To all those who have trouble believing in Santa Claus, I ask you to read the following with a bit of humor in mind and a leniency for the truth. Many things that are mentioned have indeed happened, and the rest…well they could just as easily be true. All you have to do is indulge your imagination and follow my lead.
Santa Claus is real, and so are all of the trimmings that we associate with him. I have seen him in the mall many times, and having been fortunate enough to chat briefly with him upon a couple of occasions, I consider myself very knowledgeable about his ways. Many people have tried to tell me otherwise, but I know the truth. The truth is that there are elves at the North Pole slaving away to make children happy come Christmas morning. There are flying reindeer that pull not only Santa and his sleigh, but also his sack of gifts, which must be enormous in proportions. Thousands of kids wait patiently, all year long watching what they say and how they act, in hopes that they will receive their chosen gifts. (This includes me.) I fall into the category of believers who also believe in the Easter Bunny, angels, and miracles. Hence, in the midst of the Christmas season that is racing around us, my focus is on proving to you that Saint Nick does in fact exist.
Continue reading How Santa Makes His Rounds
The average annual snowfall for a small village just north of a long forgotten two-track in western Canada is just over 346 inches. This past summer, the road crew for the village went to the trouble of installing fans 20 feet in diameter along its three-block long main street. The intended effect of the fans was to blow the snow up and away from the village’s main city blocks and onto the rooftops and back alleys. That way, for the six-month-long winter, the residents of the village could walk or snowmobile their way to and from the local market, pharmacy or saloon. However, the fans quickly became overwhelmed by the snow, created two heaping mounds of snow – one covering each of the two rows of buildings – and froze in place. The result, as was discovered by the local stunt helicopter pilot on his bi-weekly trip south for emergency medical provisions for the village’s residents, was the transformation of its main street into a gluteal-like cleft between two enormous pale cheek-like heaps of snow. The pilot snapped a blurry photograph with his iPhone and sent it to his ex-girlfriend Lola, the head anchor for the not-so-local TV 17 & 4 studio. The village main street was featured on that evening’s news and shared throughout Canada for the rest of the week. What many Canadians had long believed to be a fleck of pepper from the national cartographer’s pastrami sandwich was now dubbed “Applebottom, Alberta.”
Written from 11:23 pm to 11:43 pm on Thursday, September 15, 2011 at home in Traverse City, Michigan.
It was late and the main street was silent and empty except for a young man walking with his hands in his pockets. His breath was gray under the yellow streetlights. When the wind rushed down the cross-streets between the red brick buildings the young man’s eyes watered. Rather than wiping away the tears he let them roll down his numb cheeks and freeze as they thinned. The smell of Indian food came with the wind and he breathed deep until his lungs hurt with cold. Then he exhaled and forgot the smell before it made him hungry. The red neon blush of Vinnie’s Pizza was ahead.
Behind, up the hill, the young man could see only the soft glow of town compared to the darkness left and right of it. The moon hovered big and low and shone with a brightness by which he could read the fragile ticking hands on his watch. 3:40 a.m. There was no traffic on the narrow road. The people who drive this road go to Church at 9am or have families to put to bed and spouses to comfort.
Another hour of walking and town was no longer visible. The woods on either side of the young man faded from dark gray dirt to the white moon. The trees in the foreground silhouetted against the gradient looked like massive black stakes thrust into the ground. The young man drew his arms tighter around his core. He flexed every muscle he could still control to ward off the cold, but could not stop shivering. He held his breath then exhaled down the collar of his coat. The warm air comforted him momentarily, but was replaced with dampness. He shuddered.
The young man wanted to walk until he felt nothing, and now he felt nothing but the biting cold. The feeling was not as calming as he had wished it to be. Instead, with town more than an hour behind him he felt everything. The wind blew hard and didn’t let up for several minutes. His teeth were clattering together now. His cheeks felt firm and it hurt to open his eyes.
As dawn approached he crossed the faded double-yellow line on the narrow road and started walking back towards town. Into traffic. There was no traffic at this hour. The people who drive this road are finishing their dreams and snoring.
The low skyline of town came clear in front of the rising sun. Walking uphill was hard on the young man’s knees. He was stiff and tired and didn’t want to walk any longer. Vinnie’s Pizza was dark. The wind had died. The cross-streets were calm. The young man would go straight home now. He wanted to be warm and to sleep until it was dark again.
