Kainano walked into the surf. The water frothed around his knees as the slight drizzle fell from warm Samoan night. And I wondered why I’d agreed to do this. The best party of the year was in full stride up in Falealupo, and here I was, standing by the sea with a guy I’d met just a few hours earlier.
Well, I was standing by the sea. He was standing in the sea. And I knew that I would either join him or end up envying him for it. I’d known from the moment he’d told me he was leaving the party early. We’d been having a pleasant chat right up to that point, just another girl and another boy who met at a party.
“Why are you leaving?” I asked. “The party is just getting good. And it’s about forty-five minutes until the countdown.”
“I need to be somewhere else. It’s a little tradition I have.”
“Where? What could be more traditional than counting down to the new year with all your friends?” I’d been speaking to him for just ten minutes and already he’d been approached by six separate people who just wanted to say ‘hi’.
“I want to be the last man in 2011.”
As I was getting into his jeep, a tiny, battered Suzuki of some description, I thought about what I was doing. I wasn’t the kind of girl who’d normally jump into the car of some guy I’d just met to drive out onto a deserted beach. But from what I’d heard, this might be the opportunity of a lifetime. I suppose the punch was helping things along as well.
“Explain it to me again,” I said. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t wasting my time — after all, Cristobal would probably put in an appearance at the party I was about to abandon.
He put the car into gear and pointed the nose down the road that circled the island, heading towards the southwest, driving in the leisurely fashion that all the natives employed.
“Samoa is the last country on the Eastern side of the International Date Line. We are the country that celebrates New Year’s the latest. Every other country in the world reaches twelve o’clock before we do.” He glanced at his watch. “It’s 11:30 now. Paris, Rome, New York, Sydney, they all celebrated the New Year Hours ago. But we’ll celebrate in just a few minutes.”
He stopped the car on a slightly muddy patch on the side of the road and beckoned me to follow him. His flashlight illuminated a dark tunnel, a path between the trees, and then we came out onto the beach. It was a small, sandy strip. “This is the western-most beach on the island,” he said. “We’re almost on the tip. There is no piece of land in the entire western hemisphere that is closer to the Date Line than we are.”
“Where’s the Date Line?” I asked.
He pointed into the sea. “Out there somewhere. That’s not important. When it gets to be twelve in Falealupo, we’ll still have some seconds or minutes before it gets to be twelve here. We’ll be the last people in 2011.”
“How long would we have?”
“According to the government, no time at all — the entire country is supposed to be on one official time. But I know that the further west you go, the earlier it is. So maybe we have some seconds or some minutes. I don’t care how much the exact time is. I just love knowing that there are six billion people in one year, and only I am in another.”
He handed me the flashlight to pull off his sandals. Off in the distance, the fireworks from Falealupo — probably from the party we’d just vacated — could be seen through the overcast.
“What if someone is on a boat?” I asked.
“Who would be on a boat? It’s New Year’s Eve!”
It was then that he splashed into the water. According to my watch, there were less than thirty seconds to twelve. I stood and stared at him.
“Well, are you coming or not?”
I hated him for a second. If he hadn’t come up with this story, I would have been at the party, counting down the last ten seconds instead of wondering whether being the last girl in 2011 was worth it. I wondered whether it was just some elaborate pickup line he used with a different tourist girl every year. Maybe Samoa wasn’t even as far west as he claimed.
“You still have a few seconds,” he said.
I hesitated. This was completely crazy. But then I remembered where I was. Hadn’t I come out here to get away from the small insecurities that made my life so dull?
I ran in, trying to flip my shoes off before getting in the water, but one of them was abandoned in the surf. I stood right beside him, “3… 2… 1…” and turned to face him. “Happy new year.”
“Not yet. Not for a few more minutes.”
So we waited in silence, knowing that the world had moved on without us. That while six billion people had taken the next step, we still had a few minutes left to think on the year that passed.
“Thank you for this,” I said.
He didn’t respond, but that was all right.
Gustavo Bondoni writes way too many stories, but he enjoys it, so that’s OK. His work wanders all over the genres, and occasionally into mainstream. Some of it even gets published.