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The Sameness of Christmas | 2014 | Brigid's Cross


Avoid the crowd. Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece.  

-Ralph Charell


An Outdated New Year

Amber and Daniel  
"The proletarians have nothing to loose but their chains. They have a world to win."

It's New Year's Eve and I am sitting in an antique store, Outdated in Kingston. I listen to a movie otherwise beneath my interest and watch Amber and Daniel playing chess (the piece are plastic and new, though the board is faded enough to be vintage), our bellies full of questionable fare from a chain restaurant which I would not have patronized except for a Christmas gift card.

This was intended to be a more exciting night, one of steampunk bands and burlesque, but the club sold out of tickets a day in advance and, though they implied they could be persuaded should one wish to pester them at the door and though Daniel knows the owner (being the sort who ends up, though no fault of his own, knowing a number of useful people), we are not in the business of persuading tonight. The two most important people in my life (who are not yet related to me) have no problem with just being on New Year's Eve. At the very least, this pace will keep my friendly introverts from burning out prior to midnight, something that was not so last year. I don't need much: Amber's disgustingly cute giggle of perceived victory and Daniel's narration will do fine to ring in the new year.

A woman enters in the midst of Amber's inevitable defeat - Daniel has just told Amber that he smashed her religion and liberated her queen - and explains how she would have done First Night better but no one was on board with it. She knows Daniel, of course, and asks for reintroduction to Amber and me. Daniel is identified as the man who made her husband's birthday gift, surely some intricate and occult tile, but has her own plans for the night. She leaves them to their game and me to my writing.

Daniel's queen reads Amber's king The Communist Manifesto and slaughters the peasants at the behest of his Minister of Propaganda, which is what he insists he has instead of a bishop.

We spend an hour talking to Heidi at The Art Riot, looking at erotic holiday cards (how better to spend Christmas than contorted with a candy cane shoved in one's rump?) until one of her friends, pierced and gregarious, shows up to entertain Heidi until midnight or closing, whichever comes first. We try for a heavily advertised overflow party, but it turns out to be at a cafe smaller than my kitchen and already well beyond capacity.

We return to the antique chess set in the warmth of Outdated. Since it is an hour to midnight and Outdated is not stingy with their bathroom (in strict contradiction to the bars who believe relief is in the hand of the beer holders), the place is now packed. We are able to cajole the chess set from the clutches of indifferent hipsters, who make ostentations of interested remarks to attract our attention to how quirky they are, until the owners of the shop shoo us into the street to prepare for the ball drop.

Daniel declines to sit near the stage for half an hour and butters us up into accepting this by telling us that he will get us a table as Duo for post-midnight breakfast. Amber and I find a frozen stone pillar and claim it as our own. She asks for my favorite pen, her gift to me for our last anniversary and what I had been using to write the notes for this, so that she can write her resolutions on her hand. I ask for it back when she finished, but she insists my prized possession was as fine in her pocket as it was in mine and she would give it back later. This makes no sense to me and I keep feeling for it in my pocket.

The ball-more a combination sun and moon on plywood-drops to glove-muted applaud and the blowing of many noisemakers. Amber taps me, holding the pen in its original case and a Five Star Peanut Butter Bar. "Will you marry me?"

I take the pen back and pocket the candy bar, which I told her is one of my favorites and something I find maybe once every three years, then give her a kiss on her forehead.

"I'm waiting for an answer," she says.

"Yes, you silly creature. Of course. I think we established this months ago."

This had been her plan for months, which I skunked by proposing in October. Even though I have yet to marry her, I would a dozen times over for moments like this one. I can't look at pictures of her without falling a bit more in love, I can't remember adventures with her without breaking out into a goofy grin. It is the perfect way to ring in the New Year.

Soon in Xenology: Wedding planning.

last watched: Eegah
reading: Looking for Alaska
listening: Lorde

The Sameness of Christmas | 2014 | Brigid's Cross

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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