A Christmas Eve Story
Julius sat alone in front of his computer again. 9.00 pm. The same darkness hung outside of his windows, with the the familiar sound of passing train and cars. The air smelled the same, felt the same. The fluorescent light above him gave off its white light like always. It was like any other normal night, except that it is not. Tonight was Christmas Eve.
Julius looked around his house. Empty. The streets below him bustled with activity, and yet as he sat alone in his house, he could not help but to feel a pang of loneliness. He glanced to the left of his computer, where his phone laid. Only an empty screen greeted him. His fingers swiped at the screen, not wanting to belief that there were no messages. But it was true. The notification bar, like his house, was empty.
11.30 pm. His eyes were on his Facebook page now. Photos of his friends, having fun in bars, pubs and clubs, surrounded people began to appear.
"Best Christmas Eve celebration with people that I treasure most!"
"Having so much fun right now!"
Those were among the captions that followed many of the photos. Julius wondered if they were indeed his friends, because if they were, he would be with them now, not in front of his computer. Another pang of loneliness. He began to feel sad, wondering if he was the only guy in the whole wide world spending Christmas Eve alone; unwanted, unloved, unnoticed.
"I must have the most miserable life in the world," Julius thought, as another wave of sadness washed over him. He wanted to do something, wanted to get up, wanted to call someone, but as he hands held the phone, he wasn't so sure of who he want to call. He wondered if he was the only one who is feeling so lonely on this Christmas Eve night, while the rest of the world enjoyed themselves.
Julius closed his eyes, and began to let his thoughts wander. They went back to more than 2000 years ago, to a night back in Israel, settling down near a couple, who had the name Joseph and Mary. Julius had no idea why his thoughts traveled so far back to a story he heard so many times before - perhaps it was from the pastor's sermon just two days ago - but there it was. It was right next to them, listening to them as they discussed nervously about the plans for the night.
The night is getting old, and Mary was cold and tired from the whole journey. Joseph was tired too, but he had to take care of his wife and the baby. So much as happened in the past few days, and in a way, they were still confused about the significance of the baby. Julius wondered if they felt lonely too, like what he was feeling, but quickly realized that they do not. They had each other after all, and that was more than enough. They were a family now, and Joseph had promised to stick with Mary through thick and thin. Julius felt sad again, and envious of them.
His thoughts came back to the present and he suddenly found it looking at himself, only from the top. It lingered there for a while, before zooming out, like how they usually do in movies.
He found himself looking at Singapore right now, a piece of land surrounded by water all around it, with the expanse of land called Johor north of it, and the scattered islands of Indonesia on its south. He saw the night lights flickering across the island, and grew curious of the lives of the millions of people living on the island. Were they all having fun and enjoying themselves, like what he suspected, or were they like him, alone in the house, feeling sad and miserable too?
Just as he finished with the thought, he found his view zooming in to a spot in Singapore and before long, the loud music that you would usually hear in clubs pierced through his ears. The spotlights and lasers flashed around him, and he noticed that people were dancing around him. A girl wearing a black dress was in front of him, rubbing her body against his. He felt a rush of excitement course through his body. She turned to face him, and he could see the eyeliner beneath her eyes, and the clipped on eyelashes above it. Her lips were red from lipstick and before he knew it, her hands was on his shoulders, her tongue inside his mouth. By tonight she would follow him home, and tomorrow morning, like so many mornings before, she would lay naked beside him, and he would have felt a sense of happiness, perhaps accomplishment, from having yet scored another girl that night.
Was this the life that he wanted, the life that he craved for? Was this the reason why he was feeling sad, because he felt that he was left out from all of this?
Before he could gave an answer, his view was zooming out again, crossing the streets at an incredible pace, and soon he find himself next to the sea. The sound of waves sang to him, and he felt the sandy beneath him. A head lay beside his shoulder, the scent of shampoo floated to his nose. Her hair was soft and she was holding his hands tightly. In that moment he felt blissful, that he was the happiest man the whole wide world, for being able to spend Christmas Eve with the person he loved the most. She said the same thing too, and thanked him for bringing her there. They talked about many things. About how small the ships looked, about their future plans, about their dreams, and in the end, they shared a kiss. Their first kiss together. He wished that this moment would last forever.
And then the scenery shifted.
