St. Nicole's Christmas MiraclebyMrKitty©
I was ten minutes away from ending it all the first time, after my wife and I divorced. I came home from work during lunch. I never did that—it's a half-hour each way. I forgot a CD that I promised a co-worker. On a whim, I took a long lunch and thought I'd drop by the house to pick it up. I didn't bother calling first. Why should I? I figured I'd just say "Hi" to Lisa, grab the CD, and head out the door.
I caught Lisa in bed with another man. Our bed. I had no clue—I was too shocked to react, to do anything except stare at my wife straddling a stranger, cowgirl style, bucking her beautiful bare back up and down in rhythm while stabilizing herself with her arms on his bare chest. That was no rape. He saw me first, gasped in surprise and Lisa turned around, saw me and jumped off. There was a great deal of shouting, mostly the man and Lisa shouting at me and to each other. He grabbed his clothes and dashed off as I stood there in a daze, disconnected from reality.
That was the beginning of the end. Counseling didn't reconcile us: far from it. I had pushed for counseling, but she reacted by becoming even further distant. At dinner she was so far away, we might as well have been living in other countries. I could see her body, but the window to her soul was permanently boarded up.
Ironically, she divorced me. Although she brought up the divorce, demanded it actually, I easily acquiesced. Lisa had been my whole life, my reason for working each day and night. I was too blind to see her disappearing before it was too late. But there was no point in pretending any further. She aggressively went after our possessions—and I didn't care. We sold our beautiful house in Northville so we could split the proceeds. I didn't want it anymore. In the depressed Detroit market, it didn't fetch much. Less than what we bought it for: about ten grand less what we'd paid down on the mortgage was about all we could get back out. Minus broker fees and lawyer fees. She took the majority of our joint belongings. All in all, she ended up with about 70% of everything. I let her. I was broke, and broken.
I moved into a low-rent apartment in Redford. Redford used to be a clean, neat little suburban town until the riots. Over the last forty years, white flight had left it a vestige of itself. Some artist-types were struggling trying to keep a run-down theater that had once been a gilded beauty from falling in on itself. That was about it for culture—the rest had slowly become a ghetto. I could care less about the shabby walls, the run-down appliances, and the decaying furniture. It was cheap, and I didn't want to look for anything better.
A pawn store was four doors down from my apartment, past an ethnic hair and nail salon and a dingy little party store. I walked in and bought a gun. I knew little about guns, but I knew a .357 would be plenty to take care of the job. I held it to my head, chamber empty, trying to see if I would have the nerve. I didn't—I chickened out. Just like I did with Lisa. That was the first time.
I decided I wanted to live—I needed time to regroup, and thankfully I wasn't spending any money doing it. The rent was the right price, and although a dump, the place was close to work.
Then, along with all the bad news in the auto market, GM reorganized. I was offered a severance package, thank God, but I was now unemployed. I started looking for another engineering job. I sent out tons of resumes, posted on Monster, Dice, you name it. After a long silence from the recruiters, and the rest of the world, my gusto changed to a half-hearted effort. Then I just gave up.
Being laid off was bad, because of the money of course, but also because I didn't have a place to go each day. I had a feeling of not belonging: not seeing my work friends or even my rivals. Just sitting in my little dump every day.
I played with the gun more and more, loading the clip, unloading it, holding it in my hand. It had been four months since Lisa left me, but I was as depressed as the day I caught her in bed. I remembered back to that fateful day, standing there dumbstruck, watching her for several seconds before they caught on, her beautiful heart-shaped ass bouncing up and down on some other guy's cock. Close enough to see his cock slick with her moisture.
Christ, let it end.
I finally did accidentally get a job. As a Santa. Almost ridiculous in its irony. The Santa job posted in the News was one of the last ditch before I finally gave up. I decided to take it—it would give me something to do, and something to just try to feel good about myself just a little before I went out. I didn't expect that I'd get it. I just applied like all the others. I had no experience, and not even any kids of my own, so my hopes weren't high.
Maybe it was a little bit of karma—a chance to let me give back before I permanently left this hell on earth. I didn't care about the pay—why would I? I had two weeks to go until Christmas, and I needed to have something, anything, to prevent me sitting in the apartment all day. I had already made up my mind that I would give myself a nice Christmas by killing myself. Accepting the job seemed symbolic: what could be more perfect than a Santa killing himself on Christmas?
