By Aevin Mayman
What I had expected were warm smiles and frosty hugs, black coats still with a thin layer of quickly melting snowflakes. What I got was a phone call saying my family couldn’t make it because of the snow and half-hearted well-wishers on Facebook.
I looked around my apartment. The festive lights strung in the corners of my walls seemed painfully bright. The shining red cranberry garland gracing the room was garish with sudden intensity. The tree, once so green and heart-warming, seemed dull, dry, a waste of space. I collapsed on the couch, playing absent-mindedly with the knitted hem of my scarf.
I had spent weeks putting everything together: cutting down a tree, making garland to put on it, meticulously hanging lights in every corner of my apartment. I had even put together a desert for the Christmas potluck, knowing that if I had left it to my aunt we’d all be enjoying a lovely box of microwaved pastries. Now the apple pie sat collapsing in on itself in the fridge. It was Christmas Eve and, for once, I’d have no one to spend it with. Cliché, isn’t it?
“God damnit!” My eyes flicked up to the wall across from me, the adjoining wall with my neighbor. He was a gamer, so volume came with the package. Usually Mark’s outbursts would cheer me up, put a smile on my face as I bustled about. But today it only reminded me of my family.
Of the new little niece that I had so looked forward to seeing running around my rooms in elaborate childhood dances of flailing limbs and vases saved by last-minute gestures.Today it only made me press my face down in my scarf and stare at the floor. My feet were bare and cold, but I didn’t have the energy to go get socks.
My Christmas moping was interrupted by the buzzing of my phone. Or rather, I was pulled out of my stone-like stupor to glance at it before resuming my staring contest with the floor. A few moments passed before it buzzed again. And again. And again and again- I grabbed the phone.
Hey, sorry I was so loud. I know your family’s over and I didn’t want to embarrass you.
It’s okay, my family couldn’t make it. It’s just me.
Look, no one should be alone tonight. Now, I’m not saying that I’m cooking a turkey or anything, but I can make some popcorn and we can play Gang Beasts or something?
You being lonely makes me lonely, come on.
I laughed, only slightly, and caught myself before it was done. I hadn’t expected to be laughing tonight. I looked up at the wall separating our apartments.
Around me, the lights were warm, the tinsel glimmering whites and reds under their shine. Before I had really even fully processed my movements I was up and in the apartment hallway.
I stared at the bright green wreath on Mark’s closed door, red berries shining bright against the dark green. My bare toes curled into the thin hallway carpet. I knocked.