He had to work the day after Christmas. It was cruel. Grotesque. Unfair. Gone were the college and school days of two weeks off for Christmas. Unmet too was the normal adult vacation days you would receive as you got older. He was now in limbo.
He woke up with the darkness. He lied in bed. Tried to shake the heaviness off. The world awaited him far away. He was still holed up in a cave, a womb of blankets and post-sleep weariness and possibly post-partum depression caused by the baby Jesus. Was he in a coma? Was he in a world far away? Was he in a cabin in the tundra, where snowdrifts piled up on the outside log walls creating an insulated sound? Was there a fireplace? He hoped so. But he could not hear it.
His wife had to work too. She was already gone. Left at 8:30 this morning. He was going to work from home. But as he lay there he knew that if he worked from home he would only feel the darkness more, probably end up spending the majority of his day looking at boobs on a computer screen. So he left for work. Put his pants on.
It wasn’t too bad. He had his dog and his cigarettes to keep him company. He had after all been expecting this. The post-Christmastime darkness. It was inevitable. All the build up and shiny lights and sparkly presents. The joyful nature in the air. The sense of peace and joy and being with loved ones. The days following were no match. After December there was quite the lull in days to look forward to. In the fall there was Thanksgiving and then Christmas and then New Years. But in January, what was there in the future? Easter? Columbus day? Valentines Day? Those were all pretty shitty holidays compared to Christmas. Not much time off either.
Even New Years wasn’t that good. In fact, he thought of New Years as the most anti-climactic night in history. Nothing happened. You drank champagne. Watched a ball drop from the sky. It was always disappointing. One night in high school he had snuck out to go to a party on New Years Eve. He never went to parties but he decided that he needed to go to at least one raging high school party before he graduated. He didn’t drink much. I mean, he knew how to drink, he just didn’t do it much. The guilt of lying to his parents and telling them he was spending the night at Adams almost made the party unbearable. He would have to get drunk. So that night he got drunk and wandered around and realized he didn’t know people as well as he thought he was. He tried to fit in. Who knows if he did a good job. It was pretty boring actually. Movies and T.V. have a way of making high school and college parties look epic. He had never been to one of these. Mostly it was just crowded. Sure, there were drunk people and the random girl who would kiss you but that was about it. Maybe he lived in the wrong places. The girl he liked, who had invited him to this party, kept ignoring him and everyone else said the same thing to him, “I didn’t know you drank!” Eventually he met some snowboarders and they offered to get him high, which he did, in the back of a green jeep. He had never been drunk and high. He felt like he was walking on the moon. He even tried to jump down the gravel road like there was no gravity. Then he got sick and stared at a wall for an indiscernible amount of time while everyone gathered to watch some “ball” drop. And this was one of the more memorable New Years Eves. He couldn’t even remember what he did last year.
He knew that the days after Christmas would simply feel empty. Not too much more than usual. But slightly. He couldn’t take time off. Not just because he was American and addicted to work, but because he was the owner of a small business. As the owner of a small business you don’t get days off. Very rarely. His only comfort was that, as the owner of a small business, perhaps one day he would receive the accolades of fame, glory, and hundred dollar bills, or an early retirement that might await him at the end of this venture. Otherwise what was it all for?
He didn’t know if he wanted to sleep or drink or watch movies or what. He should probably exercise. Work might actually feel good. Make him feel as if he was doing something.
His chemical pill was in his black jean coin pocket. He knew if he swallowed it with a glass of water it would make him feel dizzy. But if he didn’t take it he would go down a dark rabbit hole.
He had to make this decision every day. Whether or not he wanted to feel the dizziness or the darkness. Some days he chose dizzy. Some days darkness.
He felt empty. Dizzy. Probably had to do with his relationship with The Father. Or The Mother. Or The Son. Or lack thereof.
He counted the days left. He was twenty-five. If he lived to be eighty that would be fifty-five years of life. 55 X 365=20,075 days left on this earth. Twenty-thousand and seventy-five days left.
Oh god, working the day after Christmas is so depressing.
He always felt like fall was too short. It was the best season he thought, and yet the shortest. He liked to watch the leaves turn slowly from green to yellow. He liked it when they fell from the branches like a beautiful golden death. He had always hoped that death was something like the fall, where everything got increasingly more beautiful until all that was left were skeletons.
Fall was elusive. Every year he tried to go to corn mazes and pumpkin patches and make apple cider and carve jack-o-lanterns. He liked to remove the seeds from inside the pumpkin, wash them, put them on a tray and bake them. It was tradition. Why, he was never sure, for even with the salt they never tasted exceptionally good, and it was really just a lot of work. But every year, he only managed to do one of these things, if that. He was always busy. Something always came up. Sometimes he had no one to do these things with. Most times. As an adult, he felt one could miss certain holidays, even whole seasons, with barely a second thought. As an adult, things got more practical. Rather than focusing on the way the smoke from the chimneys mixed with the cold grey air, he would think of how much firewood he would need for the winter. He would wonder how much it would snow. Would it be more or less than last year? Would he need another shovel? He would. He would need two shovels.
Fall was also intemperate. Some days it would be eighty degrees and sunny and green and then it would hit thirty and snow and all the leaves would drop in less than an hour. There was not enough time to enjoy it he thought. All he wanted was for a solid two weeks of fifty degree weather, yellow leaves on all the trees, and tiny bit of snow to top off the mountains. But this usually never happened. It would swing from eighty and summer to winter, to spring and back again during these two weeks. It should be noted that he lived in a mountain climate where things change fast.
He tried to think of a way to enjoy the fall more this year. Really soak it up. He asked friends if they wanted to go to corn mazes and they either said no, I have to work, or I already went with my daughter last week. He realized calling his adult friends would not work. He decided to call his adult friends who had children. He was not a creeper, but he did know that children knew better than adults how to enjoy holidays and seasons. As a child, he had always spent two weeks prepping for each holiday. For Christmas there were the rings to tear off for the forty days of Christmas and stories about the real history of St. Nick. For thanksgiving they colored pictures of Sacajawea and learned about pilgrims and the Mayflower. Now he had none of this.
He lived alone, on Forty-second Street. He lived alone by choice. But it was not his choice, it was fates choice he thought, fates choice that he should be living alone when he wanted to live with someone else, a wife, or even a good friend, to do things with on holidays.
Just to carve a pumpkin or take a stroll through aspen trees with golden leaves. That would be enough he thought. That would be enough.