The fog horn grunted its sole note, a kind of sound that embodied warning and mourning simultaneously. The noise seemed to echo around the thick fog, giving it an indistinct direction. There was an impatient quality about the sound as well, and I wondered how someone had managed to create a single note that conveyed so much. I sat on the cliff in front of the house and shivered. Then again, it was winter. Christmas had just fallen in behind me as I journeyed to the new year, and here it was upon me. The dank winter air was thick all over Long Island Sound, thick from the cold, thick from the moisture, thick from the fog. Thick.
In another half hour I would hear noises in the night, looming from the fog from all directions. The sounds of people beating pots and pans, the occasional firecracker, and a chorus of hoots and hollars from the revelers celebrating the arrival of the new year or the ending of the old one. In pools of warmth created by collected bodies, sipping cocktails and laughing, dancing, and ecuding warmth like little heat engines, people would engage in new year kisses, handshakes and claps on the back. Of course, I would also hear snippets of the song sung every time the year changed. I grew up calling it Old Lang Zine and knew only the first line of it, a perplexing thing about forgetting old acquaintances.
The Sound was fairly calm. I could hear the bell on the channel buoy give off half-hearted clanks. Below me, waves whispered up onto the sand and splashed on the rocks in a repetitious song with no lyric. It was a different way to experience the water. It’s visual presence was always assured; the water consumed 180 degrees of what I could see from our house. But blinded by the fog and fooled by the degeneralizing of sound made it somehow familiar and strange at the same time. I shivered, feeling the chill, and gave thought to going back into the house. My family was in there, no doubt bringing out the champagne and getting ready to toast one another as midnight came. I turned in my seat, a bus bench that my mother had found in some out of the way place and had set on the cliff. Unlike the water, the house was crisp in detail. Windows cast a golden glow that was cheery and inviting, the perimeters of the windows sparkling with holidays lights that blinked their random tattoo of color. Wreaths still centered in the windows; like the holiday lights they would vanish tomorrow, finding their way into basement storage.
I got up and walked to the back door. I paused a moment and looked back over my shoulder to where I knew the water of the Sound was hiding and listened to one more honking blatt of the horn before stepping into the warmth. In the next room I heard my family bubbling with laughter, chitter-chattering excitedly about nothing. They spied me coming into the room and smile widely, holding out their arms and beckoning to come and be embraced. It was easy to get caught up in the conversations –it was almost a surprise when we heard the clangs and booms and caucaphony of noisemaking that heralded mindnight. Champage was poured, glasses clinked and sipped.