12, 12, 11.
It’s almost two in the morning. We are a van of snoring, drooling, dead-beat teenagers, twisted and tangled in the hard, unwelcoming embrace of car seats and seatbelts. We’d just come from the amusement park.
We pull up to my house. I’m one of the last to go. I slide the door open, hop out.
“Thanks for coming out today, guys. It really means a lot. Hope you had fun.”
I can barely see; my eyes are so tired. Everything is dark, except the low light of the street lamp that hung above me. I see weak smiling, gentle waving. There’s a hum of quiet good bye’s and thank you’s. Everyone is exhausted.
I slowly slide the van door closed.
“Wait!” a voice, from the back. I look, and he’s sitting there, half a shadow, half green eyes and brown hair. His girlfriend is asleep on his lap, dreaming her dreams that no one can see.
“Yes?” I slide the door open again. Had I forgotten anything?
“Hey.” The half-shadow says to me.
“Yeah? What’s up?”
“I love you.”
He stares, I stare. He smiles gently, warmly. I want to turn his smile into a sweater, be wrapped in it through the December cold, watch old movies with his smile, share a mug of hot chocolate and dance in the kitchen with his smile.
I think of all this and realize I am also smiling. I slowly take in the cold air that suddenly felt so humid, say the words that are so hard to say.
“I love you too.”
He is still smiling. I look at the others. I look at her. No one flinches. No one’s face contorts into sheer disapproval. My face grows hot with guilt.
“Good night. Thanks for coming.”
I hastily slide the door closed, wondering if he meant it.
And I think of nothing else for months.
I’m in Italy. It’s only 5 in the afternoon here, but at home it’s officially my birthday. I am 18 this year. It’s freezing. Everyone’s breath curls up into white streaks in the air. We are by the Trevy fountain and my family makes an obnoxious scene of greeting me, much to the amusement of all the other tourists around.
I check my phone, no greetings yet.
I throw a coin into the fountain, and make a wish—a birthday wish. I only really ask for one thing.
I check my phone again. No messages.
We are now by the Spanish steps. The sun has set, and all the Christmas lights have come on. Everything is so pretty. The road is bustling, and crowded. My family’s all sauntered far ahead. I am alone.
Young lovers, old couples, they kiss carelessly in the crowds, hold hands, embrace. They laugh a lot. They push past me. They seem happy.
I want that.
My phone rings and I almost drop it. The first and only text message I’ve received today.
“Hey! Someone’s legal! Happy birthday! Have a great time partying with the Pope today. Don’t go too wild with those Italians! Get your butt back home soon so we can go out hahaha”
You are the first person to greet me today.
And after that, it didn’t really matter to me who else did.
Please grant me my birthday wish.
You’re the only one who can.
I came home earlier today and saw that the Christmas tree was up, and there were lights everywhere. Lots of gold, of red and green.
I wonder if Christmas is going to be cold again this year.