The 24th of December 2002 – King of Prussia, Pennsylvania

(found in the mall, just outside of the T.G.I Friday’s)

Nancy, Nancy,

Jesus Christ, Nancy.

What a horror.

Can you believe I actually said it? I did. I actually said it.

I was just walking through the mall, trying to find a store that still had those red-polka-dot socks that Uncle Leo likes so much. Can you believe that nobody had those socks? Nobody had those socks! What am I supposed to get Uncle Leo?

I’m walking through the mall and this old lady comes bombing out of Spencer’s Gifts, big black bags hanging from her hands. I mean, these bags were huge. They were dragging her down to the ground. She’s flying out of this store with these huge bags and she comes spinning right into me. I mean, she was going right for me.

I just barely got out of the way, but I held my hands out, just to slow her down, maybe stop her and see if she had any red-polka-dot socks in those big, black bags. I didn’t see any.

She looks up at me, like she just noticed me – even though she almost ran me down in a crowded holiday mall (Some people, right?). She looks up at me and she smiles and all she says is “Merry Christmas.”

No apology. No nothing. Just “Merry Christmas.”

And I didn’t even think about it. I didn’t even stop to think. I looked down at this tiny old lady, bent over because of the weight of these big, black bags. I looked down at her and I smiled, because there was this joy in the air. I looked down at her and I said it. I said “Merry Christmas.” And then the old lady with the big, black bags just walked right on by. I didn’t care. I wasn’t interested in her or her response or her explanation as to why she needed to come rushing out of Spencer’s Gifts.

No.

I just said it. I just said “Merry Christmas.” And then I smiled and I felt my heart fill up with this weird happiness and I moved on, content with it. I just said it, and that was all.

“Merry Christmas.”

I always wondered about those people. I always laughed at those people who sent those Christmas cards with those pages and pages of words about their lives and their family’s lives. They’d send these letters every single year, but they never picked up a phone, but they never bothered to actually talk, to actually start a conversation. They just wanted to write in a check mark next to that line item: “have human contact.” They just needed to fill their quota and move on. They were just content with it.

“Merry Christmas.”

I think it’s all I need. I really do. What if it is?

When did I become one of those people? When did I transform and lose my spirit? When did I realize that I could only foster human interaction through farcical holiday cheer? When did I start to crave it, because it is just so much easier to talk to people through holiday greetings than actual conversations?

When?

Merry Christmas,

Bethany

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