angeles is almost exactly like you’d imagine, really. There are strobe lights, sparklers, and fireworks. There are girls in freshly-steamed suits jumping into salt-water pools. There are two (definitely not single) celebrities making out half-underwater. There are strangers kissing. And one night, there was a boy I had never met before.
Earlier that day, around 3 p.m., my high school friends and I picked up alcohol for our traditional homemade vodka, champagne, and ginger ale cocktails; we make them every year. We drove around Los Angeles with the windows down, and for just a moment, I felt like I was back in high school. Before I knew it, it was 9 p.m. and we had made drinks, plastered glitter all over our bodies, and put together our party outfits. I steamed my velvet suit and put on a crown. I watched my friends tie, pin, pluck eyebrows, twist, and twirl hair. By 11 p.m., we arrived at our friend Ella's house.
"Welcome to my party!" Ella slurred as she opened her front door. There was a swarm of buzzed people behind her, and her boyfriend, Dylan, lingered by her side. "There's beer in the fridge and an open bar outside. If you need anything else just bother Dylan. He’s been here a few times."
I watched Ella’s boyfriend quickly disappear to the backyard, then I followed her around her house. There were suits, heels, and fairy lights in almost every direction. I watched two well-known producers walk in and immediately approach the bar. I observed as they mingled, ran into two scantily-clad girls they seemed to know, then together poured shots of gin into tall champagne glasses. I couldn't help but wonder what it would like to be in love tonight. I decided to keep drinking.
Macy Gray started playing and I watched the faces around me become progressively drunker. I walked over to the bar and asked for another double vodka soda. Then an extra shot, just because. The next thing I know, my best friend and I were in the pool. I moved my limbs around and could feel makeup streaming down face. I leaned my arms back and let my neck float in the cold salt water. I stared directly at the stars.
There was a group of guys huddled by the steps of the shallow end. The one with shaggy hair spotted me, dove under, and swam towards me. I had never seen him before. When he emerged, I introduced myself.
"Nice to meet you too, Willa!" he said. "I’m Oliver. What brings you here tonight?"
I paused to think about how I should respond. The truth was, I didn’t know what brought me to Ella’s. I didn’t know what propelled me into the pool. I had no answers, but I knew I didn't want him to stop talking to me.
"I grew up in L.A. and I've been home for the holidays. What about you?"
He smiled and gazed back at me, “No, I meant the pool. Why are you swimming at a New Year's Eve party?" I giggled. He was flirting! "Parties are boring, so I decided to take a swim myself. I’m glad I found you, though," he said. I couldn’t tell if this was a pick-up line he’d used before, but I went with it. Then he asked, "Shall we go get another drink?"
I nodded. We climbed out of the pool and dried off together. He tenderly wiped off my mascara and complimented my now soaking-wet suit. At the bar, he poured me some champagne, and we settled into a spot by the pool. He then politely asked if he could kiss me. I hesitated, exhaled, and then closed my eyes. His lips grazed my neck and slowly moved to my mouth.
We kissed for awhile, and when I finally opened my eyes, he pulled away. I looked out at the galaxy of houses in the distance. "Which house is your favorite?" I asked him. There were so many to pick from! For a moment, I started to imagine a life with Oliver. It almost came too easily.
He pointed to a red house with steps, then changed his mind, motioning towards a brown cottage with a balcony. "How many years do you think it would take for me to be able to afford a house with high ceilings like that?" he asked. He reached into his pocket and lit a half-wet cigarette.
He began to stand up and I felt a strange sense of loss. I missed him, but it wasn’t exactly him that I missed. His scruff was sort of painful against my neck. I enjoyed kissing him, but I didn’t even know if I liked boys. Something existed between us.
The next thing I knew we were falling asleep next to each other. I listened as his breathing became heavier, then quietly emerged from our shared space. I softly closed the door behind me, and walked down Ella’s driveway. When I finally reached the bottom, I turned towards the Hollywood Hills.
I swam and more mascara streamed down my face. The last thing I remember was falling asleep next to him. In a few days I’d be back in New York and far away from his scruff. I didn’t want to text him. I didn’t even need to see him again. But I knew, I had found a pocket of love in that moment. And that’s all I needed on New Year’s Eve.
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