My first day on the job started out loathsome. The job was downtown in the Ren Cen. I wasn't fat, so I had to wear a big baggy pillow around my waist, which was big, uncomfortable, and sweaty. I had to psyche myself up to be cheery around all those excited kids. I did the best I could, plastering over my decayed little husk of a soul with Christmas cheer, washing it down with a tall spiked Egg Nog a little after 1PM.
The line of kids was endless. Someone's little precious bundle of joy sitting on my lap, while the parents, almost always the mom, stood to the side. Each kid whispered toy after inane toy in my ear. I followed up each with a "Make sure you're a good little boy" or "Now Susie, remember to leave me cookies!" Always a great hearty "Ho, Ho, Ho!" shouted out beneath my massive fake white beard.
I could play a pretty good Santa to the kids despite being dead inside—they didn't deserve to see the hollowness inside me. I tried to only pay attention to the kids, glancing up at a mother here or there. Some were pretty milfy, but I didn't spend any more than the briefest glance at them. Lisa's betrayal hadn't made me hate women; I honestly just didn't care. Why should I get interested when in less than a month I wouldn't be around?
Somewhere around five o'clock, something rather amazing happened. Two beautiful little black girls, about four and six years old I guessed, came up to me as the next in line.
"What do you want for Christmas, little girl?" I asked the little one sitting on my knee.
"I want a Barbie play house!" she exclaimed. Standard fare.
I turned to the older girl, sitting on my other knee.
"And what do you want?"
"I want my Daddy back," she said, quietly but deadly serious.
She was the first child to have said anything to me except spouting the newest fashion in toys. It tore me up inside. I'm not a crier, but her reserved sincerity made my eyes start to water.
I looked up at the mother, and my heart leapt. She was an amazingly beautiful woman, with big doe-like eyes and a perfect feminine face. She wasn't wearing makeup, but her skin was smooth and light chocolate brown. She wore an ivory quilted coat, slimmed at the waist, and with fake fur ruffs around the neck and hands. Her curly black hair was topped by a little white beret. I had been ignoring any other woman I saw, trying to keep my mind on the kids and the job, trying to be a good Santa, trying not to let my depression leak out. I couldn't ignore her.
A lump formed in my throat. I looked at the mother much longer than I had meant to—I was staring. I couldn't believe how amazingly gorgeous she was. I finally pulled myself back together, but not before I noticed that she looked back at me with a smile. Her smile burned into me.
I turned to face the little girl with a heavy heart, and whispered in her ear.
"Santa will see what he can do for you sweetheart." What a complete lie.
They popped off my lap, their supermodel of mother collecting them up and marching off. I don't think I listened to another thing any other kid said until closing time. I just sat there, thinking about that little girl's daddy—maybe ran off with another woman, maybe killed in Iraq, maybe just left his family for no good reason, who knew. Whatever it was, the man was a complete idiot. Just like the guy who left Halle Berry. To me, the mystery woman was even more beautiful. I couldn't believe I felt like this—I didn't believe in love at first sight. I didn't know her name, but I was sad at the thought that I'd never see her again.
The day ended, the line shut down, and I needed to pack up. I started thinking about moving up my suicide schedule. I was cleaning up the presents around the Santa chair, readying for closing when she came back. The gorgeous black woman in her white coat and beret was standing behind me, softly clearing her throat to get my attention.
I turned around, completely shocked to see her. It was hours later, and the girls weren't there.
"Hi… Santa?" she said with a smile.
"Hi." I extended my hand. "It's Rick."
She shook my hand. I melted touching her, not wanting to let her soft hand go.
"Hi Rick. I was wondering—do you do any private parties?"
"I'm organizing a neighborhood Christmas party, and I saw how good you are with the kids. I'm having a hell of a time finding a Santa who's not busy. I was wondering if we could hire you?"
I was shocked. Good with kids? She wants to hire me?
I fumbled and mumbled. "Um, yeah, sure! Well, I mean I've never done it before, but I can, yes." I would do almost anything to see her again.
"Great! We can't pay a lot, though."
"That's okay." What difference did money make?
