PART TWO (link to part one)
by Roseanne L.
The snow seems to have slowed down a bit, and the clouds seem to have parted enough to exhibit the Little Dipper shining across the night sky. Charlie and I continue our trek home through the nearly empty city, and a huge wave of exhaustion washes over me. The four hours of sleep last night (and four months of pregnancy) seem to be catching up with me now, as I’m beginning to feel the intense urge to flop down somewhere and shut my eyes for eight hours. Just to relax for a moment, I find the nearest bench and pull Charlie with me on over to it. A pillow of snow covered the bench, which I quickly heaved off. I placed the bag down next to me on the freezing seat as Charlie sat down on the cold ground at my feet. I let out a long, satisfying breath and watched the vapor escape my lips, filling the air for a brief second. As soon as my eyes began to close, my ears picked up the sound of singing voices and jingling bells coming my way.
“Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen…”
“God, not this song again…” I say, slightly irritated that these carolers are interrupting my moment of rest with the song they sing on repeat every year through the city. The voices grew closer and closer and before I knew it, a group of six people walked slowly past me.
“When the snow lay ‘round about
Deep and crisp and even…”
All of a sudden, they come to a stop directly in front of me. Somehow they’ve all spotted me and decided to continue their caroling right at me.
The classic Christmas tune continues for another minute or so. Once they finish, one of the ladies in the group looks at me hopefully. She asks, “Do you have a request for a carol, ma'am? Anything at all you’d like to hear?”
Something in me wanted to hear a familiar tune. The request easily rolled off my lips, “"It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”.“
The group grinned at me, pleased that I had at least requested something. Most people weren’t too nice to the carolers or just simply ignored them altogether.
"It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old.
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold…”
All at once, with each lyric sung, Christmas memories flitted across my mind. I could see my dad and I slow dancing to the song in front of the fireplace while Mom looked on. I could see Mom and I string the popcorn across the tree and Dad ripping pieces off to eat, even though he knew Mom would smack him for it later. I could see myself waking up on Christmas morning, not comprehending the number of gifts sitting under the tree, my parents casting their sweet smiles towards me. I could see everything.
Before I knew it, the song ended. The memories ended. My face felt wet with tears once again. God, will you ever stop crying, Lizzie?
“That was lovely.” I said to the carolers before me. I pull a crumpled $50 bill from my pocket and hand it to the woman who’d initially asked for a song. “Merry Christmas.”
All the carolers responded, “Merry Christmas to you too, miss.”
As they headed off into the dark Christmas Eve, I gathered my composure, picked up my brown bag and headed back on the road home. I pass by the Catholic church up the block from the cemetery. The bells rang loudly into the snowy Christmas midnight.
Midnight Mass was sure to be going on right now, I briefly thought to myself.
I walked across the street, walked down the next block, (not bearing to glance at the cemetery again) and turned right onto Main Street.
After six more steps upward and onward, Charlie and I finally reached our destination. Harry’s car was still gone. I released a disappointment filled sigh. What else should I expect from him? I gently drop the heavy bag onto the front step as I unlock the door. Charlie trots through the entrance as soon as the door swings open. I drop the bag onto the counter and switch on the living room lamp. I pad over to the kitchen to brew up a cup of instant hot cocoa. In two minutes it’s ready and poured into one of my old Santa mugs. I head on over to my regular seat. Shedding my coat and gloves onto the floor without a care, I sit myself down on the plushy red couch that sits by the window.
My eyes ghost across the silent, snow-blanketed city. Sometimes I wish New York was always like this; peaceful, harmless, unmoving. The streetlights twinkle as the snowfall picks up again. A few more stores close their shop lights down. I open the window, wanting to feel the cold nip of the December air on my face again.
There’s a slight kick against the inside of my stomach. I graze my hand across my stomach. Another kick. My face splits into a wide grin. “There he is. Alive and kicking, aren’t ya?” I whisper.
Charlie hops up onto the old couch with me, placing his head in my lap. I take a sip from my
warm mug and let the sweet taste of chocolate dance across my tongue for a brief second. Charlie’s light snoring and the ticking of the clock above me are the only sounds surrounding me. Content. I’m content. Alone, but content nonetheless. There are countless tales of people who end up alone on Christmas. I’m not the only one. Though this Christmas Eve hasn’t necessarily gone as planned, it hasn’t been all that awful. It could be worse.
The baby gives my tummy another little kick. I smile. I take another sip of the hot cocoa in my hands. The cool December breeze dances across my face. As I close my eyes contentedly, I can almost hear my father speaking to me.
“Remember Lizzie: you are never alone. No matter where I am, no matter how far away I’ll be someday, I am always with you. It sounds like a sappy Hallmark card saying, I know. But, it’s important for you to remember. You’ll never be truly alone. And one day, you’ll be in my place, saying the same thing to your kid. Always hold onto that.”
I take in a deep breath, then slowly exhale. I gaze out the window, down towards the empty parking space. I listen for a moment for a potential telephone ring. Not a peep.
Another little tap presses against the right side of my stomach. I cover the area with my almost frostbitten hand.
“Remember Lizzie: you are never alone.”
Amidst the empty streets and dimming streetlights, the sound of silence and the echoes of empty space, the minuscule foot tapping against me makes it almost plain.
“You are never alone.”