THAT HORRIBLE FIRST CHRISTMAS ALONE
A short story by
It had taken Jack thirty-seven years before he finally hit rock-bottom and that first Christmas Day he had to spend alone confirmed in his heart that he would be all alone forever. Thirty-seven long hard years, during which he battled against contemporary normality, he loathed modern ideas of cleanliness, smoked too much dope and eventually became the paranoid wreck that had slowly driven him beyond the realm of the sane and into one dominated by isolation and loneliness. His lifestyle ignored the idea of friendship; he had a long time ago given up any hope of such a delight but this day seemed to be the culmination of all that hard work he had put in to become so alone. Today he knew would be a long, tragic scene which would inevitably leave him feeling like the loneliest person alive.
When he woke he knew instantly that this would be a completely different experience to every other Christmas he had experienced. First his mother had gone, when he was fifteen, then after somehow graduating from a red-brick university with a very good degree aged twenty-one he moved from woman to woman until slowly they ran out too and then finally his father in July. Jack’s life had been difficult and that came out when he drank; when he would go out and get drunk, at a regular interval of a couple of weeks, the same pub, the same seat, he would go all out. It would, as last night had proved, be nothing but a complete free-for-all at the bar and when he woke with the inevitable huge hangover and no one to take care of him he knew it had been one of those nights. His first instinct was to ingest some nicotine and some coffee, some very strong coffee.
Pulling himself up from the bed and in to a cleaner pair of boxer shorts he could feel the deafening silence. This, in direct contrast to the noise that usually dominated the house, made him feel even more crushingly alone. He moved towards the kettle and began to settle, lighting that first cigarette and letting it float in his mouth before inhaling it deeply, teasing himself, to fulfil his need for the nicotine. Next came the coffee and after another cigarette smoked before he finally got to the bottom of his huge mug of coffee. He stood from his armchair and moved to his living room window to admire his view; the pier and the beach and that huge open expanse of water dominated and with no traffic it was perfection. It was what saved Jack; it was a view that could save lives. He devoured every drop of coffee before deciding it was time for his first Christmas joint. He put his chair by his window and stared into the distance at that life-affirming view and got involved in smoking the joint and his mind drifted off to the fateful day when he realised that Christmas would never be the same again, unless something changed drastically he would be forever alone. In July he received news that his father had died in a car accident and his loss and pain were compounded as he finally learnt the true meaning of loneliness. A tear slowly trickled down his cheek causing a wry smile at the idea his hangover was finally subsiding.
A second joint would help ease the pain of his loneliness. He sat, doing nothing but smoking and thinking, for the next couple of hours hoping that his phone would ring at any point to save him; it never did. The next time he looked at his clock it read 2pm, if he had been with his parents they would be sitting down for dinner but not this year, not in this life. After a light baguette lunch he continued to smoke long into the afternoon before finally the street lights turned on to trumpet the arrival of night and the sudden arrival of a chattering party next door and he was suddenly hit by the idea that he could go to the pub; the pub was always an option whenever he was feeling alone and really low.
A few minutes later and he was bounding out his door as the chatter from the roof terrace grew and he knew he couldn’t return for a good few hours. Walking the streets was strange, his area of town was always a bit weird but at night it came to life with all kinds of characters but tonight, well there was no one. He was alone as he walked the street to his regular pub and as he turned the corner his body filled with horror. The pub was shut. He had no other choice but to go home and the noise showed no sign of abating as he slipped the key into the big front door.
Entering his flat he could see it was going to be unbearable unless some action of recourse was undertaken and after looking out of his window all he could see was a canopy covering what sounded like some twenty people. Firstly the angriest record known to man, Black Flag’s Damaged. It didn’t take long before there was a knock on the shared wall which prompted Jack to angrily retort “What’s your problem?”
Within a few minutes Jack could see a couple of the party guests leave; unfortunately they were only leaving to come and deal with the problem neighbour. As they started shouting up at his window Jack hoped they would just ignore him and go away; he turned the music off and proceeded to smoke another joint before deciding the battle was lost and it was time for bed. Of course he couldn’t sleep due to the growing noise from next door but at least he would survive his first Christmas alone.
Bradford Middleton was born in London, UK in 1971 but didn’t begin writing fictional stories or poetry until he moved to Brighton in 2007. He has been published widely both online and in some print magazines and this year Crisis Chronicles Press will publish his debut poetry chapbook Drink Drank Drunk. He occasionally tweets @beatnikbraduk.