“Christmas Lights” Part Two

(Photo used by permission from the talented Tori Watson at Marvelousthingsphotoblog.com)
town sleeps, though I know better. I can hear the rumbling in the pretty homes I
pass. I’ve lived in Hidden Cove so long I can write a book about all the
families I know, some whose houses I’m passing as I head to the downtown area.
There’s the Allen family, a couple I’ve known for a long time who just now are
deciding to get a divorce in their fifties. Three grown kids won’t stop them
from doing that, I guess. There’s the Weavers—Glenn and Patricia Weaver. A
couple who adopted five children—yeah, that’s right, five—and now have something like seventy grandkids. Then
there’s the Murphys, who are probably all so loaded none of them can make it up
the stairs. I’m talking the entire family, parents and grown-up children alike.
I know because I used be sitting in their house, bombed with the rest of
I know this place and the people living here. They know me, too. The guy I used
to be, and the one I’m trying to be now.
don’t think that Pete’s is open. Not at nine p.m. on Christmas Day. But I
haven’t visited Pete’s for a while.
years seven months and three days. But who’s counting.
            I can still see the shadow of Linda in the doorway of
Pete’s that one evening I forgot it was Molly’s birthday. My wife has always
been a gentle, amiable soul, but this time she was a raging bull. She told me
to finish my drink and follow her and get my tail home. The funny part of that
whole thing was she told me to finish my drink. She’d already given up on the
drinking part, yet she still believed back then I could be a halfway decent
nothing funny about that whatsoever.
            I don’t want to think of Linda nor do I want to think
of Rick or Molly or all the rest back at the house celebrating. Or arguing. Or
wondering where in the world I might be.
hard finding Waldo but it’s sure not hard finding Arthur.
            I turn on main street and notice the empty lanes. I
pass the bank, the pizza place, the library. A voice tells me to keep going
straight, to not turn on Oxford street. But I do.
alone and I’m still angry at the ugly display back at that house.
used to get to a point where I’d feel the anger rising. I’d start drinking and
it’d be like putting out a fire. So I thought and felt. So I tried to believe,
until I realized I was pouring gasoline onto the flames. The root of my anger
could be buried, but it never went away.
sigh. Other voices start to rise up inside me. The familiar language. The
Celebrate Recovery rhetoric. My pastor’s encouragement. My sponsor’s
thinking and stop listening and get out of the car.
            Another voice comes to me asking what I’m doing but I
refuse to answer it. I refuse to even acknowledge that I heard it.
turn on the radio. Paul McCartney is singing “Wonderful Christmas Time”,
reminding me why I loved John Lennon the most.
never did something awful as this song.
            It’s a bit like someone sticking a fork in my side.
Or maybe my ears.
Paul, I’m still not having a wonderful Christmas time, and I don’t think you
were either, not with those God-awful synth-sounds in the background
song continues but at least I don’t hear my sponsor talking. At least I can’t
hear my pastor. I slow down and then pull into one of the empty parking slots
on Oxford. I have lots to choose from. For a second, I leave the car running,
looking across the intersection, noticing the lit up sign.
all it says. That’s all it’s ever said. Pete never had any desire to change it
to anything other than here’s a pub and it’s a place to get drunk so come on
            Pete’s dead now, but his place and his ugly Pub sign
live on.
heart is racing. My mouth is watering.
am I doing here?
mean—yeah, I know. I know exactly why. But why now? Why of all nights?
know the answer to that too.
            The anger got chiseled away. But the crevices that
were left were too easily filled when they suddenly found themselves empty.
Empty and alone.
turn off the car and climb out. The cold covers me like a strait jacket. I
glance across the road at the river. I see the lit sign declaring PEACE ON
EARTH. But whoever put that up hadn’t seen the Rick and Molly on Christmas Day.
begin walking up the sidewalk. The etched stones look like prison blocks.
on Earth is a great idea and a wonderful thing for this day. But peace is the
furthest thing from my soul. I feel angry, alone, and betrayed.
has been a brutal year. In so many ways.
shiver but don’t see a speck of snow. They were calling for it, and frankly I’d
feel a bit more in the holiday mood if snow started falling. It just doesn’t
feel like Christmas, not the kind I remember having when I was a kid. Nor the
kind Linda and I had when the kids were so tiny and so enamored by everything.
stop and stand outside the pub, feeling the frigid breath of air. The holidays
used to be different. Christmastime used to mean something until life got so
busy. It’s not just the putrid commercialization that found Frosty the Snowman
playing in the background at a Walmart before Thanksgiving. No, it’s something
more. Something worse.
can hear Rick talking about America in decline and Molly mocking him and
telling him to be president while guzzling down more wine. These are two of our
children. Then there’s Danny, the little people-pleasing baby brother, always
trying to keep the peace by being goofy. They’re all adults, and they’ll never
listen to me. They’re all mirrors of me, yet it seems they’ve inherited all the
bad parts.
get it over with buddy.
only thing I want is that first drink. Just to get it over with.
comes out of nowhere, as sure as the night breeze and its cold breath.
are not God. You are powerless to control your tendencies to do the wrong things.
Your life is completely and totally unmanageable.
            Yeah, I’ve heard that before. I know it’s true. But
this is what I say back.
cares anymore?”
might just think this or I might say this out loud. It doesn’t matter.
I’m powerless, and yes, I’m thirsty. That first drink is going to be tough, but
the remaining drinks will come with ease. And there will be many of them. 

            (Go here to read “Christmas Lights” Part Three)