Friday, December 9, 2011

*Prelude to the Best Christmas Ever*


It was a Christmas Eve in the 80s, my first one after college.  My roommate had headed home for the holidays at noon—his home being Moundsville, West Virginia.  My boyfriend would celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes with his family that night, then he'd get up early the next morning and drive three hours, probably way too fast, so we could be together before noon on Christmas Day.  
            Around six that evening, I wiggled into my winter coat.  Slipped my feet into duck boots which were knockoffs of the real ones you can order from Lands’ End. I tied the long laces in double bows, tucked a scarf around my throat, and ventured outside to inspect the silent night. 
            Out in the cold, I shuffled through the snow. Tried to make a solid line with my feet instead of a dotted one.  As I balanced on the curb at the edge of Route 50 in Fairfax, Virginia, my breath seemed like a diaphanous megaphone.  Go team, I breathed. I mean, go me. Nowhere. I lifted my chin. The street lights each had halos.  Rainbowy. Shimmery.
            I faced left toward Fairfax Circle then right toward Washington D.C..  I began to count cars. One. Two. Three.  Big gap. That one turned before it passed me. I waved at the fourth one.  Five minutes later I abandoned the car count.
            I squinted across the way. Tried to see inside the slightly fogged windows of the Dart Drug.  Only the manager was there.  He looked lonely too. Even with a Santa hat on.
            I tilted my head back.  Sighed.  No starsCity lights and puffy snow clouds concealed any and all heavenly bodies. 
            I glanced over at Dart Drug again.  The lights on the Christmas tree in the window winked at me.  Seemed to flash the rhythm of Jingle Bells--Blink, blink, bliiiink.  Blink, blink, bliiink. 
            The star on top of the drugstore tree was big.  Too big really.  It looked like it was fashioned out of gold foil, studded with yellow mini lights.  As I stared at its five points, 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 intently on the star.  "I wish . . . 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 plodded back to my building.  Outside my door I stomped snow and ice clods onto the coir doormat that proclaimed, "'Tis the season!"  Inside the apartment I left a trail of hat, boots, mittens, muffler, coat. 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 disappeared inside the microwave.  A finger pushed Beverage then Start.  The image girl leaned against the cabinet.  Drummed her fingers on the counter.  Startled when the microwave dinged.  Three scoops of International Coffee powder, hazelnut flavor, went into the mug.  The reflection paused its stirring. Tasted. Added another spoonful of mix.  Hummed a song from Mary Poppins.
            I tilted my head at image girl. She seemed tired. Or sad. Before she turned away.

            I opened the fridge and grinned.  "You’re still here," I said to the can of whipped cream.  I shook it then sculpted an ascending spiral on top of the steaming foam.  I took a step toward the fridge, whipped topping in hand. I paused. Glanced left and right. As if. I giggled and opened wide. Aimed the whipped cream nozzle at my uvula and sprayed until it sputtered. 
            In the dining area, I sank into one of the two folding chairs beside the card table.  Hummed "I'll Be Home for Christmas" in between sips of fake coffee.  When it was gone, I swirled my finger around the inside of the mug to collect the hazelnut dregs.  Slurped my finger as I relocated to the sofa.
            I plopped my feet on the Ikea coffee table and stared at our tiny flashing Christmas tree in the corner.  It wore only two things—multi-colored lights and white snowflakes.  I'd snipped the snowflakes out of a couple sheets of Xerox paper I brought home from work. 
            "Note to self, " I said to the empty room. "Get Christmas decorations for next year. Real ones."  Maybe boyfriend and I'd order Poinsettias or Mimosas at Sunday brunch before we shopped.  Cocktails always seemed to help us locate better bargains.
            I stirred my bangs with a puff of air.  If I went to bed now, night would go faster and  morning would come sooner.  I glanced at the VCR under the TV.  Not even nine o’clock.  Pa-thetic.  I rocked myself up and off the sofa and headed back to my bedroom.
            I was stepping out of my jeans when the phone rang. I straightened, one leg in, one leg out of my pants. The clanging ricocheted around the room.  Sounded sort of like a Salvation Army bell being rung really fast, pause, really fast.  I considered not answering it.  Maybe I want to be alone on Christmas Eve, just to know what it feels like, just this once. 
            "Hello?"


3 comments:

sandbox gems said...

Not too far from where I live! Great post! I gave you a blog award. You can check it out on my blog when you get a chance!

writingdianet said...

Hi, Kim. This is so fun. So exciting. Thank you so much. I'm going to do my best to share the love:) Merry Christmas, friend!

Catherine said...

I thought "I stirred my bangs with a puff of air" was very charming and a great visual.

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