Nostalgia (Christmas ’17)

What I heard about the nostalgia of my generation: we expect feelings of displacement. Because technology grew so rapidly during our childhood, so many things came & went. We knew the joys of playing outside, but we also played Neopets & Tamagotchis. We talked to our friends on the phone & on AIM &, eventually, on social media. Taking our own photographs & posting them online became the general trend.

It always feels like something is missing.

Christmas Day in 2007, I got a Canon Powershot Digital Camera. Yesterday I charged it & took photos for the first time in years. The nauseating flash cast yellow & orange on everything I captured, when the image wasn’t completely frayed by the motion of light.

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I haven’t had a Michigan Christmas in 5 years. One Christmas Eve, my sister & I drove through a white out storm. As we snaked through the coast of Lake Michigan from Chicago to Detroit, the family cat mewed in our backseat. The 300 mile drive took nine hours.

With my sister asleep in the passenger seat, I drove slowly on the highway, trying to peer through the opaque white air. Suddenly, lights cut through the density. A quarter mile ahead, two cars collided in my lane. Black ice. I watched as a third car skidded from the entrance ramp into the pile of metal & steam. A truck was in the lane to my right, blocking me from merging. I couldn’t break, as doing so would send me spiraling on the ice as well.

I made my choice.

Pressed down hard on the gas, cut the semi off, and sped up to 90 MPH to avoid the pile up. I swerved around the wreckage at the last second, the 18 wheeler blaring on the horn as swung by its headlights.

“I’ve had Christmas in Detroit, how do you think that feels?”

Pavement, Haunt You Down, ln. 25-26. 

I’ve stayed put for Christmas for 3 years in a row now. Antonio & I have our rituals: movies, songs, books – ways to pass time from our sofa.

In Miami, the sun always glows on Christmas. Traffic on the highway thins to a weak stream. My dog spreads herself in a square of light on the floor of the porch.

I love buying Antonio gifts. I always try to go big, see what catches his eye & delight him with a thoughtful surprise. At our friends’ house, he asked about their SNES classic mini. At Walgreens, I watched him pick one up off the shelf & slowly put it back.

I knew he had to have it. But by the time I went to buy it, the SNES mini was impossible to find. I searched online, entering a drawing to try to win one. A week later, they announced the winners, & I was not one of them.

I looked at every major retailer’s website & found nothing. Eventually, I found an independent seller who had marked up the price by 50%–so be it. I had to have it, he had to have it. The box arrived in early December & I quickly wrapped it in crinkled gold wrapping paper, remnants from last year’s exchange. It sat under the tree for weeks, building a quiet suspense, a sense of mystery.

One day, while shopping for our families, he took me to Churchill’s Pub for their Black Market event. It was my first time there, & I loved the bar instantly; ash trays crowded the weathered wooden counters while a punky man played a cigar box guitar on stage. We bought postcards of pastel dogs in pastiche clown-like settings. I found a zine of queer poetry published by an anarchist in Berkley, CA. A man selling jewelry & old nudie mags talked me into stopping at his table for a complimentary ring sizing.

Antonio gave me a beautiful ring for Christmas: a silver alligator who wraps into a perfect circle. I never want to take it off. On Christmas night, I fell asleep wearing it. I took a photo of it with my Canon Powershot. It came out ageless, like a photo I’d take with my Smartphone lens.

On Christmas night, Antonio & I angled the TV screen to point out of the sliding glass door & pulled our chairs close together. We played Yoshi’s Island & Secret of Mana for hours, our backs to the night sky. We felt the tropical December air like wisps of nothing around us.

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