This time he was in a taxi, the windows on his right was rolled down, a cigarette in his hand. He was now somewhere near the first place that he started, except this time he was not there to look for a girl. He was trying to earn a living, to pay for the bills that he knows need to be settled by the end of the month. The sound of his phone ringing distracted him. It was his children, wishing him a merry Christmas. Why are you not home papa, they asked. Papa need to work, you answered, and assured them that Santa Claus would be visiting tonight, and asked them to sleep early. His wife asked you to take care, and he told her that he would, and asked her not to worry. He took another puff of cigarette. Life was tough, but he had no choice. But he was thankful for his family. The operator motioned to him, his first customer of the night. As usual, they stank with alcohol. He had seen them all. From the ones that cursed at you to the ones who puked all around to even a couple who had sex right in the back of his taxi, he had seen them all. And he knew that the best way was to keep quiet and do his job. Just like any other night.
His view changed again.
He was laying in bed, back against the cold hard wooden board underneath. People around him mentioned about Christmas Eve celebrations when he was in the train today, but he didn't understand about the significance of it.To him it just meant a day off tomorrow, which he treasured it very much, because it allowed him to call back home, to a small house in a remote Indian village. He missed the sound of his wife, he missed home. But he was here to make a better living. A sensation ran across his leg, and he assumed it must be another cockroach. His friend who was just centimeters away from him continued to snore peacefully. Just opposite his dormitory, he heard the sound of the bar thumping out music. He wondered how it would be like to be in a bar. He would never know, because they would never let someone with his looks in. And he never liked loud music.
Another scene change.
It was a guy like Julius, with a computer in front of him. Except it was not Julius. He was someone else. A game was in front of him and Julius recognized it as DOTA 2. He clicked away furiously, controlling his avatar, trying to score as many kills as possible. He barked instructions to his friends, all whom he knew from school. They had promised to play together on Christmas Eve. There was not much else to do anyway, as they hated clubs, and they knew no girls. So they retreated to their own circle. The mechanics of a game, after all, felt more familiar to them than the workings of a girl. And they continued on, killing, winning, losing, and playing in their own little world.
Next Julius found himself crying in a room. His phone lay next to him. A message from his girlfriend, now his ex, was still there. He had found out that she was cheating, and instead of doing anything to mend the relationship, she chose to end it on Christmas Eve instead. Such a heartless girl, he cried in his heart, as his tears flowed freely down. As much as he hated her, he still loved her. His heart was a total mess. It must be the worst Christmas Eve of all, he thought to himself. And he tried to blink back his tears.
When he opened his eyes, he was standing in a hospital room. A man in white was standing opposite of him, a clipboard in his arms. She couldn't make it, he was told. They did their best. His little daughter was gone. For a moment he refused to believe in it, he did not grasp it. But when the truth finally sink in, he wailed, he screamed. He felt his heart being tore into a million pieces. On a Christmas Eve.
Then he found himself in the shoes of the doctor, the father screaming and breaking down in front of him. He had tried, he really tried. But he was tired, exhausted. It has been almost a day now since he started his shift, but because there was not enough doctors around, and there was a spike in emergencies, he had no choice. He had to stay on. Overseeing all the patients. Trying to make everything work. On a Christmas Eve.
The pale white fluorescent lights greeted Julius, the familiar lights that always shone on him. He was back in his house, his red and black laptop in front of him.
There are a few million lives living on this island right now, each with their own Christmas story to tell. Why are you letting the definition of a few lives affect you? He found himself asking. Why is he feeling sad over another person's story, when there were so many stories out there? Why was he so affected by the first and second story, but not others?
He assumed that society's definition of an enjoyable Christmas eve, how it posits that we should be spending time with people, either clubbing or doing some other enjoyable stuff, was the reason he felt miserable. He simply did not fit in to the society's viewpoint, which might explain why he was feeling left out. But he realized that compared to a lot of people out there, he had no rights to complain.
He closed his eyes again, and went through the lives of each one of them. Millions of us. Millions of stories. Millions of feelings. He wondered how they are interconnected together. He realized that no matter what our story at the end of the day, we are the masters of our own feelings. None of our stories are the same, and we simply cannot compare. Is the lives of others what he wanted? He didn't know. It'd be great to have someone, but Julius realized it was not the end of the world. And he was definitely not the only lonely soul on the planet. He thought it might indeed be normal, and perhaps the idea of how you must spend your time on a the eve of a public holiday, like Christmas, is overrated. Each of our story is different, and we alone determines how we feel.
And Julius didn't feel so bad after all.