"Sixty-five?" She looked at me with those wide brown eyes, batting her long lashes.
"That'd be just fine." To see her again, I wouldn't care even if she paid. I'd have to borrow the suit from the mall, but I'm sure I could arrange it.
"Next Saturday? Two o'clock?"
"I don't have current plans."
"Great!" she beamed, her radiant smile warmed me up inside. She handed me a piece of paper. "Here's my address and my number just in case."
I turned the little mint-colored post-it in my hand. Nicole. Her name was Nicole.
"Okay, great—I'll be there!" I gave her a confident smile.
"One more thing," she added, handing me a folded yellow legal sheet.
I opened it. It was a list of children's names and gifts.
"The mothers already bought all the presents. But this is so you can be a real 'Santa' if you want. You'll know which kids asked for what."
"Very thoughtful," I said, honestly.
"See you on Saturday," she said. I swear she had a twinkle in her eye as she turned away. I gazed at her from the back, my eyes lingering on her shapely behind that even her coat couldn't hide.
"Wait!" I called after her, and she turned. "What are your girl's names?"
"Wow—I can't believe you remembered them after all the kids you see in a day! There're the top two on the list!" she cried back as she strode off.
Marcy and Kayle.
I hadn't felt like this since I was a teenager. She was a young beautiful black woman, and I was a used-up old white man with about a week to live. She was probably ten years my junior, a young mother with a Dad missing in action. I don't know what came over me. But the miracle of Nicole's Christmas party gave me another week to live for.
The rest of the week went by quickly. I couldn't stop thinking of her. Nicole. Kids bounced on and off my knee all day long, and I played the good Santa. Instead with a fake twinkle in my eye, thinking of suicide, I had a real twinkle in my eye thinking about an impossible girl. How improbable. Nothing would happen, I knew it. Saturday would come and go, and I'd never see that beautiful creature again. And I could stop daydreaming and get back to my plans for shortening my lifespan, just in time for Christmas.
I borrowed the Santa suit from the store. Saturday morning, I showered and shaved, slowly dragging the razor across my face, wiping off the shaving cream. I ran my hand along my jaw, and it still felt rough. Too rough. I pulled out my electric razor and shaved again. Maybe I'd pay the price with an ingrown hair or two. So what. I doused myself with cologne. Probably too much. I washed off my wrists to dull the scent, then reapplied it more gingerly.
I pulled up to her place. She lived in a rather poor section of town, down off Cass Avenue. The houses were once wonderful old 1920's houses, prim and proper: red brick, green awnings, and white trim. Now they were mostly sad shadows of themselves, shabby, lived in, relics of the past.
I knocked at the door already in my full St. Nicolas get-up, beard and all. Nicole answered. She was wearing makeup today, her lips a delicious coral-red, her eyes shaded a deep dark brown, several shades darker than her beautiful mocha brown skin. My heart stopped, started up again by her smile.
"Hello Saint Nick! You're right on time."
"Hi," I replied weakly.
I hadn't thought about it until just then—her name was the feminine form of St. Nicolas. She was a saint, that was certain. Yet another irony in my sad life.
She let me in, and I scanned the house. It was clean but well-worn, with sun-faded curtains and the walls wearing paint with slight chips and dings. The older furnishings hid a toy or two behind them, discretely stashed away for the party. The corner sported a plastic Christmas tree, festooned with brightly colored ornaments and a string of big blue lights. A family lived here, and despite the obvious budget constraints, it was comfortable and welcoming, unlike my utilitarian apartment.
Shortly the guests arrived, and the party was hectic with kids running around everywhere. A few of the mothers stayed at the party, but most had dropped their kids off. The mothers gathered in the corner, chatting while I played Santa, handing out the presents to the hordes of children. It was easy now, the Santa game. I talked about the North Pole and my workshop, my eyes twinkling like a jolly right elf. The reason they twinkled was because I could catch glances of that ethereal beauty Nicole, milling around with the other mothers.
Marcy, the older of Nicole's girls waited patiently in line with the rest. When it was her turn, the precious little thing leaned in close.
"Did you bring my present? The one I asked for the other day?" she whispered in my ear.
"I'm sorry sweetheart, Santa needs a little more time." I knew what she wanted, but all I could give her was another cold lie.
