New Year eve, or a saga of one Lieutenant

I walked on the path behind the Home, to the woods. The night was freezing. I could feel the icy humid air stick to my uniform. Somebody’s silhouette with a lit cigarette was outlined against a tree. I looked closer and recognized Lieutenant Željko. He was totally drunk. I felt really sorry for him. He was standing there so vulnerable, in the unbuttoned shirt, in deep cold, on that snow-covered New Year’s Eve.
“Sir, you’ll freeze,” I said.
He smiled drunkenly.
“Come closer.”
I came closer to him. He hugged me with his right arm. With his left hand he was trying to bring the cigarette to his lips.
“I’m not cold,” he muttered.
I disentangled from his embrace and ran inside, climbed the staircase up to my room and took out of the drawer my warm burgundy sweater that mom had knitted for me some years ago. Rushing outside, I somehow managed to pull the sweater over the Lieutenant’s head. He protested, but I didn’t pay any attention. I wanted to help him. I didn’t want him to get sick. What’s the point of getting sick when you don’t need to?
He was trying to say something.
“The cunt left,” he finally uttered.
“I don’t understand what you are saying.”
“That shit of a woman, the cunt – left.”
“Sir, she’s not the only woman in the world, don’t get so disturbed about it.”
He was silent. Inhaling the smoke to the top of his lungs.
“She said she’d let me screw her tonight, fuck her stupid!”
“Maybe you hurt her somehow or did something to make her angry.”
He turned to me abruptly.
“Me? How? I bought the tickets for this night, we danced. Then I said we’ll go to my place for a shag, and what happened? She got mad. Why? No idea.”
Actually, it was very clear what had happened, but I couldn’t quite blame the Lieutenant. He looked gorgeous, women were pulling up their skirts for him on the streets, so he was used to having them all available for shagging at all times. Maybe this woman was more reasonable or just different, but at any rate she didn’t like the way he treated her, so she left.
“Sir, I have a plan how to win her back.”
“For real?”
“Yes. Tonight, you will sleep here at the Home because you are very drunk and I don’t want to see your picture in obituaries stuck to the lamp posts of Petrovac.”
“I can drive even more drunk.”
“No, you are not going to, you will stay here tonight,” I was adamant.
He mumbled something I didn’t get.
“Then, tomorrow morning, after a good sleep, you will go home to tidy yourself up. Since everything is closed because of the holidays, I’ll give you a nice bunch of flowers I have upstairs in my room, you’ll bring it to her door and say you’re sorry. She will definitely fall for it.”
He nodded, but stayed outside for at least one more hour. I went back inside to go on with singing and playing.
There was a lot of dancing and singing that night. At least for that one night there was no Evening News on TV announcing nothing good. Satisfied guests were leaving slowly, some of them stumbling. The hall was emptying.
The night came to an end. Exhausted waiters were cleaning up, barely able to walk, with half closed eyes and swollen legs. As for our music instruments, it was agreed we would clear everything up the next day in the afternoon. My musicians went to the barracks to sleep. My two fellow soldiers at the Home had gone to bed a few hours earlier and locked my room so that I couldn’t get any sleep. As much as I banged at the door, they didn’t hear, or didn’t want to. I had been awake for more than thirty hours, arranging the stage, playing and singing and now it seemed I had to be on duty that night. Passing by the mirror, I saw my drained face and red, puffy eyes. I laughed to myself and thought things were not that bad after all. I’ll be on duty, so what? I’m not in the barracks, the world is beautiful, life is beautiful. Around me, everything was messed up, plates, glasses, unburnt candles. The stench of cigarettes from the unemptied ashtrays was disgusting.
I went to the bathroom, washed my face with cold water and instantly felt better. Then I made a strong, black coffee.
I heard him come in. Lieutenant Željko was tumbling, his face frost bitten. I firmly gripped his waist and led him along the staircase to the room on the second floor. The room had already been warmed up for him. The lit lamp radiated soft yellow light. A bottle of water was on the bedside table in case he got thirsty. While we were climbing the stairs, he came around a bit and said he had to go to the washroom. I was waiting for him on the other side of the door. He must have been running his fingers through his hair with cold water. Drunk as he was, he had never looked better. His shirt was unbuttoned and my sweater that I had pulled over him earlier that night to protect him from the icy air was turned upside down, hanging on one shoulder. His hair was wild, all over his head. His half-closed intoxicated eyes were shining in the mild light of the corridor.
“Now to bed, Sir,” I said.
“Yes… yes,” he mumbled.
I covered him with a bed sheet and a blanket, didn’t want to put a duvet on, for he would be too hot.
“Sleep well,” I said turning off the lamp. The darkness that fell in that moment made the lamp post bulb shine through, right there in front of the window. Its light outlined the room and the Lieutenant’s face, half asleep but with eyes open.
“Good night.” I was on my way out.
He motioned to me to come closer to him.
“Yes?” I said quietly.
“Lie down next to me, just for a minute.” His voice sounded strange.
I knew he was drunk, I knew he was sad. I was sorry for him. And compassionate. I also knew that what he said was nonsense and that it would be even more nonsense if I did what he asked for, but I couldn’t deny the favour, for there was something about him that I liked.
I lay down next to him.
What ensued was more funny than erotic.
The Lieutenant turned towards me, grabbed my butt really hard, took me close to him and kissed me full on the mouth, with all his strength. Once. That was it. The next moment he was snoring deeply.
I left the room. Sipped the coffee.
I sat down at the reception desk. Dawn was making its appearance through the windows of the Home.
Everybody was sleeping.
“Happy New Year,” I sent a mental message, “to all of you I love.”
Happy New Year.