I’m not really a Christmas kind of gal. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a scrooge, but the shades of red, white, and velour capitalism give me motion sickness. The surplus of power strips illuminating the seemingly endless arrays of LEDs just can’t be good for the environment. Plus, as a kid, I never understood why my penny-pinching parents wasted gas money on driving miles out of the way to the beach-front neighborhood just so that they could ooh and ahh at the garish displays of decorations from the front yards of those with six-figure salaries — especially when they couldn’t be bothered to spend a few extra bucks at the grocery store so that I wouldn’t have to result to sucking on packets of Arby’s sauce for satiation when the fridge inevitably cleared itself out towards the end of the week.
Christmas just doesn’t do it for me, it never really did.
As I got older, my distaste for December only burgeoned. High school meant the introduction to the onslaught that is finals week, which only encouraged me to associate the holidays with Adderall and all-nighters. Going away to college was the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me — a big “eff you!” to the bullies, to that one English teacher who nearly failed me because I didn’t believe in her god, to everyone who picked me last in PE, and the like. I met the best friends I’ve ever had at university, and for the first time in my life, I loved to learn. Plus, as a creative writing major, the idea of never having to do math ever again was so hype.
But, at university, the holidays meant final projects. It meant examinations. Worst of all, it meant a mass exodus of everyone I learned to love to different corners of the country. Christmas meant going home, and for me, that meant going home to the place that reeked of divorce, disdain, and abandonment.
My happiness really hit hyper-drive during my junior year of college. I hate to sound like a helpless ingenue, but it was because I met a guy. He was great and sweet — the only guy I’ve ever been with who never threw a punch (or glass, like that one time) at me. I loved him. I loved him more than anything I’ve ever loved before.
We were together since August.
I got inexplicably nervous when December rolled around. Not nervous like how you feel when you drop your phone face-down on concrete and anticipate a crack, but the real nauseating kind of nervous. The kind of nervous that keeps you up at night because you can’t stop waking up to puke, the kind that makes your psychiatrist double your meds — that kind of nervous.
The one thing that made me sicker than the thought of me going home for the holidays was the anticipation of him going home. There was this girl from his hometown, this particular ex of his who I’d sometimes see in his direct messages through my peripheral. Her Instagram and Snapchat stories would always be at the front-left corner of his queue whenever he opened either app (the accounts that show up first in the line of stories are the accounts you interact with the most, sorry to ruin your day, but the more you know) and the emoji — you know, the one we all put in front of our favorite friends’ names so that they’d lump together at the bottom of our contact list to make it easier to send the one “streak” picture to the masses — still nested next to her name.
At that moment, I became Knives Chau from Scott Pilgrim Versus The World. I wasn’t Cassie from Skins, and I wasn’t Sally from the Corpse Bride. I was black-haired, brown-eyed, Asian American Knives Chau.
The worst part was the way he’d talk about her. Those times were few and far between, but when he did, I swear, his face would light up like a damn Christmas tree. I grew to hate Christmas trees even more.
So, when he called me at two thirty-seven p.m. that Dec. 23, I knew just by looking at his hollow visage exactly what he was going to say. The impact of the blow was ravenous, eviscerating. Yet, it was one of those things that you knew was going to happen but really wish didn’t.
No matter how hard I try to scrub the memory of his voice when the words “I pick her” leaped from his tongue, I can’t. I wish I could take steel wool to my brain — scrub at the rust and grime until everything shines clean.
At that moment, I became Knives Chau from Scott Pilgrim Versus The World. I wasn’t Cassie from Skins, and I wasn’t Sally from the Corpse Bride. I was black-haired, brown-eyed, Asian American Knives Chau. I didn’t just lose to some girl, I lost to Ramona Flowers. I lost to someone that looked like the girl I’d cry myself to sleep over — she was everything I never was, or could ever be.
I truly believe that people underestimate the anguish of heartbreak. Because, after all of the abuse, all of the assault, the abandonment, the boomerang named everything that comes back time and time again to sock me right in the face — if you were to map out everything that has ever happened to me on a big ol’ Christmas tree, what he did sits pretty damn near close to the star on top.
Not that it matters or anything, but I think that’s the reason why he didn’t bother to get me a Christmas present — he knew what he was going to do the minute he touched down for vacation in a state thousands of miles away from mine.
I don’t like the holidays. Maybe one day I could’ve, but after this, I don’t think I ever can. It’s tainted — it’s bitter. The benign annoyance metamorphosized into a malignant disdain. I will never like Christmas — and I still hate them for it.
If you were to map out everything that has ever happened to me on a big ol’ Christmas tree, what he did sits pretty damn near close to the star on top.
I wish I could give you a happy ending, I wish I could tell you I indulged in rich, decadent revenge. But sometimes, all you really get is a passing of time and the gift of days since and distance between.
If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve been, or are currently in the same boat. I want so desperately to tell you that it will soon be okay, that the pain will expire on this specific day or in exactly these many months, but I can’t. I can tell you, though, that you will cry and you will sleep and you will sip wine and you will go to the gym and you will see that friend and you will do that thing and the world will do nothing but keep turning and it will never apologize for it.
This year, I hope you can give yourself the gift of grace. They did not cheat on you because of you. Rather, their actions are simply an accumulation of their own insecurities and behavior.
It’s not fair. It’s not fair that you got caught in the maelstrom, and it’s not fair that some cheating Grinch stole your Christmas. But you deserve to look at the lights and the decorations, and you deserve to be kind to yourself during the holiday season. And maybe, someday, Christmas won’t feel so bad after all.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org