One Christmas, not too long ago, a writer took up his pen for the last time. He wanted to put down in ink his angst and sorrow, the tribulations of his soul before he picked up his gun, placed it to his head, and blast all the pain away. So, he wrote about the virgin snow; that first blown white of the season, and the woman that he saw in the drift.
Her name was Virginia-as if calling her Jennifer or Susan would be an affront to God himself, because she was all you would imagine from a Virginia-and she smelled of the summer sun: of dandelions in bloom and honey flowing free from overworked hives and rain after too hot a day. She bore her beauty well: not as the yoke some women think it is, to be paraded, studied, and categorized by hungry eyes, but as a scarf she allows to wave at her admirers and dance with her as she strolled in and out of memory.
He loved her, you see, as if love was quite the right word. No, he needed her, he survived only by the thought of her, he desired her more than food or water or air or light itself.
But, he never met her. ‘A woman like that wouldn’t be interested in a man like me’ he thought. So, he did nothing, even though his Virginia was only one house away from where he dreamed of her each night.
His sister-the never-do-wrong, busy-bee, domestic goddess she was-took to her holiday tradition of butting in on her little brother’s well-being the only way she could: by over-medicating him on candied yams and turkey at Thanksgiving dinner at her house. The invitation was less an invite than an ultimatum, a notice of intent that if he does not come, she will be over to his house shortly thereafter with the purpose of not leaving until she knows why he didn’t come over, who he is currently dating, why he haven’t invited this non-existent girlfriend over to meet her, why his house is in such a state of disarray, and why exactly is there a shirt hanging from his roof; all questions he shouldn’t, couldn’t, or just wouldn’t answer without being sworn in before a court of law.
So, it was a no-brainer that he would go. He even thought enough to bring a quart of steamed rice and ginger chicken from the Chinese takeout on the corner of his block. His sister thanked him sincerely and threw it out.
‘Jake, are we’re going to have a repeat of last Christmas?’ his sister asked in private.
‘What do you mean?’
‘You know exactly what I mean.’ Over dinner, an unaware or insensitive friend of his sister asked why he was there alone and when will he settle down, not knowing that Jake’s wife Janie and his unborn daughter were killed not more than a year prior to a drunk driver coming home from a holiday’s party. You see, Jake was a college student, studying art in order to be an elementary school teacher when he met up with a pretty pre-med student that caught his eye. Things clicked-and as it does with young love-escalated quickly, and before long, they found themselves getting eloped. Jake agreed to leave school in order to support their blossoming family and took a job as a community reporter with a small community newspaper while his bride finished school. They bought a small house not big in style, but full of possibility in a neighborhood they both loved, and when he heard that they were going to have a baby, things just seemed complete.
So, you can see how he would have fallen apart with Janie’s death. But, do you really want to hear the weird part? It wasn’t really that he grieved for a long time that was the problem; it was that he didn’t grieve at all for so long that raised eyebrows. For what seemed like an eternity, Jake refused to feel about it-he just kept it in; and regardless of how friends and well-wishers pushed, probed, and pressed the issue, Jake continued to work, continued to write, continued to run his circuit as if he was a gerbil on an exercise wheel.
But, that couldn’t last, and when that jerk asked that question during dinner, it finally all came out and flooded him and he did the only thing he could do under the situation: he knocked out the guy’s two front teeth. After that, he didn’t feel much like writing or working, and his little house with so much promise became a cage to him.
‘Are you going to behave?’
‘I’ll do my best, sis.’
Jake made a beeline past the living room with cheerful merrymakers and one man that eyed him suspiciously while unconsciously covering his mouth to his nephew Brad’s room toward the back of the first floor. It was here that he saw his six years old nephew hard at work scribbling something on a piece of paper.
‘I’m glad you’re here, Uncle. I can’t write all that good. Can you help me write my Christmas list to Santa?’
‘Isn’t it early for that?’
‘Best to beat the rush. Here, write this down: I want a new bike-with no training wheels, a PS3, no clothes this year-particularly sweaters or turtlenecks and especially not underwear, the new G.I. Joe, and um…lips or sucking for the cottage cheese on mom’s legs…’
‘ ‘Lips or sucking’? Oh, liposuction!’
‘Why would you ask for something like that?’
‘Santa has millions of kids to give gifts to. To get on the top of his list, you have to show that you are not selfish, and that you think about other people.’
‘Makes sense to me.’
‘Thank you, Uncle. So, what do you want for Christmas?’
‘I don’t know. Why?’
‘You have to want something. Have you ever asked Santa for anything before?’
‘When I was a kid, maybe.’
‘It’s the same. Just write down want you want. I won’t even look.’
So, in small letters, on the bottom of the list, he wrote what he wanted most from Santa, ‘Please, save my life’.
So Jake refused the invitation to Christmas dinner that year, thinking that there would be no one to bear his sister’s brunt should she decide to bear revenge-and he made his final preparations, withdrawing the monies from his account and setting it aside for his nephew, settling his debts (or at least the one he was capable of settling; there was no point about worrying about the mortgage), and writing the requisite letters to those that may miss him or be hurt by his decision. He dragged his pen across the paper to that scratching tune he once loved, writing his intent, his last notice to the world before…
…his last notice to the world before he must do this terrible thing that…
Damn! It must be his sister, just must be, or it could be carolers. There’s really no reason to get up to see who that is…
…but if he doesn’t, he will never be able to finish his train of thought.
“Hi! I don’t think we ever met, but I’m your next door neighbor. My name is…”
“Ginny. My friends call me Ginny. How did you know my name?”
“I was introduced to you by one of our neighbors. I just didn’t have the nerve to meet you myself.”
“Really? How come? I think I would have liked to have met you earlier. Craig-he lives on then other side of you-he told me about you and told me you are a good guy, and…this is really going to sound weird…I really wanted you to come and say hi to me. I saw you before and thought you were cute and…I’m tripping all over my words! I would like to go and see the lights with you; that is, if you are not too busy?”
“No…I mean, no, I’m not too busy. I would love to go with you. By the way, I’m Jake…Jacob Serantis, but everyone call me Jake.”
“I know, Jake; Craig told me. Well, great! You know, it took you awhile to get the door; did I interrupt something?”
“No. I was just writing.”
“You’re a writer?”
“Sort of. I’m thinking about going back to school to be a teacher.”
“That is so cool! So, did Santa give you everything you wanted?”
“I think so. Yeah, I think so.”