Let me first start out by saying I love going to the gym, and this is NOT a blog post about being annoyed at how crowded my gym is right now. I repeat, I am not blogging a rant about New Year’s Resolutioners going to my gym and taking up all my warm up weights, elliptical, treadmills, and bikes. I mean, come on, 92% of them won’t even be here in a couple months!
Okay it was a little about ranting. Thanks for letting me vent there. Anyways, this post is kind of about New Years, but it’s actually about chaos and not being eaten by wolves. Let me explain.
I approached this post thinking about what New Year’s means to me, and I found myself, as usual, going back in time to help get my thoughts together. New Year’s means a lot of things to a lot of different people. For some it’s welcoming in the unknown, for others it’s new beginnings, and then there are those who get SUPER excited over sowing barley. There was, however, one thing about New Year’s I found permeated all of the celebrations and ceremonies of both the past and today.
New Year’s day is a milestone. Not only is it a milestone, it’s one that all people, no matter their faith or status, could collectively look forward to. Sure, some calendars put it at slightly different times, but regionally, it was always something people could count on happening, and when it did happen, people then and now took time to stop what they were doing and say, “Holy shit, neighbor, we made it. We fucking made it. Remember that other neighbor who was killed by wolves last year? Yea he didn’t make it, but we did.”
This also came with some measure of thanking the gods, getting drunk, having relations, or dressing up like dragons, but at the end of the day, it was all about celebrating getting through life and touching the “New Year” flag. And for that, I say to all my friends and readers, high five guys! We didn’t get eaten by wolves!
As I said before, I read up on a couple ancient civilizations to get some sense of what people back then thought when New Year’s came to mind. The Babylonians stood out to me during my research, simply because their New Year’s, known as Akitu, lasted twelve days! Can you imagine 12 days of New Year’s? Insane! Anyways, aside from praising their god, one thing they took time to do was, as a community, appreciate journeying forward into the unknown. They took time from their plans, their lives, their ideals and just said, “Shit, I might be eaten by wolves tomorrow, I better just take a minute and let that sink in.” So it inspired me to write this little story. It’s my gift to you. Happy belated New Year!
My heart pounded with every thump of my sandals. I pushed through the surging crowds, hot bodies crashing against each other like waves on the sea. There was a boat at the docks ahead filled with my friends and fellow actors, and they were waiting for me. I pulled my ceremonial robes up to keep them from getting any dustier. Out of all the days of the year, the twelve days of Akitu were by far the most fun and by far the filthiest.
I felt the people of Kish press against me, I grunted as I shoved them aside.
If the boat left without me, it would mean spending four hours walking back to my district within the city and having to celebrate with total strangers.
I wiggled past a rotund merchant, the thought of being alone in the city increasing my urgency. My prop sword and shield dug into my chest as I pulled them close. Just as I got past him, I felt a resistance around my neck.
Along with my sword and shield, I also had a mask, a straw and mud representation of the city’s patron god Zababa hanging down my back by a piece of twine. This same twine was the thing digging into my skin, jerking me back. I choked, twisting, and saw that I had caught it on the merchant’s mantle. I frantically yanked the costume piece free, stumbling backwards on the dirt path.
The merchant, drunk off of wine and the festivities, did not fare so well. Like a massive boulder he fell backward towards me. I hopped out of the eclipsing shadow forming around me just in time to see him plop to the ground, his cup of wine splashing in a red wave over his face.
Free again, I spun and ran, faster and harder than before. The merchant’s curses buffeted my back and, I broke out in a sprint.
My run became a blind panic. Now someone angry with me knew my face. I couldn’t be stuck here. I felt someone slam into my shoulder. This time, I could not stay up, and fell as the man’s weight dropped onto me. My hip slammed into the ground and I groaned from the sharp pain. I scrambled up, ready to continue my dash when I realized my mask was gone. I turned back just in time to see the man roll over onto it, Zababa’s visage flexing under his weight. I rushed forward to wrench it free, only to be restrained by several hands.
“Watch out boy, the fellow has a knife!”
I looked to my right, and saw another man, eyeing the fellow on my shield with a small blade in his hand.
The nearby crowd surged forward. My mask disappeared under the feet of those moving to help the fallen man up, as well as those going to apprehend the knife wielder. I had no way to my prop and sighed. I would be chastised by the other actors, but I had to reach my boat.
I began to turn; two eyes, the color of sun baked pottery, stopped me. She stood like a pillar of silent beauty among the commotion. My heart slammed into the bones of my chest, sped up by her full, smooth lips and lightly toasted skin. She knelt out of sight and my heart dropped with her; to find such a beautiful girl, only to lose her in the crowd, had rocked me to the core.
Perhaps I would have stayed there an eternity to get another glimpse of her, but the boat, my acting troupe, still pulled. I turned and pushed once again through the crowd. It began to thin out for a moment and I took advantage of it, sprinting towards the dock. I slid and shoved my way, smelling the cool, tart stench of river rock in my nostrils. With one last shove, I pushed through a group of observers to the small wooden dock where my boat would be waiting.
The small grass boat, filled with my friends, meandered down the river, barely twenty feet from me, the dock, and any hope of catching them. My heart sunk for the second time that day.
My sword and shield fell out of my hands to the mud. Four hours. I had a four hour walk ahead of me. With a defeated huff, I bent down and retrieved my props.
I started to stand, when something appeared overhead, blocking the sun from my eyes. I looked up to find Zababa’s face hovering above me. Except, it was not the face I’d seen in the paintings, but an approximation, crafted of straw and mud.
I jumped back a step, light giggles flowed into my ears from behind the mask. There, standing before me, was the girl I’d seen before. She dropped the mask down from her face and stared at me with her magnificent eyes.
“I thought you might want this,” she said, then looked down river. “Your boat?”
I took the mask from her and looped it back on my neck, nodding.
“What will you do now?” She asked.
A thought flew through my mind. Four hours. Four hours to do whatever I wanted, with no one looking for me, or needing me, now that I’d missed the boat.
I couldn’t help the smile.
It was met by a smile on her face.
I made one last silent New Year prayer to Marduk, king among the gods. But a few days ago we had prayed for protection from the coming chaos of the future. At this moment however, I wished for nothing more than a little chaos.