Please note: this story was provided by the author and published as is.
I just wanna get this over with.
You should wake up – we gotta go upstairs.
Tim is young enough that this still excites him. Especially the presents. I don’t even care about that part anymore. I hate this whole day. I hate eating the same pancakes, I hate the snowy landscape out my window, and I don’t wanna see another stich of wrapping paper. And that song I swear to God I…
“HoHoHo, Merry Christmas young tots! Have you been good boys this year?!”
“Oh come on… where’s your Christmas cheer?! You know what happens to naughty kids…”
I plaster a smile on my face but it’s as fake as the tree. Fuck this day. Fuck the tree. And Fuck that stupid Santa costume.
“That’s more like it! Just because you’re a teenager now doesn’t mean you’re too big for Christmas! Isn’t that right ‘ma!”
‘Ma nods vigorously as she continues to sing along and pour more batter into the piping hot pan.
I can tell Tim’s hungry – he’s staring over at ‘ma waiting for the moment when she plops a fluffy cake down on his plate and lathers it with butter, syrup, whipped cream, and fruit.
He’ll come to hate this meal just like me.
When the food is finally on our table Tim looks to me for approval. I know he wants to be on my side. He looks up to me. But I’m not gonna stand in the way of a kid and his food. I nod toward his plat in approval.
Tim dives in, shoveling food into his mouth faster than he can actually chew it. I watch him intently as I slowly place small cut up bites into my own mouth.
Maybe I should encourage him more to like this day. He sees how much I hate it and I know it’s rubbing off on him. But maybe he can have an easier time than me if he just embraces all that this is supposed to be. Not just this day but this house this family. It’s not changing.
Just beyond Tim is the kitchen and I find my gaze shifting toward the window above the sink, even though I don’t want to look. It’s like I physically can’t help but go through the motions. It’s a picturesque scene that many people dream of and what I imagine Bing Crosby and his comrades were singing about on that train to Vermont – snow, snow, snow. Big billowing trees covered in while and hill after hill dusted with snow – the kind that call young children to sled on them and build snowmen at their bases. But I hate it. I want to tear at the curtains and smash the glass.
I can feel the anger bubbling up inside me. I can feel it deep in my chest and behind my eyes. It’s warm and pulsating. I pull my eyes from the window and stare back down at my plate, watching the syrup move and create small pools that I drag around with my fork.
“Hurry up boys! Teo more bites – we have presents waiting!”
I choke down another bite. And then another. The cake feels dry and rough against my throat, so I use water to coax it down.
In the living room shiny red, green and silver boxes are stacked beneath the artificial tree. But we won’t get to unwrap them yet… not before…
“Ok family, gather round so I can tell you the real story of Christmas…”
That thing that was bubbling up in me is now screaming. But it doesn’t feel like it used to. With every scream I think it dies a little. I die a little. I feel so disconnected from it all … like I’m here… but I’m not here. My body’s here and I will open the football that I’ll never toss around, the game control for a system that’s wildly out of date, the movie that I never asked for… all in that order. But in my head, I’m anywhere but here. Some days I imagine a blank nothingness for that feels better than this. But today I imagine outside. If I’m right, it’s June. It’s probably sunny and warm and green. So green. Not wrapping paper green – fresh grass green. I imagine my old bike – bare feet on the bumpy plastic pedals. Wind. It’s a stupid thing to spend so much time thinking about, but I think about wind. I don’t get any wind here. It’s this thought that pulls me back to my reality. It feels hard to breathe the air heavy and stale and… old. How long have I been breathing this same air? The answer that populates my mind cause a lump in my throat and a stinging at the corner of my eyes Cause the truth is… I don’t know anymore.
After we open presents and watch the movie… When they put us back in the basement… I’ll add another tik mark to the floor beneath my bed. But I don’t know if it’s even right. Could I really have been here 429 days? Or have we just played Christmas morning 429 times? Sometimes I think they leave us down there for longer, but I don’t know how long.
Maybe it’s not June… Maybe it really is the most wonderful time of the year.