January 1st, 1983
Fourteen year old Phoebe Buffay was standing in the middle of a crowd of people, wearing a torn brown coat, knitted hat, mismatched red gloves and carrying a guitar. While she was surrounded by people, she had never felt more alone. 1982 had been the worst year of her young life. Actually, that wasn't completely true. Her life had been okay, sure it was dysfunctional. Her father had left when she was born, her stepdad was in prison and it was just her, her sister Ursula and her mother. She had never really gotten along with Ursula, the two were so different, but they were still a family. But then came that horrific Christmas a week earlier. She had been outside, hanging out with her friend, Leslie on Leslie's porch. They were working on music together. It was their passion, they wrote folk music about random things going on in their lives and sang and played guitar. They were both self taught. It was getting cold and Leslie's mom came out onto the porch to tell them that it was dinner time and that soon ended their jam session. Leslie's mom invited her to stay but Phoebe felt that she needed to go home. She, Ursula and her mom had a Christmas dinner tradition. The three blonde women would sit together, watch movies and eat. They would sing songs and talk about resolutions for the new year. It was Phoebe's favorite time of the year.
But that year, when she approached her house, the scene was different. There was yellow police tape blocking the house. Ursula was standing by an ambulance, talking to a police officer and that's when Phoebe saw her. Her mother being carried out on a stretcher, dead. She felt nauseous. She noticed Ursula point at her and the police officer approached her and began to speak to her. There were words coming out of his mouth. Words that felt jumbled. Her mother had committed suicide and her life at that moment would never be the same. The next few days went by in a fog. She and Ursula exchanged a few words. She spent much of her time locked in her room, alone. There were some discussions as to where Phoebe and Ursula would live because after all the two girls were still minors. But Phoebe didn't want to live with anyone. There had been talk of foster parents and orphanages but she did not want that so the day after her mother's funeral, she packed what she could and left. Ursula didn't stop her and now as the clock was ticking down to 1983, Phoebe still had no clue where Ursula was or if anyone was looking for her. She had not eaten in two days and had been wandering the streets of New York, freezing in her large brown coat. It was one of the coldest winters in New York history and Phoebe could feel the frost in every part of her bones.
She tried to focus on the happiness around her but it just made her sad. These people had homes, families to go back to and she was hungry. She had left without saying a word to anyone. She turned and began walking through the crowds of people. She was invisible to the people around her. No one seemed to pay much attention to the girl who looked like she belonged to no one. She found an empty table in front of a restaurant and sat down. She pulled out a pad of paper from her pocket and began to write. That was her salvation. She wrote what she saw, what she felt. It made her feel whole again or at least as whole as one who had lost everything could feel.
At the table next to her, she noticed a boy with longish black hair. He was grinning and had his arm draped around a girl sitting next to him. There were lots of girls surrounding him. He was wearing tight jeans, white shirt and a black leather coat. Phoebe smiled at him. He seemed to be about her age.
:"So how you doin'?" The boy asked one of the girls sitting next to him. Phoebe smiled as she watched him.
"You are so cute, Joey," the girl said.
"I know. It's a gift. By the way, I was thinking you and me, we ring in 1983 in a very special way. If you know what I mean..."
Phoebe rolled her eyes and let out a snort. She could not believe this boy was saying these words. How could any girl believe him. He seemed more like a pimp, a weird underaged pimp.
"Oh, I know what you mean. That would be totally rad," the girl said.
"Wait, what about me?" Another girl asked. "I did all your homework last semester. You promised me a reward."
"Are you still gonna do my homework?" The boy asked.
"Of course...but I do get my reward, right?" The girl asked.
"Oh, of course," the boy grinned as both girls moved towards him and sat on his lap.
"Oh my G-d," Phoebe said, a little too loudly which made both girls and the boy turn towards her.
"What?" Girl number one asked.
"Oh, gross...you're dirty. You like need to bathe," Girl number two said..
Phoebe smiled as she took a deep breath.
"Well, invite me to your home and I'll take a bath," Phoebe grinned.
"Huh? That makes no sense," Girl number one said.
"What school do you go to, Dirty Girl?" The boy asked.
Phoebe smiled again. While she thought the two girls hanging onto this boy were ridiculous, she could see the pull. He was cute. He seemed friendly, too.
"Um...I um...I'm...I'm homeschooled," Phoebe offered.
"Oh, that's awesome. I wanna be home schooled. I bet that would be cool. I could teach some lessons," the boy said.
"Yeah," Phoebe said as a waitress walked towards the boy's table with plates of food and began to place them on the table. She looked longingly at the food. She was starving. Her stomach growled. She was thankful for the noise surrounding her so that no one could hear the growling.
"You look weird," Girl number two said.
Phoebe rolled her eyes again. "Just hungry."
"You want some food?" The boy asked.
"I thought Joey didn't share food," Girl number one said.
"I know, but um...take some," Joey said.
Phoebe was taken aback by the hint of concern in his eyes. It had been so long since anyone had shown some concern towards her that it felt strange. It was as if this boy was seeing right through her. It was as if he knew, but how did he know? There was no way this boy could know. Phoebe could tell by the fact that he was surround by girls hanging onto him that this was not a boy who knew true loneliness or that knew true pain. She got up and walked towards his table. The two girls glaring at her, while still holding on to Joey as if letting go would cause him to somehow disappear. Phoebe picked up the plate of mozzarella sticks and looked at him.
"Thank you," Phoebe said.
"So weird," girl number one said.
Phoebe didn't respond, just took the plate and spilled the contents into the bag she was carrying. She turned and began to walk off. She was halfway down the street when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Joey, standing before her.
"Are you okay?" He asked. "Where do you live?"
"Um...over there," Phoebe said.
"Okay...it's just...how old are you?" Joey asked.
"Fourteen," Phoebe said.
"Me too. But...you wanna join my friends and I?"
"I'm fine. Happy New Year," Phoebe said feeling really uncomfortable under this boy's gaze. She could hear the countdown behind her and knew she had to leave. He kept staring at her, but not with the look he was giving his female fans but with a look of deep concern. She knew she looked ridiculous, dirty and sad. What would she say to this boy? He wouldn't get it. Phoebe imagined that he lived in a large home with a large family. He would be returning to his warm home filled with happy noises while she looked for some place to rest her head and remain warm. He would have no clue. He couldn't have any clue. "I have to go," she managed to sputter out and with that, she disappeared through the crowds, running and suddenly people began cheering, singing, kissing each other, ringing in 1983. She kept running, the invisible fourteen year old with no one. She kept running until she found an alley behind the library and sat. She pulled the now cold mozzarella sticks out of her bag and began to eat. As she ate, she could feel the tears begin to fall fast. When she was little, she had dreamt of big things for her life but now there she was, ringing in the new year, cold and alone with no where and no one to turn to. When she was done eating, she took off her jacket and covered herself with it. She leaned her head back against the brick wall and closed her eyes, trying her best to ignore the cold and wondering what she would do to make it through tomorrow.