Age of eighteen, my parents split on Christmas Eve. They had been separated for a year, got back together, struggled on. Dad pulled me aside and we sat down on my bed. He put a hand on my shoulder and said I hope you won’t hold it against me.
I nodded and then shook my head. The sweater my grandmother had given me itched my neck. Seemed to have been made out of Brillo pads. He got up and left. Saw the indentation he had made where he had sat on the bed, a curious absence.
Next morning there was false cheer, presents for the younger siblings. I, on the other hand, was looking for a fight. Cornered my mother, asked her why she had chased my father off. Quietly she cried into the eggs.
Went to church, pretended to sing. Fa-la-la-la-la. Then sang louder than I was supposed to. Got choked up at all the other families in their Christmas best. Went to the bathroom, wished for a cigarette. Loosened my tie and choose not to take Holy Communion as my heart was in the wrong place. Sat in the stall and decided part of it had probably been my fault. Probably.
Back at our house, cousins and aunts, uncles and grandmothers. I did not bother to pretend to enjoy myself. Instead I went up to my room, watched it begin to snow. I called Alex, but there was no answer. She was out with her family somewheres.
Got caught sneaking several glasses of brandy from the liquor table. Uncle grabbed me by the ear. Went outside without a coat. Dress shoes wet in the snow, I ran, kept running, ran some more.
I went by Mark’s, whose mother was entertaining and wouldn’t let me in. He loaned me a gray mackinaw. It was past eleven by the clock on the defunct bank. Walked the one a half miles to Alex’s house. Saw her parent’s station in the driveway. Went around back and knocked on her window. The rectangular border of light, the shape of that window lit up, the shade drawing away, the familiar face like a song. Climbed up through the window standing on an empty propane tank.
Alex. You were in your very chaste underwear reading Nine Stories. Your sister had given you a copy. I laid on the floor while you read to me. Thought out loud about distant cities, drifted off admiring the shape of your feet. Did not mention you heard me crying in my sleep.
In the morning followed the shape of my tracks back through the snow. The world as it should be. Parked cars muffled by snow. Everything strange and new.