When night comes, on Christmas Eve, before I stop the world and go to sleep, I pour myself a drink. The sticky bottle talks to me, in the voice of Santa. That’s a ritual he repeats every year; he comes in different forms to surprise me. Santa is a shape-shifter. He left behind the red costume long ago. He hands me a towel to cover up and turns his head away. Santa is a prude. He can’t stand watching a woman in swim-wear. Then again, he’s not that used to warm climates.
‘I also left my former self behind,’ I tell him, offering him a drink, but Santa says he doesn’t drink. Funny thing, I think, considering he’s coming out of a bottle of cheap wine. I don’t speak though. I wouldn’t want to hurt him, or anyone. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel hurt, betrayed, lost like I do. He says I should leave the light on. Not only tonight, but always.
Shouldn’t I be the one asking for a present?
Things I don’t need, all people I didn’t want to be, come haunting me along with him. But I do not go gentle into despair. Leaving the light on is a death-defying act, he claims.
‘The light is not enough,’ I say, but Santa doesn’t listen. He doesn’t care.
‘That’ll kill you,’ he says, pointing at my glass. The wine is a friend. But wine doesn’t care either. Wine is the killer that promises you the world before it takes you down. Isn’t life also like that? Or love? Santa is a vivid nightmare, a sad reminder of the life I’m wasting.
Shouldn’t Santa be a pleasant dream?
‘I’m a mythical creature, I’m whatever you make me,’ he says. While I’m only human Tetris. People falling into place, contributing their share, then vanishing into thin air. I didn’t want that. He pats my back, like I’m a kid, he then goes ‘ho ho ho’ and asks me what I want for Christmas.
‘I want to be free,’ I tell him. He would know that if he was whatever I chose to make him.
‘Don’t you want to get your life together instead?’ he asks me, rolling his eyes. I know that look; Santa is a realist, unlike me. I kindly ask him to be more specific. He says he doesn’t understand but he only means my request is stupid. He can’t grant me freedom. He frowns as if I’m a lost case to him, as if my dreams are practically illegal.
Shouldn’t Santa look merrier?
‘Your time is already sold,’ he says, spitting the words to my face, as if he’s the boss, like he knows better. I can’t accept that answer and I say so, yet Santa looks at me like I’m a spoiled brat.
‘Now get over it and put on some clothes,’ he orders and I want to tell him about my favorite pastime of mixing seasons, cold and warm, carols and beaches, scarves and shorts, black and white, past and present and future, here and there and everywhere, only I’m not a winter swimmer yet, I still haven’t perfected the art of mixing, like Decemberists who sing the anti-summersong, but also the hymn to June, I’m not ready yet, so that gray bikini is all I can do now, while drinking wine, beside the Christmas tree, beside Santa who’s frowning at my silence, and I feel like a naughty kid who won’t get a present this year either.
‘Here, take a doll to keep you busy,’ he says, handing me a dead imitation of the person I once was. Shouldn’t Santa be an ally?
I throw the doll to his face. Even if Santa is a mythical creature, like true love and all, there’re still rules about him. You can’t imagine him like a monster, but he’s so annoying now. I place him back into the bottle and drink him away. I still hear him sobbing though, asking me to turn on the light, yelling he’s afraid of darkness. Santa won’t let me sleep and liquor hasn’t anything to do with it.
He should be busy tonight, but I spoiled his plans. If I’m not free, neither is Santa.
Santa In A Bottle is written by Mileva Anastasiadou.