White flakes of snow spun and swirled outside, while the dated heater raged like a jet engine within the apartment. The dishes from the potluck were washed and put away, and the echoes of friends and merriment had faded like the burning sweetness of a glass of eggnog. And he was alone.
The thought of being by himself on Christmas day had never really bothered him much. No, it wasn’t the lack of gifts and bustle, or of Bing Crosby and Bedford Falls, that troubled the man. It was something else, something as hard to pin down as why his ramen and pea soup hadn’t tasted right at dinner—adjusting for the fact that, after all, it was made from ramen and frozen peas.
He could have spent the day with his friend’s family. It would have been fun. But somehow the comforts of a quiet apartment and a cozy, worn old sofa held him in their thrall. He’d expected as much, ever since waking up at almost noon and eating his first meal at two or three o’clock. And it was alright, he thought, because, unlike most people, he thrived on aloneness.
His self-imposed hermitude contrasted strangely with Monday’s enthusiasm for home, family, and friends. The canceled flight hardly dimmed his spirits. After all, it was Christmas! He’d find a way home. But Tuesday at the bus station, with its seemingly-pointless delays and uncomfortably different clientèle, ground down his patience, and, gradually, the process of getting to Washington made him wish more and more that he could just stay in Utah to ride out the holidays in travel-free peace. Leaving behind an endless supply of free pizza (shocking, really), he fled the bus station and returned to Provo.
Yes, there had been a dinner that night, and friends to be with; and yes, the party on Wednesday (Christmas Eve) warmed his heart and filled his stomach; but the pendulum had already swung the other way, and on Christmas he found himself alone.
Alone. On Christmas day. He never thought he’d care.
The snow had all but stopped now, drifting down to earth like a disappointment, and the heater finally fell silent, too. Watching the flakes fall in front of a cloudy, glowing night sky, he contemplated one more attempt to fly home tomorrow. He expected that when (or if) he finally got there, he’d snap out of it, want to be a person again. But he didn’t want to want to.
Oh, and, by the way, the celery seeds ruined the soup.
Note: This is mostly autobiographical. However, on Christmas night I did get to chat with some friends online and go over to Diane’s for a little while. The outcome of return attempt #3 is, of course, still pending, but I think I’ll probably feel a little more like being elsewhere once I’ve actually succeeded in getting there.