I'm not gonna cry, I'm not gonna cry.... He kept repeating the phrase over and over again inside his head. If he repeated it often enough, he'd forget about the pain. He was too old to cry. But he wasn't too old to hurt. He rubbed the vicious red circle, as small as the end of a cigarette, on his arm and wished the pain would stop. Maybe putting ice on it would help. He debated for a moment, then decided against it. Sneaking downstairs to the freezer would take him right past her. And besides, what if she went for ice for her drink while he was in the kitchen? Better to stay in his room, as ordered. The pain would go away, eventually. The pain always went away, eventually.
He sat in the dark, listening to the hollow sound of faraway celebrations coming from the old lady's TV set downstairs. He wasn't old enough to stay up all night on New Year's Eve. Not yet. He wasn't sure he even wanted to. What was the point, really? His father worked overtime, swamped by the crowds in Times Square. The old lady sat up a few extra hours, staring listlessly at the small black & white TV screen, drinking herself into even more of a stupor than usual. They call this a holiday? She made resolutions, the same as everybody else, but she never made any that really mattered (like to stop drinking, or to stop beating her kids). And she never kept any of them.
I'm never gonna be like that, he thought. Then he laughed. He'd made a New Year's resolution in spite of himself. Well, if he was going to do this, he might as well do it right. He sat in the dark and made a list inside his head, where no one could ever find it. He'd be the only one to ever know about it. I'm not going to be a drunk. I'm not going to lift a finger to any kid. And if I catch anyone hurting any kid, I'm gonna teach 'em a lesson. I'm not just gonna stand by and let 'em get away with it. Four resolutions, in no particular order. He repeated them over and over to himself, until the pain went away....