The Easiest Holiday Ever

I spent the week before Christmas bracing for impact. My body, my skin, my lifestyle, my hair color, my laugh are laid out on holidays beside the turkey, the wine, the dessert and coffee. And every comment seems to cut so close; I spend the next months recovering, confidence rebounding when I’m alone again.

But this year – not so. The comments emerge and they die without setting off the powder keg of my insecurities. I’m in disbelief – something will happen, something will be said that I haven’t thought of yet.

Since we are not at home, nothing is familiar. Wandering the tropical landscape, I think we’ve forgotten the holiday.

I ask my father about his favorite Christmas song, and he says “the Mariah Carey one.” Which interests me like a piece of trivia. And other innocuous questions follow. My family and I, like curious strangers.

But something must happen, I think. The sense of foreboding prevents me from relaxing into this limbo of polite family relations.

But maybe this is the new normal. Maybe we’ll be polite, forever skating across each other’s surfaces, with our ties deepening through years rather than moments. I think I would prefer the weight of history to the energy of conflict. A family that is even as a table. I could lay there, comfortably.



So sweet. Sweet, but what a drag, getting to know yourself. On a date, even the silence is filled with you. This breeds indecision. I question every movie choice as I look into someone else’s eyes and think, “I don’t know what you want right now.”

In polite conversation, you can shrink yourself to invisibility. To teleprompter status. And you can keep the secret of your sentience as well as technology does.

Because I am traveling, this relationship has a built-in terminus. An end of the line when a distance of thousands of miles, when space will explode between us. For now things feel fresh and heady. He is outside waiting for me, smiling at me.

Yesterday at six am I got a phone call from Alaska. And I said messy things to an ex to give closure. And then this door opened, and He was there. I still don’t know what this is, this shining and temporary thing. As this affair washes over me, I worry that I am the only discrete thing in the experience.

The guards are up because there isn’t time to let them down. Our conversations, His and mine, have dips and grooves in them from where things were edited or carved out. And at first I rebelled against this dishonesty but now I adapting because I find things I don’t want to share.

After that call, I felt brilliant and solid. I cried. I saw my friendships hundreds of years from now, like iron bonds supporting the earth. I wanted to thank everything, every facilitating thing for the honesty that erupted between me and this ex.

Last night in a fairground over ice cream, I stumbled telling the story of my tattoo. Of how I chose the words I spend my life with. Wonderful, so wonderful, to have someone listen and wait for you and hold doors. But the problem is that you have to open in response, and when things are temporary, this is not easy. And maybe not advisable.

Sometimes I imagine that we’ll course correct, or converge later in life. He’ll visit the US and we will rediscover one another. And when the frame changes this trust, this attachment will be possible, or available, even if we don’t use it.

Humility and what I don’t own

My best friend is from Bangalore, India. We met at college orientation. During one of the countless talks on women’s liberation and globalization, I saw her lip curl for the first time, gently at one side. Later I knew the curl was her response to anglicized pronunciations and naïve solutions to the third world.

She taught me that ‘buddhism’ is pronounced buthd-hism and not bood-ism, watched Buffy with me and movies with Aishwarya Rai, and combed oil through my hair. We were always watching explosions, dramatic or literal, in her attic dorm room above a bookstore.

When I go to yoga, or meditate, I feel my lip curling too, as if I weren’t part of this white washing because I am in sympathy with my friend. But my friend is more generous. She does not roll her eyes at shirts with ‘namaste’ on them, and she says growth and spirit can come in anyway. She is beyond judgment of white men with buns in flowing kurtas, and I am not.

But my judgment does break down. Today, at the end of a difficult class, our yoga teacher told us her practice was driven by the beauty of the universe, that she saw the beauty of the universe in human exertion. I felt or intuited truth. My thoughts about how the teachers gossip before class, rolling their eyes at some inconvenience, folded in on themselves. It did not matter that they gossiped because their insight was in spite of it. How humbling that they live a divinity beyond me.