Ghost of Xmas Past
A wooden Rudolph and possibly his brother Blitzen, but with a severe cold, sit next to the toilet that I piss in. In the other room people are greeting and shaking hands. Palpable conversation ranges from poker to stock markets (same fuckin thing if you ask me).
I stand outside and smoke a cigarette only to realize that I was and am poor.
There are 6 cords of Coral Maple sitting adjacent from my billowing smoke. There is a lone tree that someone has taken the time to decorate way out in the middle of the yard. The tree sits there with blinking virgin lights. The attention given to that one tree says more about the lives of these good people than anything I had expected. I became jealously sad.
There are 5 entrances to the house and you can see right in to the warm loving family room that is decorated with unread books and an unwatched TV. You can see people standing around enjoying each other's company in an honest and open way. I resort to familiar habits and traditional sneers
I put out my cigarette and carefully place it back into my own cigarette pack as to not litter their lawn.
I was king of my life. Now I am considerate of lawns.
When you are poor you don't know it until you have friends who aren't. Poor doesn't always mean money or houses or cars. Poor is the way you live. I live lazy with my television and my habits and my pregnant stories. I live bored and I don't hesitate to share that fact with anyone. I never had a party like this one in my house. My family never had more than 4 people who didn't live in our home feasting and dining at one time.
I would throw some parties in my teen years but they were mine. And those friends are not around anymore. Who would be my mid-life party guests? I couldn't even begin to make a list. The demoralization of finding that list later in life would be akin to reading your yearbook from elementary school.
What would I do with myself if my wife asked me to throw a Christmas party? First, I would have to have a wife. Second, I would have to have a residence capable of housing such an event. And third, I would have to have enough friends to want to go and be hosted on by me. I would probably say something to her like, "Nah, Xmas parties are for saps. I don't fucking want people in here. I don't want stupid conversation all night." Oh but how I would want that. But, since I don't meet the criteria and since I don't excel in social settings I shy from that. I shy from meeting and greeting successful, stable, adjusted people like a girl who doesn't know the answer in Trig class.
Back inside bar room antics are all I can use to assimilate. I point fun at things that aren't mine and act as though I am one of them but in actuality I am none. I am set apart by nothing other than my own head. These wonderful people would gladly take me in to a conversation or a meal. They would allow me to be a part of their festivities. Hell, they already have. But, what did I do? I cowered like a scared hamster being reached for in a cage. I drank booze and jumped back into cold smiles and awkward advances of parlor games and tricks. I became the lazy poor boy I had grown up as.
I became poor again. The smell and the look never leave the poor. You can watch over a crowd of people and without speaking to any of them you know who has lived harder and cried more. You know automatically by sunken faces and gray tones that they have thrown their life away via alcohol or drugs or even cigarettes to cover pain. You see their drooping eyes and shabby brushed off clothing. You see their cheeks not so rosy and you see their engagement in conversation not so forthright.
The house glowed with all that celebration should be. There were stories and libations. There were kisses on cheeks and people shaking hands with both hands. There was coat taking and food passing. All the older women looked like perfect hostesses and the men looked like they had come in from an LL Bean for the elderly shoot. And there I was in my fake pea coat outside smoking a cigarette. I was careful of the lawn. I was observant of the tree. I was reverent of the life I may never have. I respected this house and this time as though it was the most holy thing I had ever come across.
And you know what? It just may have been.