a middle class christmas diorama and the pot brownies that eventually undid everything

I flew across the country. All of a sudden. Tickets were cheap. Not cheap, but a fathomable amount. Only two months rent, but then, my rent is next to nothing. Symbolic, like the “yard and porch” chore on the chore wheel. And I didn’t buy the tickets, my sugar daddy did. She was sitting on the pale carpet of her family’s living room, surrounded by torn wrapping paper and foil boxes of bon-bons, and she missed me. So she bought me a ticket with her credit card. I am going to pay her back, in two months’ time. I am going to wander the earth collecting paper dollars, and in two months time I will return, my burlap sack heavy, and dump them at her feet. But for now I am on the East Coast, which is a foreign, exotic land. It is filled with swamps and bare, deciduous trees and melting snow. The sun cuts through the fog now and again and lights the fence-posts and split-level suburban homes with a clear, northerly light. I flew into the airport in New York City and took a train to a subway to a greyhound bus, and then rolled in a darkened coach through Manhattan, and the piles of black trash bags waiting on the curb seemed familiar on account of the four months I spent there when I was twenty-two, but then we were in Connecticut, which may well have been the moon. My sugar daddy picked me up at the bus station in a new car that belongs to her parents and took me to her parent’s house, which was filled with drunk aunts and uncles and taught flowered couches and antique lamps and plates and plates of glittering Christmas cookies, like a middle-class Christmas diorama. I stumbled through the diorama, deeply weary from my long flight into the future, and ate pulled pork off a paper plate while relations hugged goodbye and glanced at me, a foreigner from the west, eating pulled pork, resembling no-one. Eventually we crawled into bed beneath the scratchy comforters of manufactured newness, the window cracked open to let out the decadent suburban heat. Outside the cracked window light pollution collected on the white, melting snow, and the eaves dripped wetly, and the night gathered together its materials to make the next morning’s fog. In the darkness my body yearned for the past, which was a moonlit evening three thousand miles to the west, and refused to reconcile with the midnight hour. At last a compromise was reached, one o’clock, and I slept darkly and fitfully, having eaten too much sugar and in such a strange place besides.

Now it is Sunday the twenty-seventh, that murky time between Christmas and new year’s, a time colored by lemon-pie hangovers and crumpled wrapping-paper anti-climax, spent rolls of scotch tape and broken wine glasses buried guiltily in the trash. Capitalism’s great holiday is over, and now the capitalists are wailing and gnashing their teeth, bent beneath the cumulative weight of several decades of sleep deprivation and lack of natural light. Here in this house we’re making pot brownies to eat around the joyless Christmas tree. We’re going to sit in stiff, expensive-looking chairs while we do it, and we’re going to watch a movie picked out by the father, and eventually the pot will kick in and undo everything that’s come together to make this room, this Christmas tree, and this pot of chicken soup. Every plastic Christmas tree factory filled with workers, their fingers worn, and their ramen lunches- every metal barn stuffed with chickens made living just long enough to fatten and then snuffed out, like a damp finger on a candle flame, all the blind faith it took to paint these antique lamps, one hundred years ago.

C’s friend Joanna came up with a new word: Funishment. I think it applies to the Christmas holiday in particular.

2 thoughts on “a middle class christmas diorama and the pot brownies that eventually undid everything

  1. Funishment- spot on.

    As for middle class pretensions, there is nothing more anthropologically intriguing (or at times utterly horrifying) than spending Christmas with a rural vicar in the English shires, clipped enunciations, Barbour jackets and shiny retrievers abounding. Or maybe that’s just me.

    Also with you with regard to escapes. One wishes they would free you- sometimes they just leave you trapped by what you left behind.

    May your new year bring scholarships, rich patrons and great teachers, all with enough enlightenment to leave you just as you are.

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