Over the years, my family has maintained the same Christmas traditions; we’d decorate the tree with the same old ornaments we’ve owned for almost two decades, make the same food, have the same family members over, and go through the same Christmas eve night routine that eventually ended with the unwrapping of the presents at midnight now that me and my sisters are grown ups, when it used to the morning after when were kids and our belief in Santa Claus was huge and crucial to maintain a magical Christmas spirit. However, we recently went back and followed the previous routine because of Elsi.
I’ve always loved Christmas; the atmosphere, the snow, staying home and keeping warm, but that feeling no longer exists; although it mostly has to do with my changing view of the world and everything in it, it also has to do with the annoyance my sister and her family bring when they come visit; she acts like she’s a big deal and expects people to do things for her. On the other hand, you have Tobias, a successful neurosurgeon. When he proposed to her, my parents became ecstatic since they always considered him to be the golden boy; the only man suitable for her. For them, it was like hitting the jackpot. Then there’s me: vague, ambiguous and undetermined with a blank future in sight regardless of my enrollment in a college program. For them, me going to college is perceived as a temporary reassurance and a delay of my day of judgement; the day I finally get out into the real world and struggle to make something out of myself.
The kitchen was cheerful enough when I entered it, our old radio playing the one and only Christmas CD my mom bought from a charity organization years ago; having it play on repeat has become one of the holiday’s key traditions. I helped mom bake Plätzchen, following her unique recipe given by grandma. In the living room, dad watched the fire going as he sipped his wine from his larger-than-life mug of steaming hot Glühwein. As she finalized each dish, mom kept pushing samples of each my way, but I was still nauseous from the sickness I had to go through last week; I had a strong flu that kept me in bed, and my nights were filled with shattered sleep and delirious, neverending nightmares. The minor symptoms of the aftermath made it difficult for me to adjust and embrace the festive atmosphere since my mood and senses had hibernated. Shaking the physical strain was a struggle as well. I took a hot bath to vivify myself and put on a heavy sweater and jeans before going back downstairs. As I paced around the house, my mind perishing in lonely frustration, I was interrupted by the oncoming sound of their car’s engine. I walked to the door and watched them as they pulled into the driveway under the pale moon hidden behind thin layers of striated, fibrous clouds.
Elsi came out first, followed by Rosamunde and Tobias, a smile covering the faces of all three. I took a step back and announced their arrival to my parents who came out at once. I was greeted rather well, but the attention to my presence quickly faded as everyone conversed and caught up. I didn’t mind since I rarely engage with them and so I preoccupied myself with Elsi who always seems to be up to no good. I’ve always had mixed feelings about children, but being around her has recently proved how unfit I am to have a child, let alone take care of one.
Elsi liked to tease me, and unlike other kids, she knew all about the benefits of being one and always made sure she got everything she wanted. She wasn’t particularly evil per se, but I hated her guts for knowing how to push my buttons by secretly sneaking into my bedroom and moving and touching my stuff just to mess with me. Any other kid would’ve avoided doing so if asked not to, but she knew she could do it over and over again without getting any disciplinary punishments or lectures regarding the respect of privacy of other people. Due to my family’s excessive attention to her and what she did, she seemed to have grown into a narcissistic child who believed she was entitled to everything.
Aunt Greta and her husband, Vladimir, arrived right on time for dinner. As they were escorted inside the living room by my dad, Rosamunde came up to me and asked me if I’d do her a favor by going outside to the car and bringing in the gifts they had bought for us and Elsi and putting them in the guest room without her daughter’s knowledge.
Walking outside, I took a deep breath, clearing up my lungs from the plaster dust. I unlocked the car and reached for the trunk, unloading the endless amount of packages; I was too stubborn to make two rounds and instead put myself in the struggle of placing the presents one above the other, building a heavy tower of stacked gifts that partially blocked my view. I was successful in closing the trunk, but not enough to lock the car; as soon as I tried doing so, the mountain of accumulated presents collapsed to the floor. I froze for a second and made sure the loud noise didn’t go through the house before grabbing each box and lifting it up from the ground before it got wet. One of the boxes, a small one, had rolIed over and fallen under the car. I kneeled to reach for it and found myself in the unusual sight of the rear tire which made me pause to inspect it; it looked under inflated, showing some wear on the inside of the tread. It obviously needed fixing, but somehow my initial, fearsome concern lessened as I took the stuff inside and focused on sneakily delivering them to the guest room.
After successfully doing so, I walked around the house looking for Elsi’s who, ever since she developed her irritating behavior, I wouldn’t let her out of my sight whenever Rosamunde came to visit. When I couldn’t find her, I rushed up the stairs and to my room and saw her sitting on my bed, holding my matching harness and jockstrap that I bought a couple of months ago during my first visit to a sex shop. She held each thing with different hands, holding only the tip of them with her little fingers, smiling and teasingly asking what they were. I angrily ran up to her and snatched them from her before dragging her outside my room. I took a huge risk doing so because of her manipulative personality and long tongue that would’ve put me in a great deal of trouble; I didn’t want her to cry or scream, and I certainly didn’t want her to say anything about what she saw. She was upset regardless, so I took her to my sister’s bedroom and let her play with her dolls. I stood behind her by the doorframe to make sure she was over the incident, then went back to my room and put everything away. I locked the door and went back downstairs.
