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Black Market Christmas

December 24, 2011

It’s been this way since Christmas day/ dazzled, doused in gin

Christmas Eve reminds me why I hate alcohol. My father and sister are getting giddy with alcohol and even one drink (a dark & stormy, my favorite) plunges me deeper into the darker recesses of my mind. I retreat to a back room in the house and drown out Christmas music with one of my favorite albums, Placebo’s Black Market Music.  It fits my mood exactly: dark, glooming, cynical, spiteful, even hateful.

At the time they cut me free/ I was brimming with defiance

As I start writing, memories of Christmas past come bubbling to the surface, haunting me.  But the ghosts in my family are not Dickensian messengers rattling chains for a quick fright before delivering a heavy-handed moral. No, the story here is still being written, and I struggle every day to decipher the meaning.

I wrote this novel just for you/ It sounds pretentious, but it’s true

In my high school years, writing about my family was simpler, much more black and white. I had a small community on LiveJournal where I could bitch and moan about how fucked-up my family was, and everyone would share their own stories and commiserate.  Every night when my father came home I’d be braced for a shouting match, and there was broken glass in my kitchen at least once a week,wine glasses smashed to prove just how pissed off he was that dinner wasn’t prepared on time.  The memory of my father cheating on my mom with his secretary was still fresh, as was his admission to me that “one day you’ll understand.”  And then there were the nights that he ripped up my homework in some sick power-play to prove that he could destroy even my academic success-although I still graduated with straight-A’s anyways.

Problems with the booze/ nothing left to lose

It was easy then to dismiss my father as a hopeless alcoholic, a lost soul whose once-bright future had long ago been swallowed up by his thankless job as a tax accountant.  I pitied him, but hated him more.  Then came college, where I finally had freedom to explore my identity and didn’t have to come home to arguing every night. My relationship with my parents grew more complex as I learned to overcome hatred through endless therapy appointments and discussions about family with other members of my college’s LGBT group.

It seems/ a place for us to dream

I learned to express myself through poetry, and was published in my college’s various literary magazines. After examining my own deep-seated anxiety around relationships, I ended up identifying as polyamorous, pansexual, and transgender. Even though I cycled through relationships pretty quickly at first, I was having fun, and was building lasting friendships.  But my father’s words when he cheated on my mom–that “one day I’d understand”–occasionally nagged at me.

Run away from all your boredom/ run away from all your whoredom

Holidays were the one time I could no longer run from my father, although at first I hid the person I’d become.  One Thanksgiving shortly after I had begun hormone-replacement therapy, my father and mother began discussing my lack of facial hair–wondering out loud when I’d finally “grow into a man,” and how my father had gotten facial hair late too.  I made a $10 bet with my father that I’d never grow facial hair, and my father called me a “fool,” but matched my bet.  I’ve never collected the money.

I’ll go fighting nail and teeth/ you’ve never seen such perseverance

That Christmas things got much uglier though–over a bowl of oatmeal.  In one of my father’s classic power-plays, he refused to let me eat my own breakfast because I had refused to eat the quiche everyone else was eating (even though I’m allergic to dairy and eggs). When I tried to walk the oatmeal into the next room, he physically barred my path.  When I tried to keep walking he shoved me backwards.  When I tried again, he grabbed the oatmeal and smashed the bowl in the sink. A shouting match ensued, which turned into a shoving match, and then suddenly, my sister and mother were trying to separate me from my father who now had a black eye and a bleeding lip.

Gonna make you scared of me/ cause hemoglobin is the key

Suddenly, the tables had turned–my father had the black eye, and not me. I was shocked, but also proud. No one had to call the cops on my father for being violent, because I had stood up for myself. I wasn’t scared of him anymore. Instead, I was scared of myself.

As they drag me to my feet/ I was filled with incoherence

This story doesn’t have a conclusion. This year’s Christmas story is still being written, and I’ve repeatedly been asked to re-join my family, and Black Market Music  has looped more than once,  so I’ll leave you with a song and one final lyric.

I’m forever black-eyed/ product of a broken home

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