The midnight kiss. The shining one. River stones.

For years now, I have considered myself to be a romantic person at heart. Sometime around the age of 17, I started to love the idea of being in love, of having that one person who is yours, who watches out for you, holds your hand. The special one. I don’t think anything really captures it quite as well as an experience I had with an ex-boyfriend. He and I had broken up years earlier, and our lives had long since drifted apart. I had been married and divorced in the meantime, and all hope of the two of us ever being together had evaporated a long time ago. But one night, we got together after not having seen each other for a year or two, and we went to see a movie. I remember being in the lobby of the theatre, waiting for him to get out of the bathroom. I remember looking at the heads. The hairs on the heads of the people milling around. When there are a lot of people, sometimes all you can see are the tops of the heads. And I remember the moment when, in the crowd, I saw the special one. The others were gray and dim. This one was bright and shining like the sun. This was the one I was looking for. For the night, this one was mine.

Every year, at 11:59pm on December 31, if you have someone who is yours, you count down from 10 and when midnight hits: A kiss. The idea of the midnight kiss is a lovely one. It’s not just any kiss. It’s a special kiss. It says, “Of all the world, I want to start my year with you. You are mine.”

Of all the couples who kissed at midnight this year, it would be interesting to see some kind of graph or chart that shows how much of the new year they actually spend together. Some will stay together for a long time. They’ll kiss each other at midnight again next year, and for years to come. Some couples will only last another few months before their lives drift apart. The memory of their midnight kiss will linger for a while and then fade as other, newer kisses replace it.

There are a few times during the year when your singleness is pointed out to you by the world. The world doesn’t want you to be single. “Be coupled,” it says. Buy that special gift at Christmastime. Eat a romantic dinner on Valentine’s Day. Kiss someone at midnight on New Years. But sometimes, when the clock counts down at 11:59, you look around you and none of the heads in the room are yours. All the faces are gray. None of them shine brightly like the sun. You look around, and you feel the sense of “missing-ness”.

Not this year. This year was different. I looked around, and instead of seeing a sea of gray faces and lamenting the lack of my shining one, I saw a river. A river of time that flows, and twists, and brings people together and apart, and together and apart, like so many stones, rolling along the bottom of the riverbed. The thing about the river stones, is that they are not “halves of stones”, waiting to be connected to each other. They are whole. All by themselves. There was only one midnight kiss in the room where I counted down last night. Two of the river stones were rolling close last night. But the rest of us, who had no kiss: We are whole. And we roll into 2012, ready to see where the river takes us next.

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