Inevitably, fights will break out. Its almost a holiday tradition on the streets. As I’m walking towards the scene on Christmas day my first thought usually is: “Who’s gonna get beat up this time.”
Invariably, one of them will approach me almost immediately after I show up. They’ll stagger towards me with a drunken leer. Muttering angry comments under their breath. They’ve gotten a raw deal in life, its so unfair, and now somebody must pay. They’ll stick their jaw in your face, almost inviting you to take a swat at it, making angry pronouncements, usually ending with “…and fuck you TOO, buddy boy!!” Its almost a sexual thing, like a mating ritual, like they’re looking for somebody to dance with. You have to explain to them as gently as possible that they must have mistaken you for someone who could actually tolerate breathing in the same air as them. And you steer them in the other direction. Off they go, jutting their jaws out in challenge to other prospective dance partners. Until they finally jut their jaws at someone who is jutting THEIR jaws back at them. Beautiful! Finally they have found each other. Later in the day you’ll spot them with black eyes and bruises all over their faces. And they are strangely quiet and subdued now, almost satisfied, or at least their passions have been exhausted. They sit there quietly for the rest of the afternoon, as if basking in a post-coital afterglow.
The drinkers all start drinking earlier than usual. Usually from the first moment they wake up and get out of their sleepingbags. Everyone is straining to “party.” Everyone is desperately seeking something “more.” This is a day we’re supposed to be “celebrating” after all. And getting increasingly bitter that in fact its mostly just another day of the same old shit. As if we’ve been denied something that should be rightfully ours.
Even worse than the fighters and drinkers are the compulsive socializers. People I barely know will attach themselves to me, harangue me with loud, shrill talk attesting to some great camraderie and brotherhood that we must have shared in some distant past. It is as if people are afraid to admit they’re alone on Christmas. They must share in the warmth and intimacy of deep friendship, even if they have to artificially manufacture it in the moment.
Alas, there is something about the holidays that forces one to take stock of their lives. Often painfully so. When I’m walking alone down the street on Christmas day, I’ll almost feel ashamed. Like people are looking at me thinking: “Look at him, poor slob. Alone and friendless and family-less on Christmas.”
I remember one lonely Thanksgiving back when I had an apartment. I went down to 7-11 (the only store open) and bought a frozen turkey TV dinner for my Thanksgiving meal. I could almost feel what the clerk was thinking: “LOSER!”
Its hard not to take stock of your life and what it’s all amounted to when your sitting alone, under an awning, in the pouring rain, on Christmas day, eating a goddamn peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You feel like you’re living out a Charlie Brown episode from some long lost Peanuts special.
And that’s all I remember about that Christmas. Thank God.