Dazzling, with white lights, and bright ornaments dangling, it stood over twenty feet tall. Silver tinsel was thrown lazily onto it to achieve a magnificent look. Large boxes with holiday wrapping and red bows stood around the foot of the tree. To top it all off was a star that ignited the day after Thanksgiving.
It was spectacular.
The tree was erected on a platform in the middle of the street. Dividing traffic, it would have seemed out of place to any stranger. But to any one from the city, the tree was right where it was supposed to be, for the circular lot where the tree stood was empty any other time of the year.
Trees lining the sidewalk were lit up, along with stores. Walnut street was packed with people. Hungry diners hurried into Mack's to have dinner and eggnog. I watched as people stepped through the threshold of Oblivion, the only club open on the street, for a nighttime cocktail, and relaxation after some late holiday shopping.
People oozed out of the doors of Zandtz, a small jewelry boutique, at a ridiculously consistent rate. I studied a woman struggling to light a cigarette. Bags attached to her arms made it difficult for her to maneuver into her designer purse for a lighter. She let out a relieved sigh after she successfully lit her cigarette, and I couldn't help but smile.
Ella, the cashier at my favorite shop, Mone, flipped the open sign on the glass door to closed, then disappeared past racks of clothes, and mannequins dressed to impress.
People hurried on their way, their breath visible in the cold night. I watched from a bench only yards away from the gorgeous tree. Snowflakes landing on the shoulders of my wool coat, and the big red bags people were carrying as they came out of AppleWood, made me smile again. They laughed with their families, and continued on their way, stopping to look at Window displays before escaping the cold into a warm store.
I never understood last minute Christmas shopping. The small spaces, cramped with people, irritated because they forgot about that one person on their list, checking their watches, hoping the line moves quickly so they can get to Adam and Eve before it closes.
But they never make it in time. So, they stop at the supermarket and grab a gift certificate to a countrywide restaurant. Everyone enjoys a nice meal there, they justify. And on the way home from the supermarket they stab their finger on a different number on their radio preset, furiously trying to rid their SUV or luxury sedan of the Christmas carols that just won't go away.
Modern Christmas spirit. You just can't beat it.
With much difficulty because of the leather gloves I was wearing, I finally got my own cigarette lit. I watched the last minute Christmas shoppers, and thanked God I didn't have to do that this year, and never would.
"Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say, throw cares away. Christmas is here, bringing good cheer…"
The carolers started singing no more than ten feet away from me, my favorite carol, ironically. Maybe it was relevant, maybe not. I didn't know for sure.
It was like I wasn't even there. People hurried past without so much as a glance in my direction. I puffed my cigarette, relishing the singing voices, along with the familiar invisibility that had caught up with me again somehow.
Snow had started to fall harder than before, but still I sat, wondering if I stayed there long enough, would the snow envelop me? And if it did, maybe, when it melted I would melt with it, back into the Earth.