Three Christmases: An Essay
I. December 2014
It was snowing the day I got your letter.
As if heavenly co-eds pillow-fought on high, feathers of snow descended as I opened the envelope to reveal two copies of a letter in your envy-inducing penmanship; one in English, one in French. I still swoon at the thought.
Had it not been the first time I fell in love, I would’ve considered the whole routine a tad hackneyed. After only a handful of inebriated spit-swappings the previous week, you were writing to inform me you were driving thirteen hours on Christmas Day to come see me. I’ll be miserable if I go three weeks without you. How naiveté amplifies misère!
I came out to my parents that night. They knew, of course. A childhood defined by simultaneous Judy Garland and LeAnn Rimes obsessions clued them in. But this was a formality: how could I ask permission for a partner to spend the holiday with my family without first acknowledging I was bringing home a beau and not a doe?
You pulled in the driveway over thick, billowing snow. Approaching you and pressing my freezing hands against your freezing cheeks, I felt life in my fingertips.
I felt life in my abdomen as it tightened each time your hands moved over my deepest vulnerability with desire in the few moments of complete privacy we attained that week.
In the confines of the Honda Odyssey with the collapsed back rows, I felt life in my limbs as I clung to you like a frostbitten Yoko Ono. Naked and feeling that coursing flow of heat from your blood, I inherited warmth from every piece of you. Enveloped, I felt your warmth around and inside me, suffocating the winter cold and my genetically incompetent circulation.
We did nothing all week but manufacture love; two lonely people stimulated by a desire to be thought of passionately.
Each night, it snowed. I had never felt so well.
II. December 2017
I had my heart set on the first house we saw.
I didn’t tell you at the time and pretended to like the third one best because you seemed so excited about its potential and the central fireplace, but a house lacking any semblance of curb appeal was not where I wanted to sink a twenty-percent down payment. You were right about the potential expansion of the master bedroom, though. I’ll give you that.
The month-old ring on my finger still felt enticingly alien. Those women eternally fiddling their engagement rings and mentioning the nakedness every time they removed it were right! When you gave me that ring, you completed our desired ascension into heteronormativity. I would do everything my straight girlfriends were doing, but I would do it better. They would spend their lifetimes envious of our Christmas parties; my Bûche de Noël, your signature cocktails. Of all the housewives, I’d be the lucky one not spending my 50s found desperately in front of the open freezer door, and the thought of their envy titillated me to no end.
On Christmas evening, you fell silent. You moved to the opposite end of the couch after my parents went to bed. I fell silent. We had been trapped without lasting privacy in my parents’ house for half a week already. I decided to understand. I forgave the physical and emotional distance in which the next two days were marinated.
On the third day, I forced myself on you in my parents’ basement. To garner any passion, I cornered you while you did laundry. I wrapped my arms around you from behind, cupping you with one hand while I pulled your hair back with my other to investigate the topography of your mouth with my own. On the floor of the unfinished basement, I pushed you down. Your opposition was clear, but your recalcitrance only sparked a driving desperation in me. You weren’t getting the option to fail this test. I handed you the extra credit. I kept you after class for help. I curved your grade. You had to pass.
Afterward, I followed you back upstairs. I was silent, not wanting to wake anyone sleeping. You were silent because you were silent. You retreated to the bathroom to perform the anti-UTI ritual. I walked to the front windows, leaning my flushed cheek against the chilled glass, holding myself in my arms. It was snowing.
III. December 2018
This week, it will have been a year since I last saw you.
It is Christmas Eve. I took an early flight home to surprise my mother. Last night two men came over to my hotel room. I received neither sleep nor fulfillment, despite playing the role of “Rotisseried Chicken” at the evening’s performance.
As I approach the side of my house, where my shivering sister greets me, I wrap my arms around her slender hips and stick my ear to her plumping stomach, listening in vain for a microscopic heartbeat. You had made me so certain I’d have a companion in old age. Now, this little seedling could become the very person who might begrudgingly drive me to doctors’ appointments, watch me wither, and confusedly inherit my collection of erotic portraiture.
To gaslight and ghost simultaneously is a tricky feat, but you really nailed it. To be continuing this charade still would only be admirable had I not released you from any expectation the second I received your fated e-mail. Had I tried to find you, reach out, or plead for your return, I might be impressed with your inconspicuousness in this electronic age. But I did not, and I am not.
As each man cycles through my linens, I lose grasp of the self I was using them to try and repair. To be clear, I’ve frequently attained a joyful abandon in this year, one that has made me run naked into the ocean, scream your name in mockery out a car window, laugh in the mirror daringly after an impeccable conquest. A joy I so desperately wanted you to lay eyes upon that I sullied my own experience of it.
After the humdrum, or harmful, interactions, I inexplicably wish to be back on the basement concrete and attempt to pass my own test. To come upstairs and watch the snow with you, rather than alone. To watch the snow with anyone. To be held and hold in return as the black sky is illuminated by cascading crystals.
Now, when it snows, I do not think of you.
I do not think of you first.
It’s snowing and I thought of several other things before coming to you. It’s snowing, and I hope you’re well.