They say tonight’s the longest night of the year. But I’ve already had at least a dozen dozens longer since January. That makes this the year’s shortest day, too. But days, no matter how long, go by in just a blink when you live from one sleepless night to the next. Each day’s just another little box full of meds, each with a lid wearing a 3-letter signifier that it’s WED or SUN, which is the one where I refill them for another seven blinks without a thought and seven more dead-bodied stares while my mind’s milling around about you and them and sometimes me. That’s when I compose my best work - the stuff that never gets written. But actually, that best’s more like like a drunk’s singing voice or his irresistible charm. Except a drunk’ll fall asleep at some point.
Somewhere in a Christmas fantasy, something like my Life’s sugar plums resting all sweet and spicy upon a cosmic comfit plate, right next to the roasted chestnuts I hear about, warm and soft as a lover’s kiss. Or so you tell me. Because this is a fantasy, a dream straight out of one of those Hallmark Christmas movies, only none of us are princes, princesses or destiny’s darlings fated to leap holiday hurdles to couplehood and, per every fantasy’s script, fall into one of those chestnut kisses in the last thirty seconds before the credits roll. The sweet and spicy? I don’t care. But we all need dreams, don’t we? Otherwise why even have that one day of the year when wishes can come true and hopes aren’t dashed and danced upon by a fantasy fleet of reindeer, an ill-fit significant other or make-believe mean girl. Maybe that’s why I keep my list short, written in invisible ink between lines of fanciful good-boy reveries of an exchange of Life’s gifts you can’t buy, nor steal and I’ll likely never get to try. Like sugar plums.
Over my many winters, or maybe just this long one and only, I have stood, sat or lain here and watched the snowflakes fall. Some I’ve followed from the heavens to my feet. Others blown away from me by the cold winds that have chilled my heart and frozen my soul. A very few have deigned to spiral and swoop to land upon my lashes, catching my eye more than I caught them. Then there’s you, who I spied one day in your earthward glide, toward me and away, then blown back by winds I never felt but you did. You’re lways defying gravity out there in front of me or at the corner of the corner of my eye. If you ever were to land upon me, I know you’d feel as warm there as summer rain or perhaps a tear on my cheek. One I'll never wipe away.
We used to put tiny tablets, like Lionel locomotive aspirin, down the engine’s stack to make it puff out white smoke while it circled beneath our Christmas tree. But that was back when I was small enough to crawl beneath the real tree’s real branches that would stick me with its real needles while I rectified the inevitable headache derailments certain O-Gauge Casey Joneses always seemed to perpetrate when our Christmas train was rounding the turn behind the presents into the corner of the living room. I didn’t mind too much. It gave me a good reason to roll over again to look up the inside of the tree and get enveloped by the lights and delicate glass ornaments, the tinsel tickling my face like some Christmas angel I didn’t know I’d wish to feel until Christmases to come. Too bad I had to grow up and lose that feeling of being inside Christmas. I don’t have an electric train under my tree anymore and putting all the decorations up can be kind of a headache, but the other day I dropped a plastic ornament in the corner, and something moved me to crawl under my fake tree’s fake branches where the fake needles stuck me and, for a second, looking up at those twinkling lights felt like I was back inside Christmas again. Funny, before crawling out I decided to reach back further because somewhere in that corner I might find more Christmas to re-rail inside me.
Christmas Day’s just over a week away. Yet the golf course is open, though I don’t dare to play. It just seems sacrilegious to go tee it up, when I should be writing carols, and, yeah, tipping a wassail cup. That’s how it’s become, though, the weather gone screwy, no morning snow on the greens, in fact, they were dewy. No north winds howling, just gusts from the west blowing decorations sideways, like a tipsy party guest. Meanwhile, the trees out my window still have some leaves a’cling, while that tree in the living room stands sparkling with bling. But even if this weather confuses me with what’s the real season, I still know Christmas is nearing and this is the reason. I can feel my frozen heart warming, when that tree sparkles like jewels and visions from our holidays past echo of those Yules when I’d write you a present, though not tied in a bow. Just wrapped in evergreen affection, signed Merry Christmas! Love, Joe.
I suppose it’s only right that I so often use a word that, if you listen to it slantwise, squinching your ears just so, sounds like a short burst of warm wind masquerading as a fleeting kiss on your cheek. But mostly, to me, someone for whom the whole auditory world echoes scrunched and askew, Wish reminds me too much of a sigh. Perhaps that’s because so many of my wishes end up punctuated, if not begun, by a hopeless exhalation that starts with loosening up my lips from a kiss and then an admonition to just shut up. I wish (see?) that just wasn’t so, but (another word I use so much I’ve worn a groove down its middle) that’s wishes for you -- and me and us -- lots of misses full of near-kisses and things maybe better left unsaid.
Do you still bleed when the blade crosses your heart? Or have you ceased running, like a freshet lying near-lifeless waiting for the just right rain that might never come? Cut me again, see how I’ve given up pumping the warm, red metaphor, this life led without the touch I always thought I needed. Yet here I am once more, carving for you another arroyo like so many I’ve inscribed during my days in this desert. I once cut the dust with blood from a full heart unscarred. Now all I’ve left is tears.
I like the way you hold me when I try to speak to you, how your hands close ‘round what my fingers wish to express. I love how you might understand what I have to say, even though I’m not making a sound anyone but you can hear. Perhaps that’s because no one listens so closely to my clumsy, earnest efforts to let you know we’ll be all right. I blush when I see you looking at me so attentively the way you always have, parsing meaning from between my creases and lines that speak to you even when our eyes are closed. But mostly I love how you've always kept a place for me within the warm spot few have entered and even fewer you’ve let stay, even if what you hold, hear and see of me are just your feelings of my feelings.