On the gift list, Marcy's name had "Bratz doll" next to it, and that's what she'd gotten. I had guessed that she couldn't ask her mother for what she really wanted. She was comfortable asking Santa, and only Santa could provide a miracle.
The kids zipped around like gumballs in one of those child's popping popcorn pushers. Once the children had opened their gifts, they didn't pay too much attention to Santa. But it was all in slow motion to me. All I could see was Nicole, a vision in her green dress with little red ornament earrings.
I was a white man playing Santa in the ghetto, in a run-down little house, surrounded by a sea of little black kids and their moms. And Nicole. I wasn't racist—far from it. I'd voted for Obama with no qualms or reservations, voting for the man not his race. But I normally would never have hung out in this area of town. I just wouldn't have felt comfortable. Too out of place. Here, now—nothing felt more at home.
Marcy and Kayle ran up with one of their little friends. "Mama, can we go home with Susie?"
"Sure sweetie." Susie and her mom lead the girls out, walking down the sidewalk to their house.
After the excitement died down, the rest of the mothers had collected up their children and drifted off. I hung around until they had all gone, waiting for my supposed payment. Nicole waited, making small talk with them all until they had all finished. Until it was just the two of us.
"Thanks so much Rick. It was a huge success!" Nicole beamed. "The girls loved it!"
"You're very welcome; it was my pleasure."
"Here you go, sixty-five bucks. I wish it was more, but I've got to get that rust-bucket outside fixed." She pointed out the window to the car parked on the street, a decayed old Mercury Marquis.
I held my hand up. "Please keep it. You need it more than I do."
She blushed. "I'm too proud to not pay you."
I knew how it felt to take hand-outs. "Thank you," I said humbly, and accepted the money. I turned to go, my heart breaking, knowing I would never again see this magnificent woman.
"Rick?" Nicole asked quietly.
"Do you want to stay and have coffee?"
I didn't think about it for a second. "I'd love to."
Saint Nicole and I talked for a long time. We sat at her kitchen table, sipping coffee and nibbling on leftover party cookies. She told me her life story. She was lonely. Her husband had been killed in a car accident almost a year ago. Some eighty-five year old woman had just gotten her license the month before, and ran a red light, slamming into the driver side. She didn't see the light had turned red, and she was going a full 45 miles and hour when she hit. He was pronounced dead on the spot. And to think that I had guessed he was a deadbeat dad. What a judgmental asshole I'd been.
It was my turn to share, and I told her about Lisa, my layoff, and my miserable life. About my attempt at finding a job that had turned into playing Mr. Clause. That I was lonely too. I left out the part about the gun, and my current Christmas plans. It turned out that we had a lot in common—both of us had had a pretty goddamn terrible year.
The longer we talked, the more she smiled, her big beautiful eyes melting my heart. She seemed to be flirting with me, a man a decade older than her, and the wrong race. I probably misread her signals, being so long out of practice. I missed human companionship, and her lovely company was the brightest spot of my year. She smelled lightly of gardenias, I would catch it every so often wafting over the mix of coffee and cookies: an old-fashioned scent for a young woman. I caught myself just absorbed by her face, her mouth move as she talked, her eyelashes when she blinked, the curls of her hair bouncing against her ears as she twisted her head.
She told me that she was waitressing at a strip club off Michigan. It was more money than she could make as a legal secretary, and she'd taken the job to stay in the house after her husband was gone. There wasn't enough life insurance to make her life comfortable—barely made a dent in the bills. She didn't dance—her self-respect wouldn't let her. She told me she wore skimpy outfits and collected huge tips. My mind wandered with the possibility of it, and I felt myself shift in my pants imagining her in her night job.
We had shared a lot. I finally had the courage to ask what I'd wanted to ask her all afternoon. "Nicole?"
"Marcy asked Santa if I could bring her Daddy back."
She got suddenly sad, every scrap of joy draining out of her face. Tears burst out of her, a year's worth of built-up sobbing released like a dam. I instantly regretted telling her. I hadn't meant to upset her. I was just looking for advice. I didn't know what to do, but she kept loudly crying, so I bolted up from my chair and placed my hands on her shoulders. I didn't think about it, I just did it.