The Holidays for me are…
Smiling faces, the warm embrace of family, a safe haven and a light in this lonely dark.
“Please let it be negative, please let it be negative, please let it be negative.”
I utter a silent prayer as I look down on the mute meter, the stopwatch on my phone counting down the minutes from fifteen. There were seven minutes left. There is only one red line currently, that’s good, as long as it stays that way. Of course it will stay that way, I’m going home for Christmas, it couldn’t be positive. No, no it simply couldn’t. It just couldn’t.
Four minutes remaining.
I gawk at it, hoping that my penetrating stare might scare off another red line from appearing. No, have to think about something else. Make time pass. I’ve bought everyone a gift, right? I got mom, dad, my brother, little sister, grandma, cousin Sidney, aunt Hilda, Uncle Isaac. Am I forgetting someone? Probably not, oh, look at the time!
Two minutes remaining.
No additional red bar, not yet! God, I thought this nervous ball gnawing at my stomach would be gone once I turned in the final exam, but it’s back, more relentless than before. Need to get up, walk a few paces, breath. It’ll be fine, it’ll be fin-
One minute remaining.
Ha. Haha. There’s no sign of a new, red bar. And there’s only one minute remaining. I will be fine. I’ll be going home this Christmas. I’ll get to see everyone again, tell them about my semester in the new city. And I’ll have a wonderful time-
BEEP BEEP BEEP!
My heartbeat skips in rhythm with the alarm as I look down one final time at the small test on the kitchen table. Like opening Schrödinger’s box, all possible outcomes are sieved, and a single conclusion remains.
There’s an extra red line. There are now two red lines. Which means…
I…I can’t go home this Christmas. I…I have to stay in this apartment, alone. Like every other day of this semester. I have to cancel my tickets. I have to call off my plans with my friends back home. I have to call mom and tell her…tell her that I can’t come home. I have to tell her… that I won’t see her or dad or anyone else this Christmas.
I start to cry. In my despair I slump down, the kitchen chair catching me before the floor could devour me. The one thing that had kept me going through this isolated, lonely semester. The one thing that was the light at the end of the tunnel, cut off from me at the very last stretch. What had I done to deserve this?
I didn’t want to call them, not right away. Because then I would have to hear my mom tear up on the phone as well. She has been looking forward to seeing me again basically since I left. She would probably suggest something desperate, like doing Christmas over Zoom. I…I wouldn’t handle that. Had I learned anything from Zoom over the last semester, it’s that it only gave the illusion of unity. Once the screen went dark, you were faced with reality as you stared into your own, lonesome reflection.
I feel like a disappointment, not only to my family, but to myself. I thought I had taken all the necessary precautions, wore a mask, religiously used antibacterial on my hands, reduced social contact to a very limited few. And still, that stupid virus got me. It has ruined my Christmas, like it has ruined everything.
All my new friends here have already traveled home. They left as soon as they could. Meanwhile, I couldn’t book a ticket until later due to my late exams. I wanted to be near the school so I could study, had I gone home, I would be too distracted by spending time with my family to have given a proper exam. Rufus is quite the loveable and distracting dog too, especially when he knows he shouldn’t be.
Just thinking about this sends new waves of emotions through me, and I continue to sob in my chair.
I’m left in a free fall, without a net to catch me before it’s too late. And my biggest fear is, that if I hit the ground, I won’t be able to stand back up. I will lay there, crippled, defeated and empty.