I come home from a concert tonight, proud of myself for having made it through its entirety without needing to be the teensiest bit drunk or carrying around the belief that the night is unsuccessful because I did not make out with anyone in the bathroom. I feel pretty okay.
As is the norm, I walk through the door, drop my backpack and whatever layers I’m adorning on the first available chair, and open the fridge. I swig some O.J. out of the carton and grab a bag of grapes. I pluck off a corner hunk of cheddar and throw it at the dog, who’s been waiting patiently for my greeting.
I plop down on the couch, eyeing the living room with the vague acknowledgement that I plan to spend at least a quarter of my day off tomorrow de-cluttering my digs. I have a friend coming into town for the weekend. As is my before-bed custom, I zone out for a few–debate whether or not I should text this video of a driving dog (no, seriously) to this guy who’s been tickling my funny bone lately, or if I should just watch an episode of Law and Order: SVU and pass out.
My roommate then emerges from her quarters–an extension of our living room that we’ve improvised into a makeshift bedroom behind a curtain. (In actuality, she lives in the cupboard under the stairs, but we let her come out for bread and water every so often.) Blue-haired, be-spectacled, and wearing every pattern known to man all at once, it is rare that Sham and I ever pass each other likes ships in the night. There’s always something to talk about.
Somehow we get on the topic of Christmas. I want to buy a tree tomorrow, as it is a rite of my adult passage and Sham seems somewhat nonplussed. “Well, I’m going home for Christmas. There’s gonna be like forty people there.” I think back to last year’s Christmas: Mom came to my apartment with a pair of hemp leggings wrapped up in last year’s paper. We watched fifteen minutes of “It’s Complicated” starring Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep on my laptop before she decided it was too quiet for her to follow, and then went home. I cried, ate some sweet potato pie with my hands, and went to bed with a bottle of red wine.
Holidays have never been very traditional with my micro-family. I’ve always envied the chaotic depiction of unwrapping gifts, enormous dinners, and general hubbub that seem so customary in other people’s celebrations. It’s just been Mom and I for the past decade or so. And gift-giving is a thing of the past. We are both poor.
I relay bits and pieces of this without sounding like too much of a Scrooge and start audibly envisioning my fantasy Christmas: “I want it all,” I say, “I want kids in their footie pajamas running down the stairs at 7am. I want a fuckin’ fireplace lined with stockings and hot cocoa on the stove.” It starts spiraling out of control and before I know it I’m decorating my guest bathroom and framing our family portrait.
Sham nods sympathetically. She is just shy of 28 and I’ll be 27 in two weeks. We are both single. She has a cat. I have a dog. We have full-time jobs and are currently pursuing grad school. “You know, when ‘Friends’ started, they were younger than us.” My throat gets dry. My hands begin to tremble. My life is slipping away, and WHERE ARE THE GODDAMN REINS?!
Sham, well into her third White Russian starts counting off on her fingers, “Let’s say we meet the man we’re supposed to marry tomorrow, right? We’ve gotta have at least six months of dating before we move in with him, another year or so before we get engaged, a year to plan the wedding, and then that brings us right into 30. Married, and boom! We gotta start pro-creating right away or it’s gonna get ugly real fast.”
I slowly chew a rather plump grape. Bring myself back down to reality. Try not to panic. Que sera, right? Things will fall into place, right? We part ways and I go to my own room. My bed, complete with dinosaur-themed comforter and fire-engine pillow cases, awaits me. My dog lays belly-up, inviting me in for a snuggle. The sheets are layered with a mysterious coating of crumbs I can’t place and I remind myself to hit ’em up with the dirt-devil tomorrow. Yeah. That’s right. I’m gonna vacuum my sheets.
The thing is, I pride myself on how much I’ve accomplished on my own. I am, for all intents and purposes, a STRONG, INDEPENDENT WOMAN, but, at the end of the day, I want to share my life with someone. I want a stupid wedding and a stupid husband and a stupid family. I want kitchen appliances and a backyard. I want a height chart in my goddamn kitchen. I want Christmas mornings.
I sigh and queue up my SVU. The dog hiccups and I scratch his tum-tum, smiling to myself as his stumpy little leg starts its vibrato kick. Tonight I’m going to bed alone. Tomorrow too. But that’s okay. The episode starts and I pick up my phone. “Saw this, thought of you.” I send the video of the driving dog to my new crush. I stop myself from asking him where he sees himself in five years, but what the hell, right? You never know.
At least I know one thing for sure: tomorrow I am buying myself a Christmas tree. And it’s going to be rad.