angie loves christmas, in spite of her life. which, she thinks now, might be yet another testament to how stupid she is. but here she is, hanging little ornaments on her tiny tree, feeling that tingling christmas pleasure that she remembers from the age of three. it’s been eleven years since she’s had a normal christmas. normal for her anyway. normal for her family. it’s the eleventh year of grief over those other years, yet here she stands hanging ornaments.
a decade plus one that for christmas there is no family, not of the human type at any rate. angie will be alone with her animals on the great day, as she now almost always is. no one will come to visit, no one will come to take her off for a dinner. she’ll pass the day when it comes with the radio, the dog walks, the silly singing of songs and ringing of bells that amuses her birds and helps her give herself the story that this christmas, however isolated and bleak, is still a special day. it’s special if you work at it.
she knows this is a game she’s been playing with herself for a long time, behaving on any all-alone holiday as if there is still something to celebrate, to ritualize. sometimes she tries to reform: this time I will not sings songs and ring bells and clap my hands. this time I will not blabber all day to the animals that this is a different kind of day, a fun day, a day to stuff our faces and be silly. I will get up and live this day the same way I live all the common days, because that’s all it is when you have no one. just another common day.
but she never pulls it off. she seems to be psychologically, chemically incapable of ignoring a holiday. she must specialize them. every excruciatingly lonely holiday, when she is remembered by no one, must be tinseled up and specialized. one of the traps of her own making. it annoys her, annoys her no end, that people design traps for themselves and then live in them, and that she, who has realized this for ages now, is powerless to get herself to just cut it out.
there will be only one package this year. sometimes there are none, but other times there are two, when angie and her son are on speaking terms. this year they’re not, so there will be only the package from her cousin. angie awaits this box like a crusader hunting the holy grail. this drab cardboard box is just about all she has left of family, all she has left of christmas the way it used to be. she savors it, opening only one gift a day to make it last. she’s like a little kid in some ways, and maybe that’s because of the asperger’s. or maybe not. in any case, she still likes to buy bubble juice in the summer and blow them in the yard, the house, anywhere. and she over fifty years old. also she loves with a childish delight to open up a wrapped package, because under that wrapping there’s a happy secret (juicy contrast to all the secrets that are black). a new, shiny secret that some person picked out just for her. it’s delicious to look at that bright wrap, that sleek ribbon and know there’s a benevolent surprise inside.
the package comes on friday the 23rd, but angie isn’t home. the mailman puts the package on angie’s stairs, as always, but when she comes home there’s nothing there. there is, however, a brown box on nancy’s stairs.
on saturday nothing comes for her, and it has been raining since friday afternoon. angie wonders, when she walks her dogs, why nancy is leaving her own package on the stairs in the rain. psycho, she thinks. who knows what the hell she’s up to.
but late in the afternoon of that christmas eve, the rain stops and nancy walks to angie’s stairs and leaves the soggy brown box on them. when she’s gone, angie gets the box, sees it’s for her, and understands now that nancy took her package, left it in the rain for over a day, and then gave it back to her sodden. she took it because she could, because the opportunity presented itself. she took it because she saw yet another way to harass angie, to show her how much she is hated, to show her that nothing will stop nancy making stabs at her. it’s not the first time nancy’s stolen from her since october, but it adds an extra layer of despair to angie’s collection: not even christmas is off-limits with this lunatic. she will torment me even at christmas.