January 10, 2016
The Christmas Story
"So, how was your Christmas?" my friend asks while taking a sip from her hot chocolate.
"Yeah, how was it?" another one chimes in.
I stare at my three friends who are huddling around the table, eyes fixated upon me as if I'm holding a piece of steak in front of my face. Not even men look at me with such intensity. My hands are wrapped around a hot cup of Chamomile tea, I'm blowing on it every couple of seconds while keeping eye contact.
"What's up with you guys?" I say with a giggle, however, highly suspicious, "you're acting all eager."
"Something always happens with you," my friend says with a slight whine, "come on, so... anything good happen?"
I stare at them for a moment, thinking if I should fall into their trap.
I sigh heavily and put my cup down on the table. "Yes," I reply, with a slight disappointment. I bend down, grab my bag off the ground and place it on my lap. I'm rummaging through it and pull out the package, placing it onto the table.
"I don't get it," one friend says.
"That was my Christmas gift," I reply in a monotonously.
"My god, can you imagine," my great-aunt says to me with while anxiously chewing on a sugar cookie while she stares at the tv, "they let colored people on tv now."
I close my eyes and press my fingers onto my forehead, "that's the thing with equality, eh."
"Natasha," my great-uncle yells out with a thick Croatian accent, "you-you, you know, your friend came to pick you up yesterday?"
I pause in figuring out whether that was a statement or a question. "Yeah, she did," I reply.
"She got stuck in snow, yes?" he asks eloquently.
"Yeah, she did, it wa--."
"You know," he starts to laugh, "this is what happens when woman drive."
A wheezing sound escapes my mouth, "that's right, Karl," I reply with one of those smiles that don't reach the eyes. I turn my head and I watch my grandpa's head fall into his chest as he lets out a humbling snore. His pocket protector that's perched in his chest pocket lightly grazes the bottom of his chin, he doesn't notice.
"Everyone!" a voice sings out from another room, "it's time to open presents!"
I calculated that I could possibly walk away with $300 if people get with the program and just give me cash. I figure that this cash is a 'thank you' for the racist and sexist banter that I calmly sit through.
Within minutes, the entire family pours into the family room and grabs whatever seat they can claim. We're at my uncle and aunt's house, who, are the original hipsters of Vancouver. Beside the tree, a stuffed deer foot lamp lights the room, while a painting saying, "go fuck yourself," hangs in the corner. Underneath the humming of idle chatter, the vinyl record, Music for Plants is playing.
The presents get called out and are passed down the assembly line, one by one.
I'm the last name to get called and a small brightly wrapped package gets handed to me.
A present, I think to myself. How unusual nowadays to get an actual gift. I start feeling warmth springing inside my chest, I start smiling with uncertainty and excitement. Perhaps getting cash is overrated, perhaps being surprised with an unknown gift and unwrapping it to reveal the surprise is what we should all aspire to experience.
I open the card, it's from my great-aunt. I look at her and thank her for the gift. I place the card on the table and slowly start to open the package. I undo the sides and then wiggle my finger under the tape on the top of the gift. The wrapping paper delicately falls open.
"What did you get?" my mom asks across the room.
The room goes silent, all eyes fall on me with the only thing being heard is the song from Music for Plants, "For cactus's and other thorn-based plants."
I hold the gift up and try to muster a smile, "I got the complimentary toothbrush and eye shade from a KLM flight."
"That's very useful," my dad says, nodding his head from his chair in the corner.
I look at my brother from across the room, "what did you get?"
He lifts up a package, "the complimentary toothbrush and eye shade from possibly the same KLM flight."
Two years later.
"Your flight has been delayed for a couple of hours," the customer service lady says to me with a smile, "so, you'll have to wait for your next flight at 2 pm."
I stare at her with bags under my eyes, "is there any lounge I can go to so I can sleep?"
"Unfortunately, you're not in our star member program, so you'll just be able to use the airport services."
I aggressively grab my carry-on bags and search for an unclaimed bench to lay on. The bright lights burn my eyes and I wiggle around trying to find a position that'll provide me comfort, yet darkness.
"Fucking, fuck," I say, aggravatingly, as I get up and start to rummage through my bag.
"Fucking star member program," I unzip a side pocket on my laptop bag and pull out the complimentary toothbrush and eye shade kit, holding it in my hand in silence.
"I can't believe this," I mumble to myself as I tear it open.
I take the shades out of the package and start to place it over my head.
"Oh, ma'am," a woman says, stopping in mid walk. "Can I ask you where did you get those eye shades from? My flight didn't come with any."
I stare at her for a moment, "it was a gift."
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