I’ve never decorated a tree by myself. There was always a friend, or two, it was a ritual, a moment of togetherness. It’s one of those plastic ones. Its branches are crippled, deformed, morphed into a lack of form after being stuffed tightly in a box in the back of a closet for a year. I push open the branches, untangle the needles, brush off flakes of snow stuck between them from the year before, the green plastic turns into fir. I breathe in and smell the piney scent of family Christmases long gone.
A few weeks earlier, in a post-rebirthing meditation, Lucy’s soft, musical voice asked me to imagine a tree on top of a mountain. I imagine a cherry tree. With over-sized dark red fruit, perfectly shaped, ripe, hard, I could bite into the cherry and it’s red moisture would spurt on my face, its pit staining my lips as I licked it, sucked it, spit it out. The tree also has white blossoms. Fragrant, bountiful, poignant, fertile. The trunk is massive. There was a hole in it, a hole that fits me. I imagine hiding in there, it is grotesquely womb-like. Warm, fluid, hidden, safe. The Christmas tree has a thin metal trunk. No room for anyone. I wrap strands of lights around it, fill its branches with black and silver ornaments, and it comes alive.
On the eve of Christmas Eve I drive up to the other side of town to give my godchildren their stockings. They’re huge, red, black and white, one with a head of a smiling reindeer and the other of a snowman, with a carrot for a nose. The boy is in the living room waiting for me, his blue eyes larger than ever, glowing with an excitement that only pure innocence allows us to feel. The other is hiding somewhere and needs begging and coaxing to come out. She’s a girl. Her brother quickly goes through the stocking’s contents, makes a pile of what interests him, scoops it up and runs off to his room. She lays everything out in categories on the living room floor. Separate heaps of candy, toys, coloring books, storybooks, stickers, clothes. And a heap for things she doesn't know where to put. Her mother and I eat her candy and smile as she climbs half way into the stocking to see if there’ s anything else stuck in it. The holiday traffic results in a three-hour drive home. Nobody seems to mind but me. I take off my shoes, unbutton my jeans, breathe and try not to cry.
On Christmas day, I sleep till 2pm. I have a vivid dream of losing my car in a garage that’s more a like a construction site. Somewhere between its cement walls I’m suddenly having sex, suddenly realizing that there is a group of people watching us. Foam begins to pour out of the naked body below me. I don’t find my car, but leave with a couple and their baby. I strap the baby into the trunk of the SUV with two seat belts and sit in the back seat. When I wake up, I reach for my dream book before making coffee. Three typical recurring dreams mixed into one. I smile, because I remember, because I know.
An hour later I’m at the movie theater. I jump into my friend’s arms with the happiness of a teenager that’s been grounded for weeks and has finally been set free. We watch a movie in 3D, sprawling out on the seats, eating popcorn and candy till our stomachs hurt. Then we watch another one. And then we go home and color islands and fairies in our adult coloring books.
On the day after Christmas I go to have lunch with dad at the cemetery. I buy him a bouquet of bright orange roses from the stall outside the iron gates. The cemetery is the only place where people don’t check eachother out as they walk by. They see me sitting on the fence of the grave, legs spread apart to balance, chewing, and bow their heads, stare at the ground as it moves under their feet. I’m still on the fence, smoking now, when they walk back. They glance at me and talk on their cell phones. Why, I wonder? In some sort of perverted respect for the dead? In respect for the visitor’s grief? But I’m not grieving.
Later on, I touch base with friends. They are all full, of turkey, gravy, yams and alcohol. Some give me a rundown of the list of presents they received. Others claim they’re going to detox for a week. Many complain about how drunk and annoying some family member got at the dinner table. But overall, everyone has had a festive, lovely time. The usual, normal Christmas.
Today, I walk to the beach under my house. It’s a windy evening, the waves beat up a froth as they slide towards me and slam it on the rocks. It’s sunset, but the sun is nowhere in sight. Instead there’s a filter of a bright blue-ish silver on everything around me. I text my friend to see what she’s doing, tell her about my Christmas. And think of everyone else’s.
Her reply: “Defending ourselves from the truth, what ever that may be, however big or small, conscious or unconscious, fighting and supporting with fervor the things we are clear and positive about, makes us sane. In a head full of noise, it is those absolutely clear things that save us from insanity.” I wonder how she got into my head, when she learnt to complete my thoughts.
I go home and lie under my tree.