It was late Christmas Eve and I was walking home alone. A man collided roughly into me and muttered a “Merry Christmas” with an expletive inserted there somewhere. I knelled down to pick up a present I dropped as a result and concerned by his ill-tempered manner, I hastened my stride somewhat. It had been an occurrence typical of a lacklustre holiday, filled with banalities and pointless expense.
As I proceeded further, I found myself below the balconies of some apartments. Several were covered in fairy lights and tacky ornaments. On one such balcony, a young woman was gazing, at what I could not guess. Her face, lit up in a blue glow was attractive. I could have stared at her all night, but it was cold and I am no romantic. I continued walking and passed beneath her. A few steps later, I heard a call.
“What’s today?” a female voice shouted.
I turned and saw the woman watching me with a steady observation.
“Excuse me?” I responded.
“What’s today, my fine fellow?”
“Why, it’s Christmas Eve,” said I.
“An intelligent lad, a remarkable lad! Tell me, as it is Christmas Eve, the most joyful of Eves, Why do you wear so heavy a countenance?”
“Sadly the burden the world relieves on this day, weighs double on my shoulders,” I said, playing along.
“Well sir, it is a pity that one should be unhappy on such a night while others drink merry wine. Therefore I propose a most modest proposal. If you are not otherwise engaged, come up and share a glass with a similarly solitary soul.
I walked to the door of the apartment block, pressed the correct button and she buzzed me in. As I walked down the corridor, I was quite excited. This was a rare happening of most extraordinary circumstance. This could be the opening acts of something, amazing, magical, even cinematic. At the very least, a good story to tell the next day.
She opened the door, holding two glasses of wine in one hand. She smiled, handed me one and led me inside. The place had been sparsely decorated; a bauble here and a ribbon there. A small plastic tree occupied the corner. She sat on the couch and motioned that I follow. I did so and I opened my mouth to utter something brilliant to make her fall deeply for me.
“I really like your tree.”
She ignored this underwhelming platitude and started the conversation on more futile grounds. The night ran long and we bantered well past midnight. Abruptly she asked me a curious question.
“So tell me stranger, what was your most memorable Christmas?”
Despite been caught off guard by such a direct question, an answer did immediately spring to mind. It was an oft told tale in my house, and certainly one I’ve repeated at parties or similar social occasions. It’s something of a cautionary tale, in which my nine year old self learns a valuable lesson. But as my current story concerns someone else, I will skip over this body of the anecdote, and document on her response. She smiled at my careful sneaking down the stairs to open the presents early and laughed at the moment I accidently vomit on the presents as my parents enter the room, with all my siblings. She listened but I sensed that she was impatient for my conclusion.
I finished and she began.
“That was quite the tale. Now here is my one. It was Christmas, a recent one. A gentleman and I were sitting in this very apartment, drinking a glass of moderately priced glass of red wine. We laughed and we talked and we ate. Suddenly the Christmas CD I made came to an end, and we were without music. There was a stillness in the air, I recall. He then suggested we open presents. I said ‘No. It was too early, barely Christmas Day’. But he persisted. He insisted that I would like his present, so much so that I would forgive him his eagerness…but still I said no. Ignoring this protest, he drew from his front pocket a tiny round box. He knelled down and opened it. Inside was a small ring with a stone. The design was of three loops intersecting with a diamond set in the middle. He looked and uttered some words, followed by a question…I said no.”
The girl walked over to the window and finished her wine. I watched her and sipped my wine.