Same Old Lang Syne

The year he lost his sister and his grandmother, the year everyone he knew seemed to lose someone or be on the verge, Michael sat in his rental car, in the parking lot where the grocery store used to be when he was a kid, and he drank a six-pack by himself.

On the stereo played the worst Christmas song he could think of, or at least the worst one he had synced to his iPod. It played on repeat and Michael chugged each time the asshole singer got to the refrain. He drank ten toasts to innocence, eight to now, and three to time before he stopped counting.

By the time he reached the sixth brew, he was no longer alone, and he guessed it was only fair that the spirit who visited him was neither of the women he’d been hoping to reach with every sip. He was listening to a song that began with the line “Met my old lover in the grocery store,” after all.

They sang the song once together as a duet, the blend of their voices still a branch to cling to in the yawning chasm of pain. Then it was over. She stole the beer from his hand and drank it down.

“The years have been a friend to you,” he sang to her as the iPod died, as the snow turned into rain, as he closed his eyes and the bottle fell. It clinked against the others at the foot of the passenger seat.

Against his forehead, he could swear he felt her lips. In his nose, he could swear he smelled her fuzzy peach perfume. And in his ears, in his ears he was certain he heard her—ever the faithful Catholic, despite all those songs they used to sing to the contrary—tell him that they were all okay.

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