The Heart of the Hydra: an excerpt

December 22, 2017

Chapter 18

A Blue Christmas



Christmas is that time of year where life has reached the highest peak of shittiness, yet we mash it together with this season of love and giving. It’s like we’ve tricked ourselves as a society to think that this time of year isn’t actually death in its purest essence, but is instead one of the happiest times of year. The days are growing shorter, which means more darkness and less overall productivity. I’ve heard people say they sleep a lot during the winter. Oh, boo-fuckin’-hoo. Not only do I become sluggishly miserable during this annual period of death called winter, but my pussy-wussy fear of the dark causes me to sleep even less during the winter months, resulting in my depression and overall quality of life to plummet into the icy asshole of seasonal despair…


...and then I think about how cushy my life must be that such an expected, natural change in my surroundings makes me sad and that it’s in fact a widely accepted “condition” (SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder — yup). These are tough times we live in…


But oh, there’s Christmas!


It’s the season for giving. What this translates to, when you’re a cynical prick like me, is that it’s the season for commerce. Feeling the sadness of reality? Go buy your dad a meat log adorned with a variety of cheeses and forget about that growing sense of insignificance! Buy yourself blind! Go sing some vomit inducing music — who gives a shit if you can sing or if you’ve heard it a thousand times since breakfast — or buy (buy-buy-buy) a festive tie! Oh, and don’t forget about seasonal coffee flavors! They’re seasonal flavors because we said so. Fuck you; it’s Christmas.


You know, I used to love Christmas. It was a magical time of year when kindness and good cheer were practiced. People were nice. The warmth and generosity made the falling temperatures outside bearable. As I get older, there’s less and less of this warm generosity. People only become more impersonal. More bitter. Less kind. Christmas goodies overthrow the Halloween merchandise before anyone has even had a chance to take their kids trick-or-treating. Every year, my level of pissed off-itry elevates as I see more and more of this useless shit put onto the shelves while our country sinks more and more into debt. Countless ceramic Santas smile back at shoppers with twinkling eyes, not even a bit worried about the pounds upon pounds of cookies and Christmas fudge shifting his pancreas into overdrive, slowly turning him into a diabetic. Symbolism, or what? Sometimes I wonder if it’s society that’s becoming colder or whether it’s, in fact, myself.


The gentle twinkling of jingle bells approaches from behind me, giggling rhythmically, and soon Megan makes her way behind the black countertop. The nails of her finely manicured hands have tiny candy canes etched onto them (painted? I have no idea how the hell nails are done; I gnaw my own raw before they’ve even had a chance to see the daylight). Pearly white snowflakes hang from her ears and a touch of green shadow frames her warm eyes. The contrast is captivating to the point that I almost start to question my sexuality. Almost. Christmas might have an embellished tradition of money circulation, but at least people like Megan get to wear cute little Santa hats and festively coordinate their outfits, accessories, and makeup. These little things bring happiness to some people, and happiness and joy are crucial to surviving this darkening world. Who am I to determine the worth of happiness even if it’s gained through false realities?


Fuck you; it’s Christmas.


Megan leans against the counter with her hip, crossing her arms. Her green apron is covered in holiday themed pins advertising the deals of the season. That poor, undeserving apron has more flair than Owen Wilson with a cold. Despite the snowmen guzzling gourmet espresso beverages (okay, how does this make sense??? The coffee would surely destroy the snowmen from the inside out. It would be like watching a person drink sulfuric acid or a seasonal adaptation of Alien) wired onto her front, Megan still manages to look beautiful. Of course. Why wouldn’t she? I’ve yet to see this chick look anything less than flawless. Anytime I wear anything even remotely tacky, I look silly and jester-like (well, I guess that is my role) while Megan somehow makes it sexy. Life isn’t fair sometimes, am I right?


“I’ll be so happy once Christmas is over. I know most of the time I complain about how boring the night shift can be, but the types of families who do their Christmas shopping at night are so weird.” Megan brings a hand to her temple, reminding me of the Grinch bitching about all of the noise-noise-noise from atop his lonely mountain. That is, if the Grinch were a sexy barista in the city. Now, there’s a television drama: Sexy Barista in the City. So much caffeine-fueled sexy time.


I make an exaggerated sound, like someone just kicked me in the uterus, as I jump up to park my keister onto the counter. “Aw, come on. They can’t be that weird. I totally understand why someone would shop at night. Less people and shit to deal with. I prefer my strategy, personally: don’t go Christmas shopping. It saves me a world of stress and financial anguish.”


Megan rolls her eyes. “Jesus, you have to like Christmas at least a little bit, Harper. It gives people an excuse to buy people presents and to eat sugar.” To demonstrate her point, she grabs a holiday bar (I think the cranberries are what makes it “holiday”) out of the bakery case and takes a bite. How can she eat with lipstick on? Wait a minute — will I finally get to see Megan with some type of flaw, even if it’s a measly cosmetic smudgery? Of course, I know that this would never be. She probably uses some kind of Manhattan Project lipstick that could withstand a meteor crashing to the earth. My friends are all dead, but damn, don’t my lips look killer!?


She lightly brushes the crumbs off of her lips. No smudges.




I arch my back and push out my gut as far as I can. With both hands, I then proceed to give it a good rub down. “I admit that the ugly sweaters are a great hide-away for my winter fudge-pudge, but the shopping pressures… And it’s sort of like a month-long reminder that you’re alone.”


I’ve never admitted to this aspect of my cynical view on Christmas, not even to myself. This is the first year that I’ll be spending the holidays without my parents or childhood friends. This is the first year I’ll spend trapped inside of my painfully empty apartment. I’m really not sure why I so casually shared this with a person I’d known for less than a year, but there it was. The reaction I’d been expecting was one of sarcasm or snotty disagreement. Maybe even her signature eye roll.

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