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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Top 25 Songs of 2014

Hi, my name is Chris, and I am a pop bubblegum whore.

Since 2007, I have made a New Year’s Eve tradition of embarassing myself in front of my far cooler friends by announcing here on the blog the 25 songs I listened to the most during the year.

Here they are:

  1. “High Society” by Betty Who
  2. “I Want It All” by Karmin
  3. “Classic” by MKTO
  4. “Problem” by Ariana Grande, featuring Iggy Azalea
  5. “First Love” by Jennifer Lopez
  6. “Somebody Loves You” by Betty Who
  7. “The End” by The Jezabels
  8. “Boom Clap” by Charli XCX
  9. “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift
  10. “We Won’t Go Home” by The Colourist
  11. “Acapella” by Karmin
  12. “Rumour” by Chlöe Howl
  13. “Dear Future Husband” by Meghan Trainor
  14. “Girls Chase Boys” by Ingrid Michaelson
  15. “Too Cool To Dance” by Eden xo
  16. “Sleeping With a Friend” by Neon Trees
  17. “I Will Never Let You Down” by Rita Ora
  18. “Glory Days” by Betty Who
  19. “Title” by Meghan Trainor
  20. “Lips Are Movin” by Meghan Trainor
  21. “Geronimo” by Sheppard
  22. “The Museum of Broken Relationships” by Veruca Salt
  23. “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor
  24. “All About You” by Betty Who
  25. “Fight Back” by Pomplamoose

I got rid of most of the rules I used for last year’s list, feeling like they were a bit cheaty. The only rule I used this year was that the songs must’ve been released in 2014.

As for what I think the list says about me, the most striking thing is how upbeat most of these songs are. If you’ve been following along with my daily bits of short fiction, or even the podcast, you’ll know that this has not been an easy year, and that I’ve been pretty down on 2014 as it wraps up. Maybe it was because I was feeling so dark and gloomy this year that I turned to pop more definitively than ever. I’m not sure. All I know is that it’s interesting. To me, at least.

To look back on the Top 25 lists from previous years, give these links a clickety-click: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.

Winter

When she was little, Ashley forgot her mittens on purpose. She’d leave them tucked beneath her pillow on the days her father stayed home from work to take them sledding at Shedd Park. And Dad, he’d always let her borrow his, always with a smile on his face and with a shake of his head.

Ashley put her hands inside her father’s gloves and made the climb to the top of the hill. She dragged her red plastic sled behind her, a length of rough yellow rope clutched her fist, and she dreamed of the moment to come, of the wind whipping at her reddened cheeks as she ripped down the hill. As she dusted herself off, then trudged back up to do it again.

Now, now with her hand resting not inside her father’s glove but in the palm of it, now she dreams of the moment after this one, the moment after her father wipes his tears away, the light brown leather of his glove a dark chocolate where sadness has stained it.

“You lived twenty-four years without me,” she tells him. “I know you can do it again.”

He smiles and shakes his head, but he doesn’t stop crying. He thinks of himself, waiting at the bottom of the hill, waiting for her to make his way back to him. Beaming at her as she skidded to a halt at his feet. Shaking his head as she asked to have one more turn, but saying yes anyway.

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Hazy Shade of Winter

Yesterday, the day after Christmas, the kids played hide and seek in the yard. The sight was so sad to me that I fled to the next room to drown my sorrows in brownies and lemon cake and melon liqueur. I gobbled sweets until my stomach turned sour and round and I was a different kind of sad.

A snowless Christmas is almost as awful as a grandmotherless Christmas.

The leaves are brown and the sky is a hazy shade of winter. Yes, Susanna. But there’s no patch of snow on the ground, not a one. And there’s no grandma to laugh at the wind-up Santa on the coffee table as he shakes his ass to a tune that’s getting harder and harder to listen to as the batteries die.

As everything dies but this fucking year that will not end.

This life that will not…

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