40s, Freedom, and the True Meaning of Christmas
I found myself with these lovely people last night chilling on my snow-covered front lawn on kitchen tables and back-ally milkcrates, staring up at ‘the stars’ which Kevin assured me were simply veiled by the rare cloud cover that graced the Colorado sky. We listened to protest songs (the abundance of modern inequity assured us that Pete Seegar was no longer needed to supply that playlist) and I, Nikki, drank my first 40 with the two people I wanted to most in this whole goddamn world.
Aly and Kevin are currently traveling the US, checking out different Occupys and living exactly as they want to. I’m lucky enough to host them. Simply introducing them to Denver was enough; they’ve helped me discover her more deeply and fully than I had yet to, and honestly would have probably never if not for their insight. Kevin happily announcing the presence of a community garden I would have never recognized; Aly declaring that the ‘organized anarchy’ (a seriously accurate term) of OccupyDenver was “fuckin’ awesome and I need to drink a fuckin’ 40, NOW motherfuckers!” and subsequently finding the perfect construction site for us to crawl into and enjoy them, almost. (“FUCK YOU security cop!”)
As I sat with them and cradled my beverage, I looked over at Aly and found myself saying with the most honest sincerity, “I think this is the best Christmas I’ve ever had. There is nothing fake about it.”
And there’s not. Because I don’t have the time or the money for it. Any feelings of sappiness or nostalgia are squashed dead at work, where I hear over 40 hours of mostly-awful Christmas music a week. My saving grace there happens when they play “Feliz Navidad” and Yanet, the adorable older Mexican woman who trained me, grabs my arm and dances with me, goading me to sing the Spanish with her so I can learn quicker and being able to talk with her without the gigantic language barrier that exists between us. Because she wants to know about my life; because she genuinely cares about me. The language barrier has actually been a small miracle of sorts. When I talk to people at work, honest questions are asked because we simply do not know the words for the bullshit small talk. Do I have kids; am I married; what am I doing in Denver. Perhaps what is asked most frequently and with the most interest: “You like it here?”
It’s taken me too long to answer “si” confidently. Yeah, I fucking do. Everyone in my life here is struggling to make ends meet and so empathy in present always as well as a sense of ‘fuck it, we’ll find a way to make it work.’ Differences are minimized and connection is emphasized and I have met the most beautiful people here. As I told my guests, it’s not that Denver is that stellar of a city, but the people here are just so GOOD. We’re independent through interdependence and are always down to share a beer or three. I’ve been moved more by poetry and mountains than 18 years of churchin’ ever could. And MUCH more than 22 years of Christmas commercialization. Last night Aly played her favorite Xmas song, Wham!’s “Last Christmas”. Glee covered it and it’s blaring through every public speaker we find. Aly wants to puke on it. But listening again to George Michael’s sincerity made stark by synthesizers cause her and I to sing along full-throatedly, and by the end even a befuddled Kevin was getting into it (the malt liquor may have helped).
This Christmas, I find myself away from family and friends that I’ve known over six months. It’s made me a little sad, but for the first time I don’t feel like I’m waiting for anything. I’m going; I’m gone. And I’m not removed; my mom’s exquisitely well-thought-out care package proves that love doesn’t need to sit next to you at the dinner table. This Christmas I’m listening to a blues jam band and playing free pool and drinking wine at poetry slams and chugging 40s under the stars and taking a solo pilgrimage to my favorite mountain town and dropping acid with my roommate her friends from the East Coast (Charlie Brown will never be the same). These are my 12 days of Christmas, and I don’t think I could have ever planned them better.