It’s the wine, surely the wine, or the warmth of the room—so many people!—or the tightness of that dress around her waist, something makes her giddy, fills her with the light shining all around her, reflecting off the red and green balls she’s arranged in that cut glass bowl. Wanting everyone to know just how happy she is that it’s Christmas and she’s gathered everyone she loves, even those she barely knows but loves anyway. Yes, it’s the wine, definitely the wine, but more than that—she’s weightless, free just for the moment of her motherness—the responsibility, the damp pajamas and sweaty sheets of her children, their insomnias and night worries and needs. Oh, to just be herself again, unfettered, and at the same time part of everyone and everything in the glorious world that is now buzzing at her ears, and can’t everyone hear it? As she brings another bottle of wine to the table, she can feel a flush climbing up her chest into her cheeks but it doesn’t matter, that’s how free she feels, alive and everyone seeing her as she is and was and ever will be. Yes, that’s when she knows everyone feels it too, and everyone is part of the glory that is Christmas, and that’s when she bends down to kiss that man’s bald head—someone from her husband’s work, she doesn’t know his name. It’s just so funny how his head looks shiny and smooth like a little skating rink. But no, she corrects herself—that’s how quickly she’s thinking!—skating rinks are flat tables of ice, and his head is round, and she jumps to “bowling ball” as her lips leave his perfect dome and she feels him freeze, feels his shoulders stiffen, and she knows, by the sudden silence that she has misread the room and she needs to be elsewhere. In the kitchen, perhaps, pulling another tray from the oven, or upstairs checking on the children one last time.
Pat Hale is a prize-winning Connecticut poet who also likes writing short prose pieces. She has authored two poetry collections, Seeing Them with My Eyes Closed, and Composition and Flight. Her work appears widely in journals and anthologies.
Photo by Stephen Picilaidis