Friday, December 18, 2009

Prelude to The Best Christmas Eve Ever

To me, nothing says Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, like potting the first amaryllis in early December.  Not too long ago, as I tucked the fist-sized bulb for the soon to be huge, glorious and blood-colored flower, into the drier than dry potting medium, I thought back to the best Christmas Eve ever.  It was twenty some years ago and I was all alone, sort of.

It was a Christmas Eve in the '80's, my first one after graduating college.  My roommate had left to go home for the holidays at noon--his home being Moundsville, West Virginia.  My boyfriend would do the Feast of the Seven Fishes thing with his family that night, then he'd get up early the next morning and drive three hours, way too fast, so we could be together before noon on Christmas Day.   Until then, I would be all alone. 

Around six in the evening, I put on my fluorescent orange winter coat.  I didn't buy it because I was a hunter.  I bought it because it reminded me of high school.  I wore a lot of fluorescent orange in high school.  I told people it was my favorite color but really, I liked the attention it got me.  I liked attention--all kinds.  That's probably why I rubbed Skoal and ate popcorn at the same time at that one party in Old Town.  I never did that again 'cause it made me some kind of sick.

I slipped my feet into my duck boots which were knockoffs of the real ones you can order from Lands End.  I tied the long laces in double bows, then zipped my coat and went outside to inspect the silent night.  I shuffled through the snow, trying to make a solid line with my feet instead of a dotted one.  I stood on the sidewalk at the edge of Route 50 in Fairfax, Virginia.  My breath looked like a diaphonous megaphone.  The street lights seemed to have halos. 

I looked left towards Fairfax Circle, and then right towards Washington D.C..  I couldn't even count a dozen cars on the road.   I squinted, trying to see inside the Dart Drug across the way.  Only the manager was there.  He looked lonely too.

I tilted my head back.  I sighed.  No stars.  City lights and puffy snow clouds concealed any and all heavenly bodies. 

I looked over at the Dart Drug again.  The lights on the Christmas tree in the window winked at me.  It seemed they were flashing to the rhythm of Jingle Bells--Blink, blink, bliiiink.  Blink, blink, bliiink. 

The star on top of the tree was big.  Too big really.  It looked like it was fashioned out of gold foil, studded with yellow mini lights.  As I squinted at the star, it seemed to shoot out light beams.  I had a thought.  "Star light.  Star bright.  First star I see tonight.  I wish I may.  I wish I might.  Have the wish, I wish tonight."  I narrowed my eyes and focused on the star.  "I wish . . . I wasn't alone on Christmas Eve."  I said it out loud, so whoever was in charge would hear me.  I waited.  I expected.  Zilch.

I walked back to my building.  Outside my door, I stomped snow and ice clods onto the coir doormat that proclaimed, "'Tis the season!"  Inside the door, I left a trail of boots, hat, mittens, coat, muffler.  Who cares?

In the kitchen, I watched my reflection in the window as it filled a mug with half water, half skim milk.  The Times Journal cup went into the microwave.  A finger pushed, "Beverage," then "Start."  The reflection leaned against the cabinet.  Drummed fingers on the counter.  Jumped, when the microwave dinged.  Three scoops of International Coffee powder, hazelnut flavor, went into the mug.  The reflection paused its stirring, then added another spoonful of powder. 

I got bored watching my reflection.  It looked tired.  I got out a can of whipped cream.  I shook it, then sprayed in a circle, sculpting an ascending spiral on top of the foam.  I went to put the can back in the fridge.  I looked left and right, as if . . . then opened my mouth and aimed the whipped cream nozzle inside.  I sprayed until it sputtered. 

In the dining area, I sat on a folding chair at the card table.  I hummed, "I'll Be Home for Christmas" in between sips.  When the faux coffee was gone, I ran my finger around the sides of the mug, collecting the hazelnut dregs.  I slurped on my finger as I relocated to the sofa.

I put my feet on the coffee table and stared at the little Christmas tree.  The tree only wore two things--multi-colored lights and white snowflakes.  I'd cut the snowflakes out of a couple sheets of Xerox paper I brought home from work.  I'd get my decorations for next year the weekend after Christmas when "everything must go."  Maybe my boyfriend and I'd get Poinsettias or Mimosas at Sunday brunch before we shopped.  Cocktails always seemed to help us find better bargains.

I stirred my bangs with a puff of air.  If I went to bed now, the night would go faster and the morning would come sooner.  I glanced at the VCR under the tv.  8:30.  Pathetic.  I rocked myself up and off the sofa and headed for my bedroom.

When the phone rang, the noise bounced off the walls.  It sounded sort of like a Salvation Army bell being rung really fast, pause, again.  I thought about not answering it.  Maybe I want to be alone on Christmas Eve, just to know what it feels like, just this once. 


1 comment:

Tony said...

Well who was it that called?


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