December 9 – December 17
‘Twas the season of wants: wanting presents, wanting reasons to wear (faux) fur coats, wanting more Irish Coffee– wanting that absolute feeling of the holiday season.
Especially during Christmas time I tend to favor Irish pubs. I think it’s the dimness, the wood fixtures and the booths that add to the closed in feeling that feels intimate to me. Add twinkle lights and a hot Irish Coffee and the magic is done. A cozy Christmas that makes you laugh and want to chug Guinness, or dance to “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues. I first heard the song in New York, our last night in Manhattan with my oldest friend dancing with strangers in Joshua Tree just a few blocks away from the Chrysler Building. Other songs in the dive playlist of that night varied from Maria Carey’s Christmas anthem to LFO’s “Summer Girls” and “Come On Eileen.” I still listen to those songs when I want to think about nights in New York, but the Pogues’ tune I reserve for December alone.
A night like tonight has me missing Manhattan the most. There are poinsettia garlands and a cedar tree candle that burns against the half-blown twinkle lights draped over my bed, curtains drawn and the passing of cars humming in the air like any big city– this might as well be Midtown, but it’s not. Let’s try to imagine though, shall we? That this studio isn’t on the corner of the outskirts of Lower Pac Heights; I’m the second floor snug apartment of a brownstone somewhere in the Upper West Side, and it’s snowing out and perhaps I live above a bodega that’s got fat trees tethered and lining the sidewalk against a chicken-wire fence where a Rockette passing through is picking herself one to take back home when she’s done dancing out at Radio City Music Hall. Just a thought, a silly daydream to really just make me feel the Christmas spirit when San Francisco is a little lacking. It’s sunny out by the Bay, only 8 days left to really soak in the festivities around but there’s a great deal of stress at work that doesn’t have me thinking of sugar plums or even my shopping list for friends and family. And I’m alone in this city, tonight at least. I debated calling up some friends from work to join in cheap wine and marzipan while we watch A Cinderella Christmas on cable TV, but it’s too late now.
I get a call. A missed call, followed by a voicemail. It goes, for a whole minute:
Hi, Paris, I was wondering if you could call me back because– I don’t know– it’s your boyfriend– and if you could call me back that would be wonderful! And, I don’t even know what I would do without you calling me back– because it makes me so upset– and I’m upset with you right now not calling me back while talking about you not calling me while I’m upset and I just get so sad while I’m so upset– OK babe, I’ll call you soon! And I’m not upset… I just wanna talk to you! And– ow– I kinda fucked up my knee tonight– but I won at Fantasy Football, so… that happened– I don’t know, I love you! I will talk to you soon, call me ’cause I’m leaving to go to the Rockefeller Tree right now– by myself– and…yeeeahhhh…OK, I’ll talk to you soon, goodbye babe!
I call him back before I even saw I had a voicemail, but I wait now on his promise to call me back once he’s reached Rockefeller Center so that we can Facetime and he can send me Snaps. A soft voice, filled with rye and shots and sincere lament about me not being there when he sees the tree all lit up. And as I wait for his face to light up my phone screen I put on the kettle for some Earl Grey, sit in front of the space heater, and listen to the Pogues again, singing about a night like this I imagine, somewhere out in the streets singing Galway Bay and throwing punches at the sky.
Almost an hour goes by and nothing. I call his phone twice and when it goes to his voicemail I don’t want to think the worst of anything but somehow I still do. Although, I’m not quite sure who’d want to pick on the lanky young white guy in a hoodie and Packers jersey– they did just lose earlier that day after all to the Panthers, and no one would want to fuck with a fan, not during Christmas. Too cruel, no?
But alas, a call back! Turns out, it was just a dead phone. 3 percent it was at when he hung up on me only two hours earlier. And the tree at Rockefeller Center wasn’t even lit up.
“I was confused,” he tells me. “There was only a hot dog vendor and he said they only keep it lit up in the early evening. I feel like an idiot.” I tell him he’s not; he kind of is, but for all the antics any wasted person could partake in, walking alone to Rockefeller Center with the promise to call one’s girlfriend is beyond one of the less stupid things. Instead, in our beds halfway across the country from each other, we sink into conversations about the night and what he’s been doing in New York, catching up with his college buds from St. John’s, the possibility of being stranded there if the power isn’t back up at the Atlanta airport where he’s supposed to fly into Tuesday for his family, and how we wish we could both be there where he is now.
So far, and yet, this is the closet I’ve felt with him this Christmas. Not when we drank from 11AM to midnight in ugly sweaters during SantaCon or danced like bosses in our suit and floor-length red gown on the balcony overlooking the Verso dance floor during my work holiday party with an Old Fashioned and Dirty Shirley in hands. He took off early that night– that was a punch to the gut of an already short night that was meant to be a magical moment for us to really be together. But the farther away we are now, we’re enjoying our company best.
I go to sleep now, with that song still fresh in my head, lights out, and turning my face away to keep on dreaming about a night in New York– at least a memorable night that felt so real, thanks to a fairytale sung tonight.