This is a Christmas story of friendship, love, spontaneity, orgies, interventions, tacky brilliance, and practical jokes. ‘Tis as close to a Hallmark Moment as my group of friends, all 20-somethings living in NYC, is likely to get. There are two sides to the story, one from each side of the New York City street I live on. One from the Boys, who live on the south side, vs. us Girls, who live on the north.
THE BOYS’ SIDE
As pieced together from eyewitness accounts and knowing my friends rather well (or so I’d like to think)
The iPhone is his pocket and the Covenant Carbine weapon in his virtual hand buzzed simultaneously. Accustomed to such distraction, Walter’s actual hand did not falter. He mashed the buttons of the controller, successfully annihilating the onscreen attacker in a matter of minutes. With the pixellated landscape momentarily clear, Walter glanced at his phone annoyed, “Who dares interrupt this epic game of Halo?“
Cliché, his phone told him, that’s who. Cliché and Walter, long-time friends, had recently become neighbors; they now lived on the same block.
“What does she want,” he wondered, “It better not be to borrow a can of green beans.”
He pressed the pause button and picked up his phone. The text message read two words: “Come over.”
A former frat boy and now a single man in New York City, Walter was familiar with such text messages. They really only ever meant one thing. Right? Who was he to question the needs of his attractive, single, female friends? He was their knight, a Trojan warrior, ready to slay a horned dragon or save a horny damsel in distress. His first instinct was to give no reply and simply show up at her door, ready to unsheathe his sword. And yet…the text was so out of the blue and out of character for the sender.
He texted back, “Now? To your apartment? Why?”
“Yes. Now. Just COME,” was her swift response.
Amazed at his good fortune, Walter saved the game of Halo, put on a pair of socks, and grabbed his jacket. He opened his bedroom door and saw his roommate Ben sitting on the futon, lacing up his sneakers.
“I’m going across the street to the girls’ place,” said Ben, “I just got a text from NYC. You coming?”
ORGY! flashed through Walter’s mind, quickly followed by, Yeah right.
“Did she say why?” He asked Ben.
“No,” Ben replied, “But she was pretty insistent.”
What was Cliché up to? Why had she invited Ben too? Who else was coming? Why wasn’t she giving any details? INTERVENTION! flashed through Walter’s mind. Putting on his shoes, he considered this possibility. An intervention for what? He supposed cases could be made for sex, veganism, or even alcohol, but none that would ever hold up in court. “This is weird,” he said to Ben as they walked towards the door.
“Maybe they got a pet or something,” Ben said shrugging.
Walter wondered if his nonchalance was deliberate, He’s calm. Too calm?
“Got your keys?” Ben asked, before closing the door.
THE GIRLS’ SIDE
As remembered from approximately a month ago.
Cliché bounded up the five flights of stairs to her apartment. Her day of handing out holiday gift guides to shoppers in Columbus Circle (while dressed in an unflattering Mrs. Claus outfit) was at last over. She was finally home, ready to join her roommates and see what they’d accomplished without her. Excitement made her fumbled with the key in the lock. At last she flung open the door, “I’m home!” she cried, racing down the hallway. Entering the living room, her eyes feasted on the scene. Her roommates, Rose and April, sat on the floor, sheets and sheets of white paper scattered around them.
Happiness flooded Cliché’s face. “You guys! It’s so big! It’s great!” she squealed, “It’s the best Christmas tree ever!”
Standing at over 6 feet tall, it was the best Christmas tree $30 could buy during the second week of December.
“We lugged it all the way here from 125th on the subway!” said Rose, “When we passed the boys’ place we were like, ‘Pleeeease let one of them come out and be all strong and manly and carry it for us!’ But that didn’t happen. We got it up the stairs all on our own.”
“I’m impressed,” said Cliché, “And sorry I didn’t help at all! This is so awesome to come home to!”
“It’s quirky as hell,” April said, pointing out the odd spacing of branches that flung themselves in odd directions. Quirky and cute. It was perfect for the three girls and their first Christmas together in the apartment.
For the next hour, while Pandora radio blared Christmas carols, the trio trimmed the tree. They began with white lights: “classy” they all agreed. Next they hung plastic blue, green, and red balls from the 99¢ store- “festive”, “practical”, “cheap”. Cliché looked at the finished tree. These generic decorations made her miss home and the collection of ornaments her parents had amassed over the years. She tried to shake off a dull melancholy that began to encircle her like the white lights encircled the tree.
Fortunately her crafty roommates had further plans; decorating was far from finished. From the sheets of white paper they cut intricate snowflakes, fitted these with wire hooks, and hung them amid the plastic balls. It was the perfect touch, hand-made and personal, each snowflake ornament had a story.
“This was such a good idea,” Cliché said happily, snipping away at the folded paper in her hand.
Rose and April had one final surprise. “Just wait ’til you see what we got for a tree-topper. It’s fantastic. In the worst kind of way.” Together they pulled a large star from the 99¢ store bag. It was outlined in tinsel, with rainbow colored lights punctuating its points. They put it on top of their quirky tree and plugged it all in. The star flashed on and off, calling full attention to its gaudy splendor.
“Oh my god, IT BLINKS,” exclaimed the girls, and dissolved into peals of laughter.
“It’s the tackiest thing I have ever seen!” giggled April.
“My mother would hate it!” chuckled Cliché.
“It’s so bad I love it,” smirked Rose, “It’s like a Korean music video.”
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They stood back and admired the finished product. Classy, sentimental, and tacky all rolled into one little quirky tree.
“I love it. It’s perfectly ‘us’.”
“I’m so happy right now.”
“I have a bottle of Jameson, let’s make a toast!”
Throwing back shots of whisky, their bellies became as warm and cozy as the apartment. Now it was really Christmas. The tree sparkled and All I Want for Christmas is You came on the radio. Why did it feel like something was missing?
“I wish we could share this with other people,” April realized.
“Yes!” the others emphatically agreed.
Cliché grabbed her phone, “I’m texting the boys.” Then she grinned impishly, “Is it too mean if I present it like a booty call?”
“What do you mean?”
“If I say ‘Come over.’ and nothing else?”
“Ha! Nope, not too mean, that’s hilarious!”
BOYS AND GIRLS TOGETHER
Ten minutes later the doorbell rang, “They’re here!” the girls cried and ran to the door, all wearing Santa hats. “Merry Christmas!” they cheered, opening the door.
“You’re all wearing clothes!” said Walter, “Where’s the orgy?”
“Ha ha ha. Come in! It’s better than an orgy!”
The girls lead Ben and Walter into the living room. “We got a Christmas tree! We just decorated and really wanted to share it.”
“Awww,” said Walter.
“It’s so cheerful,” said Ben, “It really feels like Christmas in here.”
For the rest of the night the five friends sat around the tree, laughing, drinking whiskey, and sharing stories. The tale of how the tree was acquired and decorated. The account of all reactions to Cliché’s cryptic text messages. Memories from Christmases past, hopes for Christmases present. It became a perfect night of the things Christmas is all about: friendship and love. A Christmas memory we will always remember.
Hours later when the boys left, Walter’s parting words were, “You guys were right, that was better than an orgy. Thanks.”