"New Year's Eve" is a concept piece, written by your beloved website owner, Derek Brink.
Derek first had the idea in about 2005 and it has been through many revisions. In mid 2010, Derek declared it "DONE!" having produced a short libretto and 10 songs. Derek played everything himself--though the drums are largely electronic--and it was kind of a labor of love from moment one.
Derek made the decision early on to release "New Years Eve" as a free digital download through DerekBrink.com (it is also available in jewel-case form, complete with cover and full liner notes, upon request and at gigs). This page is the result of that decision. Below, you will find Derek's full text libretto and the 10-tracks, all for free. You're welcome.
(But of course, the songs and text are all copyrighted and if you steal them and try to pass them off as your own work we'll eat you.)
We've spaced the songs out relative to the most sensible places in the libretto, to encourage you to read the text as well as complete the downloads. At the end of all that, we've included some additional documentation that Derek thought would be good to have on this page, as a supplement to the music and story.
"New Year's Eve"
by Derek Brink
Copyright D. Brink 2010, Work in Progress
(All characters are created and are completely fictional. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is a complete accident, and I'm sorry to hear about it. Also, please be advised that suicide is a stupid, selfish thing, and I don't support it...so don't do that, and don't blame me if someone you know does it... 'Kay? Also, I want to state up front that I owe a world of influence to Nick Hornby's novel "A Long Way Down." I recognize the similarities, and I encourage you to read his book--and pay for it, since you're not paying for this. Thanks. -Derek)
They say that buildings have memories. I've read a couple of novels on the subject. Buildings, they speculate, see more of life than any person ever will. Hospitals see countless births and deaths. Churches see innumerable life-changing moments. Even a ranch-style home sees more than its share of scraped knees, marital spats, divorces, birthdays, sexual entanglements...
I live in a 30 story apartment building. My humble home has its share of memories. This is the place Chloe and I knew would be just-right when we first got married. It's a nice, roomy place, and back then it had room to grow. Good thing, since a few years later we'd have Angela and Becky running around. This apartment has seen a lot. It saw our children arrive. It saw them grow. It saw Angela start bringing home soccer-trophies. We were married on New Year's Eve 1999. We moved in on New Year's Day 2000. A flare for the dramatic, I guess. This place has seen Chloe and I at our happiest...and at our saddest.
In this past year, this old building has seen me lose my job--I was a Literature Professor. Mr. Bush's economy took my job away in April. It has seen my discovery that my job did not provide unemployment benefits. It has seen me get turned down for job after job. It's seen me grow a beard and lose some hope, while gaining weight. It's seen Chloe growing more and more frustrated. Sure, she's a Paralegal and makes good money, but having a once successful husband turn into a leech tends to wear on a woman after some time. It's seen fights. It seen my children worry about if Daddy's going to come back tonight after he walked out, slamming the door. It also saw The Affair. That Chloe and I were so distant that she... Well... Suffice to say that it's seen some things I'd prefer not to remember walking in on. It saw Chloe and the girls leave in September, while I was out on a job interview. It's seen me, reduced to working for tips at a greasy-spoon, puttering around, looking at the few things she left, wondering what she's been telling my daughters.
They say buildings have memories. I wish I didn't. I wish I didn't have the memory of spending Christmas alone, only that stupid damn cat of hers walking around to keep me company. I wish I didn't have the memory of sending Angela and Becky a Christmas Card I knew they would never be given. I wish I could forget the look on her face as she collected the remainder of the girls' things back in November; the force-of-habit coldness in her goodbye wave from the window of the van. I wish I could forget it all. But I can't. I'll remember it for the rest of my life. Fortunately, I do not expect that to be a very long memory.
Soon, before the ink is dry on the divorce papers, Chloe is bound to shack up with Todd (the co-star of The Affair) and my kids are bound to start forgetting. Becky's young enough that she may not even remember my face at all after a couple of years. Angela will, but she will slowly forget my voice--the funny noises I made reading her bedtime stories...etc. Chloe will remember me, but she'll find way to block it out. The only thing that will keep me near to mind is this apartment--this building. It will remember every moment of me cracking open my 12th story window, listening to the last seconds of the New Year's countdown, and plunging to my death--a flare for the dramatic. I'm going to aim for the car belonging to Ms. Paponicolas. Serves her right for calling the police on LAST YEAR'S party. My name's Chris, by the way. Nice to meet you.
The decision itself was easy to make. I was ready. Some people only think they're ready. When Elton John "attempted" suicide, he turned the gas to his oven on "low" and laid his head down on a pillow inside of it, with all of his windows open. He wasn't ready. He just wanted attention. (For the record, I like Elton John, and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" is in my top-five records.) I was ready. My note was genius, even if I do say so myself. I quoted Keats and Longfellow...and Ron Jeremy. The guy may make porn, but he knows how to turn a phrase.
