I sat slumped with my back against the wall, deflated and defeated, my legs propped up on the vinyl bench in front of me. Tobi sat across from me in the booth. She had somehow wiggled a couple hours into her hectic mom-to-seven-kids schedule to figure out what was getting her pal Dan down. Christmas was still nearly four weeks away.
“Do you know who Charlotte Brontë is?” I said.
“She wrote Jane Eyre.” I poked at my half eaten sandwich and huffed. “I don’t know why I’m so down,” I said in response to an earlier question she asked me.
“What about Jane Eyre?” Tobi said.
I then quoted the lady, secretly proud of how smart I sounded as I nailed it word for word. “The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.” I told her. “Brontë said that once.”
Again, just calling her Brontë made me feel like an intellectual badass.
I needed to feel something right then. I had slipped into a serious case of the single-person holiday blues, and I couldn’t figure out how to climb out.
This was my fourth Christmas in a row without someone by my side, and it was my worst one yet. Why I can’t get and keep a girlfriend at least until Human Rights Day is beyond me. Even some of my most perpetually single friends always seem to be able to wrangle up a temporary girlfriend or a boyfriend to get them through the holidays.
Each year, I am more astounded than the year before at the depression that sneaks its way in. It generally starts on Pie Night (which for me is the beginning of the holiday season), and doesn’t end until the New Years hangovers have worn off and kids are finally back to school.
Now, I think it’s important to note that I don’t generally suffer from depression. January 5thish to November 20thish of each year I largely am one of those Mr. Magoo, how are you, annoyingly upbeat people. I even walk around forcing the depression out of others with my silly and ridiculous wit, my voracious charm, and my unwillingness to let the world suck.
But good Lordie, the holidays are spiteful to my psyche. And like I said, they are getting worse.
My first Christmastime alone, I setup both of my big Christmas trees, one in each room. I hung lights. I decorated the house. I had Christmas music cranking. The depression set in, but later in the season, and it was mild. Nothing I couldn’t push aside and pretend didn’t exist.
By Christmastime number two, I had been forced out of my house weeks before, barely keeping things afloat. I had given one of the Christmas trees to the local thrift store. I setup a tree, but no lights. I cranked a little Christmas music when I was feeling really down. And I remember I just felt sad, and in that depression I discovered that one of the sections of the tree had burnt out, so the day after Christmas, I drug the entire thing to the dumpster and sent it on its way. I do stupid stuff like that when I’m down. I’m sure I just had to change a single bulb or something.
By Christmastime number three, we had moved again. Downgraded to a tiny two-bedroom apartment. I remember sitting on my couch a lot that year, watching the screensaver on my television, drinking hot cocoa. It was Noah’s turn to be at his mom’s house on Christmas, so that weighed heavily in the back of my mind. After three days of staring at the same 12 pictures cycle every night, I went and bought a tiny little three foot tree and set it up. It helped a little, but not much.
And then there was this last Christmastime. I went from being so happy and feeling so good to just frustrated and depressed and alone, almost overnight. I did nothing to decorate for Christmas. No tree. No lights. No decorations. I didn’t even hang my wreath on the door. I went to a lot of movies. I also stared at that same revolving screensaver night after night. I can tell you exactly what every photo is.
A koala climbing a tree with her baby on her back. Two lionesses in a seemingly affectionate pose. A hippo and her baby poking their heads out of the floating foliage. An eagle, soaring through the morning mist. Elephants at a waterhole. A beautiful wild leopard walking down a game trail with her cub. Many more; you get the idea. Thank you National Geographic.
That was the majority of my yuletide. Just sitting. Watching. Refreshing Facebook every few seconds on my phone. Waiting for people to text me back.
CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE