It’s Christmastime. I’m wearing oversized Halloween pajama pants—orange ones patterned with ghosts—and a 99-cent Santa hat. I spilled sweet and sour sauce on the shirt I was wearing and threw it in the washer. I’m cold without it, but the blanket in my living room feels good on my skin, so I suffer. My apartment smells like the pumpkin spice candle I bought on clearance at Target. I have a $5 bottle of wine at my side.
I imagine I look like a sad patchwork doll, a skinny, shirtless, drunken Ragged Andy tossed onto a couch, abandoned and unwanted.
This is me at 27. When I was younger, I imagined I’d be a dad when I was 27. I imagined that on Christmas I’d be assembling some impossibly intricate tricycle for my daughter. Instead, I’m alone in the dark, watching muted Christmas movies, listening to Sinatra, eating the Number Nine Special from Chinatown Takeout.
I live in Loring Park, just a couple of blocks away from horse-drawn carriages, in walking distance to department store winter wonderlands, and moments from families enjoying Holidazzle. The world around me is abuzz with holiday cheer and winter romances. I’m sick with envy.
My mind drifts away and my ex-boyfriend, Bradley, is kissing me. He’s the only man I’ve ever loved. He tells me that I’m beautiful, that he’s lucky. I feel him caress my face with those rough hands of his. I’m lost in his blue eyes. I smell him. I feel safe in his arms.
He fades away. The reverie is a painful one.
I stand up and walk into my kitchen for a cookie—I have a dozen chocolate chip from Lund’s. I stick one in the microwave and pour myself a glass of milk. I jump up on my countertop and look around my apartment. It looks untouched, devoid of personal affects, which is the way I wanted it—I wanted to avoid anything sentimental around my house, afraid that any warmth would make me want more. My friends and acquaintances call it gorgeous. I call it soulless.
My mind wanders again and my concrete floors transform into carpet, a Christmas tablecloth covers my dining table, and on it, ham, turkey, candied yams, and apple pie. Friends and family fill my apartment and everyone is busy, fussing, laughing, gossiping. Kids surround a Christmas tree and beg to open presents. And there’s a man, whose face I can’t make out, standing in front of me, his hands around my waist, pressing his lips onto mine.
The microwave beeps, the mirage dissolves, and my rigid apartment reappears. This? This is my home?
With the exception of my Aunt Barbara, my friends are all I have. My friends are my family, but it’s not the same around the holidays. They have families of their own—real families. They fly away for Christmas. I stay here.
I’m single with no family. I’m unwanted and pathetic.
I break down. My cheeks start throbbing, my face turns red. I’m not cold anymore. I’m hot. I’m burning up. My body’s on fire. My nose runs. Tears well up and I can’t see through them. I feel sick to my stomach. My ears tingle. My fingers numb. I want to scream. I’m going to explode.
I hold my stomach, trying to gut out my pain, but can’t. I run to my back door. I run outside into the snow, barefoot. I’m dying, drowning and burning all at once. I need to breathe. I need fresh air.
In stereotypically Hallmark form, snow is falling. I see smoke from a chimney down the street. Fuck. I can’t get away from it, all this “joy.” It’s all around me and I have none. I clinch my hands into fists so hard my palms feel like they’ll bleed. I scream as loud as I can. I scream so loudly my voice loses sound. I want to throw up. The cold air stings when I inhale.
And then I stand there, panting, watching my breath in the cold, feeling helpless, hopeless, defeated.
Light from my apartment spills onto the snow. It looks colder inside than it feels out here. I don’t want to go back. I want to run away.
My feet feel frost bitten, and I have no choice. I make my way inside to suffer out another season, to hope that next year will be different.
I usually write about happy endings in this column, but today I don’t have one to offer. I could bullshit some sappy inspirational message, but that’d be condescending and disingenuous. I’m writing this to those of you who are like me, alone over the holidays, who wish we weren’t.
No, I cannot offer a happy ending. I can offer only my companionship, my solidarity. And I mean that. You aren’t alone. You’ve got me. We’ve got each other. And we have cell phones. Which means we also have access to the Number Nine Special from Chinatown Takeout.