It was short. Only two pages, typed. It was mostly an apology to my children, obviously. And venomous bile toward Chloe. "It's all your fault...blah blah blah...I hope you live a VERY long life since you've so significantly shortened mine...etc." Then I put on my favorite shirt, my favorite jeans, my favorite boots, and...well...you know the rest, I guess.
My last thought, listening to the countdown, was "This is what it's like to be completely free." Odd thought, isn't it? You'd think I'd have some existential weight to deal with, right? I was raised Catholic, after all--and I was still practicing right up until the divorce, unlike most people I knew. Didn't people who committed suicide go to Hell? Didn't the priest tell me that God knows all, controls all, and will never give someone more than he can bear in my last Confessional? Why didn't that matter? Why did it fall on a deaf ear? Shouldn't I have been thinking about that? No. Nothing like it. I just felt free. Free to fly, like I'd always imagined. Somehow, in my mind, I thought it might feel like flying right up until impact.
The clutter of the crowd below was one noise. There were no individual voices or sounds. Just one big clatter. It sounded like any city on New Year's Eve. Except that I was up there in my apartment, singing our songs. The songs that meant something to Chloe and me during the good times. Occasionally stopping to shout "Happy Anniversary, you bitch!" out of the window, hoping she was down there somewhere.
I hoped to make the front page. As much as I hoped Chloe--and that hump Todd she'd had The Affair with--was down there, I hoped even more that she wouldn't hear about it until she opened her morning paper. A nice, piping hot cup of coffee and one of those horrible muffins she liked. Page one, "Teacher Topples from Tower. Wife/Widow Welcomes New Year. Alliteration Grips Newspaper!" It would be beautiful.
...ah the best laid plans of mice and men... (That's Steinbeck. Read a book!)
It hurt, if you're wondering. Of course it did. It was probably the roof of the van caving in that saved my life--and Ms. Paponicolas ruins ANOTHER New Year's Eve. Hindsight's always 20/20. Still, at least her insurance didn't cover suicide jumpers. Something went right, anyway.
You read stories about jumpers who survived in newspapers and books from time to time. I'd read one a few years ago about a guy who jumped off of a bridge into a river, and just as he was in the air--the point of no turning back--he realized that he wanted to live. Of course, if aiming for a van-roof was an ineffective way to kill yourself, then aiming for a RIVER (as long as you can swim) was just a pathetic cry for help. That guy didn't even skin his knees. I dislocated both shoulders, broke my nose and right cheek-bone, irreparably severed a tendon in my left leg, shattered most of my teeth, and suffered the other abrasions and bruises that you'd pretty much expect of a guy plummeting through a van-roof from the twelfth story of a building.
I should have picked a different day, or maybe a quieter street. As it was, there were tons of people around. Plenty of folks to scream and gasp at the sound of the crash, the "thunk" of my body hitting the van, the crushed metal...and The Scream. Even I was shocked by The Scream. It was the sound of the Living. The sound of Life desperate for Life. I struggle to even call it my own voice. It was coming from my lungs, yet wholly separate from me.
I knew almost upon impact that I was going to live, because I was sure I'd pass out roundabout floor eight...but I didn't. I didn't lose consciousness. It just hurt. A lot. I probably drifted in and out with the blood loss, but I was awake when the ambulance got there. I felt them insert the needle to knock me out. Then I woke up in the hospital. It sucked.
It's been seven months of surgery and recovery. There were/are legal ramifications of course, but let's not get into it. All that's really relevant is the choice I had to make. I had three options. (1) Try again. (2) Don't try again, but live in misery. (3) Adapt and overcome. Option #1 was out. The Scream told me that. Option #2 was somewhat to my liking. I've always been a pessimist and a misanthrope. (Chloe preferred the term "sanctimonious-asshole," but I think "misanthrope" sounds classier.) But Option #3 seemed the one thing I hadn't tried.
I've spent most of my life being the person everyone told me to be. My parents told me to be a good student. My high school guidance counselor told me to got to college. My college advisor told me to go into literature and teaching. My job told me to clean out my desk. My wife told me I was distant and unloving. My friends told me I'd become hard to be around. My brain told me to believe them and then told me to jump. My psychiatrist tells me I've got a long road ahead and that I've got to "do the work." My priest tells me to say the Lord's Prayer and I'll be redeemed.
If you or anyone you know is considering suicide as an option, please seek help immediately. If you are unsure of where to turn, please consider contacting one of the following organizations. Life is worth the living.