When You Miss Someone On Christmas Eve

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It is 8:30 pm on Christmas Eve. My mother is flitting about the house like an irritated hummingbird. She cannot stay still, just a powerful and devastatingly beautiful hurricane ready to destroy anybody who gets in her way. She has to bake a pie. She has to bake a pie. I offer to help. She says I have not been helpful today. Well, okay.

My grandmother is on the couch and gazing into the eyes of her other half, an apricot and cream-colored mutt. He always looks a little nervous. The storm that is my mother is probably not helping.

My father is in a mahogany box in the office. Literally. All the nights of pickles straight out of the jar, reading Archie comics in bed, I love yous, car rides with butchered lyrics, all of it somehow fitting in the smallest container. I go to see him. I run my fingers over the wood, so smooth and so cold that goose bumps spring forth along my arms.

I have a headache, so I slip away into my bedroom. There is no bed. I’m starting to realize that this place is becoming more and more my childhood home, not my home.

I look at my phone, searching for something, though I’m not entirely sure what. Twitter, Facebook, Email, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, laugh at Tinder messages, Twitter, Snapchat. Fuck. You have a Snapchat update. I tell myself I’ll delete you this time. I won’t care. I won’t look. Back to Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. I’m plugged in to everything and absolutely nothing at the same time. Okay, fine. Self-control has never been my strong suit, so back to Snapchat I go. I feel my heart clawing up my throat like that one stubborn kid at the playground. He could just get off the damn slide, go to the side, and use the ladder like a decent human being. He could wait his turn in line, and go down the slide once again. But NO WAY, he’s going to make everyone wait as he attempts to wiggle his way back up, gliding back down each step he tries. That’s not how slides were built to work. And my heart is not supposed to be thumping against my tonsils.

I close my eyes, letting the memory of your blue oceans wash over my entire body. You are here. You are whispering to me. You say you want to hold me every night. Every single night. But you said that drunk. Did you mistakenly think you were texting someone else? I open my eyes. I haven’t hurt like this since I was seventeen, fresh faced and only had allowed one boy to see me naked. I feel so damn stupid. I should not hurt so badly from just a few months. Over a few lies. A few fucks. A few poems. A few kisses. A few secrets. A few fantasies. A few plans. A few drives. A few, no, a thousand Snapchats. A few, fuck, your tongue is in my ear and I’m forgetting my own thoughts. But I had wanted you every since I performed for you on that bus. You immediately found my YouTube channel. I feigned embarrassment, but felt my insides summersault when you clicked subscribe.

The first night we were together, I came home wearing battle scars. There had been so much passion, so much frustration that we had been fighting against, that your fingers left marks against my skin. All other brushstrokes were gone from memory, and I walked into your bed a blank canvass. You painted thin red lines across my back. They made me bizarrely happy. I wore them like a badge. I wanted them to stay forever. I took off all my clothes and stared at myself in the mirror. I was happy in a way I hadn’t been in so long. You were apologetic, yet it only made me want more scratches.

The night we broke my headboard, I was ecstatic. We were both broken ourselves, but together, I felt like we were picking up the pieces. I showed you poetry and you were the first man to ever hold me that didn’t make my skin itchy. I used to joke that my future husband would have to understand I’d sleep in my own bed. It would be nothing personal, we could fuck and love, cuddle for a bit, but I needed my own space. I wanted to give you all my space. The spaces in between my fingers, my legs, my mind, my heart. I felt so much. I didn’t quite feel love yet, but it was on the horizon, and whatever was already there was irrationally unconditional. The first night you left me crying, I told my roommates I would still go see you perform a few nights later. I felt nauseous the entire evening. I was waiting for you in the audience, so sick from anxiety, not because I was afraid of seeing you, but because I was afraid for you. I wanted it to be exactly what you envisioned. I sat a few rows behind you, but I could feel your nerves. I could feel your chaotic energy. I wanted you to know you were beautiful and brilliant and perfectly human. I wanted you to see what I could see. I had to step outside while the other poets went. I stereotypically splashed cold water on my face in the bathroom. And then you went up on stage. And my stomach settled. I could have watched you all night.

I do not pray. I do not even know what I believe, but tonight, I said something to whatever powers there may be for you. Not to have you, but for you. I asked that you go to bed with such love and serenity. I asked that tomorrow your family is at peace, happy, laughing, wonderfully silly, and joyful. You once told me you wanted understanding. I asked for that too. And I realize I will do the same thing on the 4th of July. I’m sure she knows the dates and what they represent, but does she know the depth? Does she know the emptiness and hollow pain you hide behind that strong jaw? God, I don’t even truly know who she is. She might not be the girl I’ve decided in my mind must be her. The girl who called you crying while you were in my bed. But with my trusting heart, I watched you untangle yourself from my sheets and even smiled, “go help your friend in need. I’ll be here.” I hope she writes poems for you. I still do. I don’t know for how much longer, but tonight, on Christmas Eve, I am hiding from peppermint candles, lovable family arguments, and instead, am crying wishing I was with you. I just want everything you promised a few weeks ago. I wish you wanted that too. And part of me still believes we can let go of everything holding us back, and both fall together. But I guess for now, bah humbug. TC Mark

Ari Eastman

✨ real(ly not) chill. poet. writer. mental health activist. mama shark. ✨

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