A thin yellow light dissected the hotel room where Will and Sarah slept in a mess of cheap white sheets. The digital clock on the bedside table glowed bright green in Will’s cloudy eyes. He reached to snooze and hit volume, causing the harsh buzz to blare and startle Sarah. She jerked her head off the pillow and said, “Turn it off.”
Five minutes later it went off again, waking them from the deep after-sleep that would be the last comfort of their day. Sarah was up and out of bed in seconds, naked and cold. She glanced in the large mirror on the wall at the foot of the bed as she walked by to see that she was the same outline as the day before. Her hair fell down to the middle of her back and over her shoulders. She had vacant light blue eyes that set heavy upon their chosen subject. Her cheeks, ribs and hipbones were like jagged rocks protruding from a calm ocean, moving harshly under her taught skin.
She reached into her purse on the dresser and fished around for cigarettes. “Where are the smokes?” she asked. Will moaned. “What the f–k. Where are they?”
“Last night, I don’t know. They’re probably in the shower.”
Sarah walked to the bathroom and caught herself in the mirror. Again. The fluorescent light was harsh and unflattering. Will saw her pause.
His heart was cracked. With each slow breath of dry Midwestern air he winced. His eyes watered, not only from sadness, but from the shriek in his chest. As he lay picture still in his room his mind replayed what went wrong and forgot to remember what went right. The pain made him numb. Except for the cracked heart, which was un-numb-able.
Sometimes when she was not looking he tried to push the fractions of his heart back together. He would place his left palm on the left side of his ribcage and his right palm on his sternum. Then he would feel with his fingertips for the crack deep beneath tissue and bone and press his palms firmly together. He did this until beads of salty sweat stung his eyes and his butter-cream complexion was splotchy red. Nothing in his life had been so hard as this.
I wish I could pound my chest like a savage beast and break my own heart, but that is not how fractured hearts work. Instead I am left to mend it myself and to hope she will lend a hand when I grow weak.
Written from 11:11 pm to 11:31 pm on Tuesday, November 18, 2008 in my apartment in Concord, NH.
I dream a lot. Even while awake. It is one of the only ways, besides camping alone, that allows me to escape the obviousness of everyday life. Dreaming reminds me that even if I know everything that is going on with those around me that I still remain a mystery to myself. I can still feel alone. Others may know me better than I know myself. I can not help that. No one can.
I walk to work in my uniform dark gray suit and navy tie. I feel like I look sharp. Others take notice. A working woman glances my way, catching my eye for a brief moment. This happens everyday. To all of us. We are led on and let in to others lives, if only for broken shards of time. She has grass green eyes, which makes it seem as if I am staring straight through her head to the lawn behind. An imperceptible shudder refocuses my attention on the sidewalk ahead. The woman is past.
“I would like an everything bagel toasted with egg and cheddar. And an orange juice. Please. Thank you.”
“You won’t get fat.”
I chuckle. She is always direct. At least she is that way with everyone and not just with me. I have put on a few pounds since law school. I have not seen the gym in awhile. She knows that as well as I do. That knowledge does not stop either me from ordering or her from serving. Our worlds go around.
As I leave the The Hole, an establishment not only in my life, but in this town, I flash back to this bagel place I used to frequent that sold pizza bagels and for a moment I want to be in college again. Young. Goofy. Riding my bike.
The ceiling is always there in the morning when I wake up. Thank God. I think this as I roll out of bed and plant my feet firmly on the short brown carpeting. My apartment feels cold. I turned the heat off last night when I returned from the gym. Hoping to cut my sweat. The coffee pot is already full. I can smell the full bodied flavor of Folgers in the morning. The smell is intoxicating as I walk through the small kitchen of my apartment on my way to the bathroom.
I pee for a long time. Then brush my teeth. Then place my hands on either side of the sink and stare into my own eyes. There is nothing there yet. It is too early. Every day it is too early to see much of anything inside myself. I note my gray hairs. I note that they are like aliens invading the landscape of my head. Long ago, I didn’t believe in gray hairs. They weren’t even in my universe. Now, well. I have proof of gray hair on scalp.
We all grow up, I think to myself as I start the shower. I pour myself a cup of coffee to set next to the shower. It is the warmth and the taste I like. I have no use for the caffeine. High on life, I like to say. People hate that. But there is a lot to live for in this world.