f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Claudia Burney - "Home for Christmas"

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Friday, December 31, 2004

Claudia Burney - "Home for Christmas"

My name is Bell Brown, and I hate Christmas. I never hated it before, and I find this new and vexing feeling a bit foul and unsettling, like a bad case of gas, or maybe I really do have a bad case of gas.

I'm sitting in my shabby chic apartment, which in my hormonal rage resembles a garage sale gone painfully wrong. I'm polishing off my third bag of barbeque Fritos, which I topped with a shredded cheese blend labeled "Mexican." Feliz Navidad. Damn it.

Now I'm cussing.

I'm sorry Jesus.

This Christmas I'm single and pregnant. Now, don't go judging me. I'm forty years old, and recovering from a awful case of endometriosis, which my gynecologist assured me would be cured when I got pregnant.

God, all I wanted for Christmas was a baby, and when my biological clock exploded, I found the idea of being artificially inseminated floating about in the debris. So, I did it. And it worked.

Bad move. Not only am I alone and pregnant, I'm mad because I didn't even get to experience the joy of sex. My great grandmother, the diva I was named after, would say, "Baby, you wrong as two left shoes." And she'd be right. Old black women are mystics, and I, her hard-headed descendent, am rewarded with loneliness and a compulsion to strain my arteries with enough carbs to re-kill the late Dr. Atkins.

Adultery is against my religion. Yes, I said the 'A' word--a hateful, accusing word that gets people stoned--and I ain't talking dope. It stands out like a scarlet letter for more than literary reasons. You see, I nailed my sexual past--and I do have one, to the cross, and let the blood of sweet Jesus cover it, but I didn't nail love there. Like an idiot, I fell in love with a drop dead gorgeous, married detective, my sperm donor. His name is Jazz Brown. No relation.

Look, I didn't know he was married at first, and he wasn't expecting me to kiss him. The whole thing may have gone down a lot differently when we met if it weren't my fortieth birthday, and those two people weren't dead, and my sister wasn't the medical examiner dragging me to a crime scene. Honestly, the man invited me inside to give my professional opinion as a forensic psychologist. No way I was going to punk out. I just thank God he's a man of prayer, and comforted me so tenderly when I freaked out, just before I threw up on his alligator shoes. It was that death smell. You don't get a whiff of essence of corpse on a crime scene photo.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. That smell--it's the fearfully part, and let me tell you, it doesn't come out of the red silk dress that your sister gave you. Your sister who actually knows what Victoria's Secret is. The dress you know you will never, ever look that good in again.

It's Christmas Eve. Jazz called an hour ago. I would have survived, sappy music and all, if I'd never answered the phone.

He wanted to know how I was feeling.


"I'm great," I lied.

He wanted to know if I were doing anything tonight.

Suffering existential angst while being tormented with painful, futile thoughts. What's worse, I'm a psychologist, and feel guilty about my misery.

"Nah. I'm just going to enjoy the special Christmas programs on television and hit the sack early."

He said he was going to spend Christmas Eve with his family. By that I'm assuming he means his parents, not his wife, who left him three years ago for his partner, Chris. Chris, as in Christine, and now she's his wife's partner. Jazz is in love with me, too, and everyday is an adventure, trying to figure out how to stay away from each other. If I thought he excelled with the 'no touching' rule we implemented, he ascended to the heavens in avoidance of me today.

Insensitive M-A-L-E! The worst of four letter words. Almosts as insidious as L-O-V-E and W-I-F-E.

I showed admirable restraint on the phone, only to tie one on with salty snacks seconds after hanging up.

I'll be okay. Before I the call, I was almost as normal as the masses of pathetic souls who spend Christmas Eve excruciatingly depressed while the radio batters them with songs like, "I'll Be Home For Christmas." Sing it with me:

"I'll be home for Christmas,
You can count on me,
Blah, blah, blah,
How many stories down can I jump,
And will I die instantleeeeee?"