At the table, I was socially impotent in making any kind of small talk let alone engage in any conversation with any members of the family. Everyone was cheerful and acted rather nice, but even that wasn’t enough for me to try and humor anyone. The enchanting Christmastime mood once again became bleak as the beautiful night became darkened by the mischief of my own, sinister mind. When it comes to the holidays, there’s an undeniable, sometimes indirect pressure of perfection that imposes itself on everyone, especially during Christmas eve; everyone has to be happy and celebrate. The fact I was feeling unwell made me anxious. Under the table, my knees kept on knocking with nervousness, and goosebumps traveled through my entire body although the room was incredibly warm. All I wanted to do was go up to my room and engage in excessive self-reflection surrounding the current inadequacies of my life. In times like these, I urgently have to keep reminding myself that I’m moving away soon, but even that brings in more overwhelming stress as uncertainty plagues my entire existence.
After opening the presents and saying goodbye to Aunt Greta and Vladimir, everyone gathered in the kitchen, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. At some point, Elsi clung to her dad and unrelentingly nagged, asking for ice cream. That’s one of the things that annoyed me about kids; their obnoxious behavior when their notorious, unremitting one-track minds pushes them to ask for something, and they usually don’t stop until they get it. Although she wasn’t particularly loud about it, I fixated on her and had to restrain myself from losing my temper. Tobias eventually caved and agreed to cater to her request. Since we didn’t have any at home, he asked if there was a nearby convenience store open; the closest one was at least a couple miles away. Dad gave him the address and him and Elsi left right after.
As we started cleaning and wrapping up the leftovers, we suddenly received a phone call from Tobias’ phone; the person who spoke, though, was someone we didn’t know. They sounded agitated, scared. Tobias and Elsi had been in a car accident; emergency was already on its way to the scene and we were urged to rush there as soon as possible.
Dad insanely drove us to the location of the accident; during our commute, me and Rosamunde sat in the back. She was distressed and hysterical; her grips were tense, her eyes drowning in racking sobs, and she was shaking nonstop while I remained calm and motionless. As soon as we arrived and hit the brakes, she ran out of the car and screamed hysterically to the sight of the havoc. The car’s inflated tire had blown up due to the poor road condition. Eyewitnesses said the vehicle slowly veered off the road, tumbled over and plowed into the grass. Seeing the car totaled and completely flipped over, an excessive smoke emanating from it, was like watching a scene from a horror movie. We were spectators to a shattering earthquake of our lives; something life-changing. Only to them, though.
You know that feeling when, in an intense moment of distress, the trauma is just too big you just can’t move? That was me in face of the wreckage. I’m not sure whether my lack of emotional involvement was because I was mortified or simply unfazed. I was ambivalent towards the whole situation, but briefly blamed myself for not speaking up about the tire; if I did, probably none of that would’ve happened. However, another part of my brain seemed to enjoy seeing the struggle, the torture, the mayhem; I was fully embracing the sight of the thrilling excitement of danger and destruction. I didn’t want it to end.
As a teenager, my towering, inner desire for dark, gritty and violent situations gradually seeped out onto the surface in all sorts of disturbing ways; I frequently lied, stole, broke and burned things, trespassed by breaking into places and injured people around me. However, when the hurt came from another source and I was lucky enough to be a witness, I took a uniquely extreme pleasure in watching since I didn’t have to worry about getting caught or facing any kind of consequences. It was like a free ticket to a spectacle I didn’t want to miss.
The ambulance arrived right after the police and fire department; Tobias was half-conscious as they pulled him out of the car while Elsi’s body was found almost twenty feet away. She had flown out of the rear windshield and landed in the grass. The paramedics rushed to feel her pulse, and for a while, a complete silence took over, abruptly interrupted by the family’s hysterical cries and screams when she was pronounced dead on the scene. Tobias, on the other hand, was alive but suffered from severe physical injuries that included a heavy concussion, various bruises on the neck, arms and chest and a deep laceration around his forehead. Both were taken to the nearest hospital immediately to further assess Tobias’ injuries and Elsi’s primary cause of death.
Waiting in the hospital’s waiting room, my family was hoping for good news and dreading the bad. The long wait kept them suspended in a pounding fear relentlessly eating them alive. I tried to be emotionally invested and empathize as much as I could, but symptoms of the flu reemerged out of the blue, the result of standing outside in the vehement wind for almost half an hour, My throat was dry and sore, and every time I coughed, thick mucus came out of my mouth, filling me with total grossness. After a couple of hours, I I tirelessly got up and paced around before regretfully walking up to mom and asking her for coins to get myself a drink from the vending machine. My move was received badly by my sister whose face instantly switched from sorrowful to infuriated as she snapped at me.
“Elsi just died and Tobias is in the emergency room! Do you have any sympathy?!”
My parents looked at me disappointingly and concurred. I felt bad, but only because their reactions pushed me to. I knew my painful sore throat didn’t even come close to the deep emotional hurt everyone was going through, but my reason for asking was valid; I could hardly breath.
After the brief altercation, I felt totally unwelcome and so I needed a reason to get out of the hospital and away from my family. Going back home wasn’t an option, though. I sat down on the other side of the waiting room, took my phone out and logged into Men4Cam to a dozen of messages; they were mostly flirty ones filled with sexual comments, only one stood out: It was nicely and properly written. This man who introduced himself as Hans, was asking me if I was for hire. I said yes, my heart skipping a beat as I did so, before going online and looking up the usual rate prostitutes charged by the hour. The average rate was 300 euros, so I included that in my response. He agreed to the rate and I asked where he liked to meet and he replied back right away; he wanted to meet tomorrow night at the Columbi Hotel. I felt a thrill and an intense stimulation as I typed back to confirm the appointment, my fingers shivering in the process; I was excited yet scared. I didn’t know what I was doing; I didn’t even think twice. I was taking things offline when I wasn’t even sure I was ready. In the back of my mind, the hesitant side of me was urging me to take a step back and think things through, but I knew I’d back out if I thought too much about it. It was time to take things to the next level. I’m moving soon, and I need all the money I can get to survive through college.