A Christmas Anti-Fable
My three-year-old niece wants a Dora
the Explorer shirt for Christmas.
I tell her, “I’m sorry, Josephine.
My employer doesn’t feel like paying me
over the holidays, so I’ve been laid off for three weeks.
Unfortunately, this means I can’t buy you any presents,
not even something very small.”
“But Auntie,” she says. “Didn’t you save your money
so that you could buy me something special
and show me you care
through the Capitalist tradition
of exchanging consumer goods
during the holiday season?”
“Well, Josephine,” I say. “I did save some money,
but I still have to pay my rent, and my electric bill,
and my car insurance, and my health insurance,
and the loan payment for the immense amount
of credit card debt I accrued in my early twenties,
when I went through a deep depression,
and felt like the world was inherently meaningless,
and nothing I did could ever change that,
because all significance was merely an illusion,
that once fractured, could never be repaired,
and during this time I flew to Paris,
because I really didn’t give a fuck,
and I ate a bunch of cheese crepes in the cold and wet,
and I stared at the Mona Lisa late at night,
when everyone else was at dinner, or drinks,
or at home with their loved ones, and I thought
about what a disappointment she was,
how her smile may hold some secret,
but nothing worthwhile, just like this shallow,
painful existence we stumble through,
frightened and blind, in unceasing rain.
And afterwards I ate pâté in a tiny underheated
apartment, but even after I felt full,
I still felt empty.
“You see,” I continue.
“This world we live in is a sham,
and Capitalism is the biggest deception of all.
You may think this Dora the Explorer shirt
will bring you happiness,
and maybe it will,
for the briefest of moments,
but then the void inside you
will merely open its jaws again,
and wider this time,
and you will try desperately to fill it,
with a Barney plush toy,
or a Barbie Dreamhouse,
but nothing will ever be enough,
not even a Tickle Me Elmo.”
“But Auntie,” says my niece.
“I don’t even know what those things are.”
“It doesn’t matter what they are,” I tell her.
“The point is, I’ve stopped acquiring possessions
on principle, and now I only spend my money
on alcohol and occasional recreational drug use.
Experience is the spice of life, Josephine.”
“But Auntie,” she says.
“Doesn’t that just dull you into submission?
Aren’t you just suckling a different teat?”
“That’s true,” I say. “I mean,
why would I need alcohol to survive Christmas
with my dad’s new girlfriend
who just turned my bedroom
into an arts and crafts space
covered with terrible paintings of wolves?
Just kidding — of course I do, Josephine.
I need a drink just thinking about it.”
“Wow, Auntie,” she says.
“You’re a real bummer.”
“No, not me, Josephine —
Christmas is the bummer.”