"Christmas Lights" Part Two

(Photo used by permission from the talented Tori Watson at Marvelousthingsphotoblog.com)

            The 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 them.  
            Yeah, 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.
            I 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.
            Four 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 father.
            There’s 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.
            It’s 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.
            I’m alone and I’m still angry at the ugly display back at that house.
            I 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.
            I sigh. Other voices start to rise up inside me. The familiar language. The Celebrate Recovery rhetoric. My pastor’s encouragement. My sponsor’s judgment. 
            Stop 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.
            I turn on the radio. Paul McCartney is singing “Wonderful Christmas Time”, reminding me why I loved John Lennon the most.
            He never did something awful as this song.
            It’s a bit like someone sticking a fork in my side. Or maybe my ears.
            No, 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.
            The 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.
             That’s 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 in.
            Pete’s dead now, but his place and his ugly Pub sign live on.
            My heart is racing. My mouth is watering.
            What am I doing here?
            I mean—yeah, I know. I know exactly why. But why now? Why of all nights?
            You 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.
            I 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.
            I begin walking up the sidewalk. The etched stones look like prison blocks.
            Peace 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.
            2012 has been a brutal year. In so many ways.
            I 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.
            I 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.
            I 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.
            So get it over with buddy.
            The only thing I want is that first drink. Just to get it over with.
            It comes out of nowhere, as sure as the night breeze and its cold breath.
            You 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.
            “Who cares anymore?”
            I might just think this or I might say this out loud. It doesn’t matter.
            Yes, 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)

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