When I logon to my computer a reminder pops up:
It’s Christmas Day.
As if I can’t remember that yesterday was the day before Christmas. As if I can’t recall last night’s dinner with friends…
We bring a cheap bottle of Chardonnay to the Italian family-style restaurant where we meet every Christmas Eve. He’s wearing shoes that he dusts off once a year, she’s wrapped in a muffler knit by hand. I shrug off my rain coat with the broken zipper, unable to shrug off the wisps of my day at work, the customers with their pained, desperate faces: “Do you think my son’s girlfriend’s mother will want this? She’s sixty-nine.” The man sets a bottle of lavender massage oil on the counter.
“Do you even know this woman?” I wanted to say. “Why are you buying her a present? Go home and spend time with your son instead.”
These thoughts swirl in my head as my two friends reminisce about their adventures as a duo in times gone by before I came into their lives. I can barely hear what they say but I’m too tired to participate. I hear instead the family in the booth behind me chattering. I hear snippets of Dean Martin singing the lounge-lizard version of The Christmas Song, or is it Frank Sinatra? My eyes rove the walls adorned with old photographs: Sophia Loren sitting next to Jayne Mansfield, her eyes cutting down to Jayne’s pendulous breasts spilling over that low neckline. Another photo: a dapper man passed out on the table, one arm flung overhead; his companion, a young woman with short curls, stroking his slick hair. Did he have too much cheap wine to drink? Did the chicken marsala do him in? I wonder these things as my companions reminisce about a hostel in Marin under a full moon, a lump of man snoring in the bottom bunk.
We wait close to an hour for the eighty-dollar dinner to arrive and it’s disappointing: the spinach and tomato and red onion salad limp in a puddle of balsamic vinaigrette, the chicken breasts shrunken, not Jayne Mansfield proportions at all. A disappointment; but still, this yearly tradition with our makeshift-family is something we all look forward to, tucking it away like a favorite present to be admired when winter has bleached the color from our faces, and nights are long and lonely.
Another reminder pops up on my computer:
Tomorrow is the day after Christmas.
Those geniuses at Apple are on it.