Thursday, December 24, 2009

Brief Encounter, A Holiday Story [Redux]

Image ©Lindwa |
Christmas Lamppost Background Photo

On Christmas Eve of 2007, I posted a holiday story I had originally written in 1994. The story was my first experiment in 2nd person narration -- I really wanted you, the reader, to feel the story was directly happening to you.
The version that was posted in 2007, and reappears here, is almost exactly as I originally penned it. I hope all those who visit my humble blog will appreciate it on some level. It would be great if it helped rekindle your own joy for this season. Feel free to share the story as long as you respect my copyright. Merry Holy Days!

Brief Encounter 
Not even close. It’s December 13, almost 7pm, and you're not even close to getting done. But then, holiday preparations are never truly over, are they? The lights and the decorations. The tree, the trimmings. The food, the drink. And the gifts. Oh, Gods! the gifts... "If I bump into one more shopper or excited child, or if I have to speak to just one more merchant, I may..." But you never finish the thought. You let it go in favor of something more practical: "I have to get out of here." 
You make your way through the sea of patrons, dodging and weaving, participating in some complex and ultimately energy-sapping dance. It takes some effort to reach the main doors, but you smile with pride: Didn’t drop a single package. Exiting into the night, you feel a rush of crisp air hurry to your face. Snow tonight? Doubtful, but anything is possible. 
Anything, perhaps, save what happens next.
You notice him emerge slowly from behind a small tree, which is surprising because he is much taller, much larger, than you would have expected, not that you ever expected to actually see him. The trademark items seem to be in place: the beard (though much darker in color) and the fur trimmed clothing, which is not nearly as cartoonish as you have seen in movies or even imagined. And it’s green! He looks right at you and moves to close the distance. No one else notices him, though he comes quite close to brushing elbows with several shoppers. And he makes no effort to avoid being fully illumined in the streetlights; it just happens that way. When he reaches you, you are surprised yet again. His unkempt beard is not only darker than you expected, it is reddish-brown in color! Professional coloring? Maybe, but it does look natural. As he removes his hat, you gaze upon his rugged yet joyful features and wonder why you always pictured him as a balding man. He is pleased that you recognize him; how you actually know that cannot quite be said. You just … know. 
Once he has your attention, he begins a dialogue. "And so,” says the man in green, his voice boisterous and strangely calm all at once, “how may’st you spend the seventeenth day of this the twelfth month?” You find yourself bowing ever so slightly and somewhat absently. He winks, smiles, and continues, “If you will excuse such a breach of formality.” You begin to form an answer, but it's too much effort to explain. 
“I just don't know,” you offer flatly. 
True, your friends are having a little party on that same day. But with so very much to be done this very busy season, how can you possibly commit to any activity save completing the tasks set and accepted as your own? The wind increases its volume such that it blankets all sounds not directly within earshot. You shiver, but your coverings keep you quite warm. He somehow knows what you are thinking. You can’t be certain how he could know, but you suffer no discomfit. 
He stretches out his hands and gestures toward the mall. “There is much more to this season than the garish consumer’s plague that seems to have conquered the holidays. Long before the obligatory exchange of parcels and packages came to pass, people knew truly how to observe the closing of the year.” He takes in a deep, solemn breath before continuing. “When the darkness of winter lay heavy upon the land, no crops grew, but the people drank, sang, loved and fought in their great halls. Their communal celebrations were a mighty affirmation of light against dark, life against death.” 
He smiles at his recollection and, for a moment, seems very far away. You feel sad for him, but quickly come to your senses. After all, you have much to do. This old relic may be content to live in the past, but you're much too practical for that. Times do change after all. His chuckle catches you off-guard. Again, he seems to know your thoughts. 
“Times do not change; people do. Even if thou think’st that all have forgotten, some do yet persist in the memory.” He pauses. His smile seems to broaden, but it’s actually his eyes—great twinkling emeralds—that smile so greatly. Those eyes draw you in closer until you hear him say, nearly whispering, “And the practice!” 
Practice? What does he mean by that? For the first time you feel both excited and frightened, wishing to flee but rooted firmly in place. 
“Dear one,” he continues in soothing tones, “Do not become so caught up in doing, and planning, buying and fretting that you forget. This season is for revelry, mirth and spiritual asylum. Love is the only true gift of this season.” You ponder his words. For a moment, you can hear the celebrations of old. The parking lot shifts in your view, replaced by a Yuletide gathering. You feel—really feel—a sense of love and communal connection in your heart. 
His voice echoes all around you, “I danced with them, and I would dance with you!” 
As the Yuletide scene fades from view, you blink your eyes and turn to ask the man in green a question. But he is gone. You are all alone in the parking lot. Had he truly been here? You know he doesn’t, couldn’t exist. Right? And if he did, why would he pay you a brief visit in this crowded mall parking lot. In your heart, the answer sings bold and true. “Season’s Greetings!” you shout out loud as you dance to your car. 
© December 1994, All Rights Reserved.

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