Okay, maybe I took a few liberties with the lyrics, but honestly, I don't want to be alone my first Christmas with my little test tube baby bun in the oven, and no angels to show me how not wonderful life would be like if I were never born.

He could have asked me to go to his parent's house. His wife and her lover certainly wouldn't be hanging out there. The last he heard, Kim married her in an illegal ceremony in Royal Oak.

It's cool. Being a high maintenance female, I do have an emergency stash of hot chocolate that I'll make when I'm truly desperate. I'll add a peppermint stick, for a festive touch.

Oh, God. Kill me now.

No, don't, God. I'm tough. My people were slaves. Surely I can abide one funky Christmas Eve. Call me Kizzy, or Kunta Kinte. I've got superblackwoman strength. I can do this!

No I can't. I'd fail as a slave. Massa would have to kill me because I'm too tired pick cotton due to profound, pregnancy induced fatigued, and salt swollen feet. If rousing stories of African American suffering can't motivate me, I need to take more extreme measures.

I must read my Bible, untouched since I attended church two weeks ago. I'll work on that. It's my pre-New Year's resolution. This year I'm going to read the Bible in one year. For now, the Christmas story will due, a less daunting, though still formidable task.

Okay, I don't have the strength to read the Bible. God, forgive me. Can you just allow me to wallow here in what will soon be my own vomit because I'm nauseated. Again.

Thank God for the scripture memory verses.

“Matthew 1:23. 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, God with us.'"

Wow. God with us. Wrapped in a tiny bundle of flesh, just like the one I'm carrying inside. I wonder if Mary was ever scared? If she ever questioned her sexuality because she craved so much salt that Lot's wife sounded good to her? Did she know if she did the right thing? I just wanted a baby. I didn't want to sin, but I didn't want to be alone anymore. God have mercy on the both of us if this was the wrong decision. On the three of us, God, because, I love Jazz, too.

Who's at my door? I have to drag my cadaver across the room, but the Word has sparked a little hope in my queasy soul.

Maybe it's my angel, here to show me that my baby is here for a reason.

Oh my goodness! It's Jazz, and he's got two huge shopping bags of presents, and flowers in his hands.

I'm shaking as I open the door.

"What are you doing here?"

"I told you I was spending Christmas Eve with my family."

He's smiling that amazing, movie star smile.

"Madonna lilies," he's saying, "'I have gone to my garden, to the beds of spices, to feed the flock in the gardens, and to gather lilies. I am my beloveds.' That's the song, Bell, chapter 6 verses, two and three. Actually, I got these flowers from the Internet, and have been trying to keep them alive for two days. They're a little wilted, but they symbolize chastity, and let's face it, both of our chastities are wilted."

He touched my face with a flower. "This is a token to let you know that I'll be a good boy. They also symbolize everlasting beauty, in honor of you, and the baby God has so mercifully given us, in spite of ourselves. Let's end the old year, and start the new one, right. Merry Christmas, mama, and Merry Christmas, baby."

"Merry Christmas, Jazz. And--and, waaaahhhhhh."

Jazz's arms are around me, expertly violating our no touching rule. I'm being ushered into the living room as if it were the presence of God. He's trailing gifts behind him.

God with us.

Maybe this is the presence of God. God with us. All around. Never going away.

I'm clutching my pregnant belly, a mere maternal swell in my first trimester, but God is with us, and somehow I know everything will be all right.

The radio is on, and he holds me and I cry. We rock, almost like we're dancing.

"We'll figure it out, little Mama. I'll keep seeking the Lord, just like the wise men did."

Jazz sings to me the song playing on the radio. He knows all the lyrics.

"I'll be home for Christmas," he croons, "If only in my dreams."

It's my favorite song, next to that one in the Bible, nestled in the books of wisdom.

I give him a squeeze, and then I throw up on his Nikes.

Feliz Navidad. Merry Christmas.