I slide my thumb under the orange's surface, peeling the skin off smoothly in a spiral. The winter sunlight peers through the kitchen bay windows, and I tuck my feet under the pegs of the chair. I watch the backyard through the glass, all green and lush and trembling in the wind. This is good, I think, this new life I've made. But I know it could be better. I know it.
November, and December, really, used to be my favorite time of year. Making cookies with my mother, wrapping presents, mashing giant bowls of potatoes. That all changed when everything else did two years ago, and now I look forward to this time of year with trepidation and not a little sadness.
I won't pretend like the holidays used to hold nothing but joy and carols around the tree, because they didn't. As anyone who was raised in an unstable environment will tell you, just because it's Christmas doesn't mean stability is magically granted us. I can remember Christmases where my dad swore we didn't deserve presents and yelled at my mother for buying us some anyway, and then on the night of Christmas Eve he had us in the store buying presents, a magnanimous gesture of goodwill and good parenting. Holidays could sometimes bring out new stressors and new opportunities to do something, anything, wrong. Some of my best memories fall around the holidays; some of my worst ones do, too.
I am glad I'm not living like that anymore. It was so draining. But I miss my family and the good parts of it so much, and it drains me to live this way, too.
It never snowed where I lived growing up. Before, and after, and that's all there is. That's all I'll be comparing things to for the rest of my life. Before, and after, before, and after, and how it was then and how it will be now.
In my head I picture the conversation I might have with my mother about my day, the funny or frustrating things, the things I need advice on. In my head I curl up next to her in my parent's king-sized bed and I say my oft-repeated "Mom! Mom! Don't fall asleep!" and she does all while mumbling her insistence that she isn't.
In my present, here in the after, I can't often think about before. The pain of it is too much and too breathtaking, sharper than the near-freezing air outside of my car. There are too many things lost to me forever, and only the generations of brokenness I come from to blame.
I get a message on facebook for my birthday. I don't bother replying, because what is the point, really? What is the point in trying anymore? I know that every year I don't talk back is another year he will forget me and that is apparently my punishment, my constant crime, here in the after. Before, it wasn't like that. Before, I wasn't like this.
I swear I wasn't.