It started by accident but it became routine for me and Georgios to have a drink every evening before heading home after work. We’d go to a small bar very close to the intersection at which our paths separated on our respective ways home. The bar was quite small but it was quiet and they allowed you to smoke. Most times, we went here to finish an argument or discuss workplace politics or sports or women. Actually, it was mostly women. We didn’t work for the same company, my company worked for his, but we were colleagues and had become good friends. We had the next day off work for it’d be the New Year.
We were at the bar on New Year’s Eve and the barman said to us as we got our drinks, “Happy New Year.”
“New Year? Pffft, you can’t be serious! What’s happy about it? Same shit, different year” Georgios said, walking away to our table.
The barman looked confused. I smiled at him and made a face that read: don’t mind my crazy friend.
“You just can’t wait to foist your social misgivings upon any innocent victim, can you” I said catching up with him as we sat down.
Georgios looked at me and stuck out his tongue. “I have to preach the gospel, man. The New Year is a waste of time and money”
Georgios has a very peculiar face. When you consider any one of his facial features separately, they look grotesque and not very proportionate. But all of them together as a whole make his face weirdly pleasant. It never ceases to amaze me.
“Of course, it’s of value. Many people use it to turn their lives around, for instance. New Year resolutions and all,” I said.
“Oh yeah? I suppose they can’t turn their lives around at any other time? Resolutions made in March are invalid, dead on arrival?”
“Well, I agree with you that one ought to change as soon as he or she sees the need for it. But that doesn’t mean everyone else sees things this way. For many people, the occasion of the New Year is grand enough to warrant this change or even cause it. We as a species appreciate landmarks. Look at a ruler for example. The marks are bigger at some points than others.”
“Wale. That has nothing to do with anything. Those are just for convenience. So you don’t lose track of your count.”
Georgios only calls my name when he’s very happy, very angry or when I’m making a fool of myself
“Hmmmn. You’re right, I take that back. Perhaps special birthdays are a better example. Those jubilee things, you know”
Georgios wasn’t impressed.
“The fact that we don’t share the same calendar makes the whole thing even more ridiculous. The Chinese, The Arabs, The Mayans” he said.
I saw he regretted saying that but I didn’t care.
“That’s not a very good point, George. We’re different people. The fact that almost everyone celebrates some sort of New Year makes it relevant. At the very least, every culture has some idea of a New Year even if it translates into something not quite. Like the New Yam festivals we have in Africa and such.”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re right. I still maintain it’s a pretty stupid idea to celebrate a day for the sake of it.”
“Well, if one were to be as pragmatic and stoic as you are, it’d be a stupid idea to celebrate anything at all”
“Well, I didn’t say I thought it made any sense celebrating anything at all. Some things are just stupider than others.
I knew he didn’t entirely mean this for I could see he was smiling as he sipped his margarita. But he wasn’t finished.
“All other celebrations are anniversaries of some significant event. Like the birth of Christ and even his dying. One could justify remembrance of some heroes who died for their country or some other similar stuff. But the New Year? What significant thing happened on the first first of January?”
“Arguing with a Greek man? I never learn. But consider this, George: I’m staying at home to finish the last twenty pages of the Dostoyevsky I’ve been reading and finally cook the shrimps I bought a month ago. You’re spending your time off out on a yacht with your wife. Now tell me again that the New Year is a waste of time.”
“Oh shut up, Wale. No one says I can’t benefit from the delusions of you mortals. Besides, if I were your boss, you’re not gonna get the day off”
“Oh? Thank God for democracy.”
“Ah, I see what you did there, you scoundrel”
With a chuckle, I raised my glass.
“To the New Year,” I said.
“To the New Year,” he replied.