When I was fourteen, Christmas break occurred during my I Literally Have Zero Friends phase. This phase came about after some stuff went down and it was mostly by choice. I don’t regret the choice because, even though it was painful at the time, it was the healthier path. It was a formative experience that happened during a time I was malleable. At fourteen, I was melted chocolate being poured into a mold, and because of that phase, I came out in the shape of someone who was not–and is not afraid of being alone.
Don’t fight that chocolate mold analogy. It’s the holiday season and it is perfection.
On Christmas Eve Afternoon (it’s a thing), my doorbell rang. I didn’t have any friends, so imagine my surprise when I saw a guy my age standing on the doorstep. He went to a different school, but we’d been friends/acquaintances back when I hung out with the cool kids. Let’s call him Herbert because that sounds nothing like his real name.
Herbert looked distraught, so I invited him in. He told me he’d just gotten into a fight with his dad. The kind that involved hitting, not just words. He’d hopped his fence and taken off, ending up here.
To this day I’m unclear why he showed up at my house. Maybe it was a place that seemed safe to him, maybe he knew I wasn’t in touch with any of our (formerly) mutual friends and I’d keep my mouth shut.
We played foosball, we talked about what happened. For a few hours, we hung out and enjoyed each other’s company.
If this scenario had taken place in a 1994 sitcom, my parents would’ve kept Herbert, making him my foster brother. Or maybe the sitcom versions of us would’ve called the police and Herbert’s dad would’ve been contrite, learning to treat Herbert and his mom better.
If this scenario had taken place during a 1994 teen drama, Herbert would’ve ended up living in a hotel, juggling Kelly Taylor and Brenda Walsh for years. He would’ve had a really cool haircut and a husky voice.
Because this was 1994 real life and I was fourteen, what actually happened was, after a couple of hours, Herbert left. Presumably to go back home. Or to find somewhere else to hang out. And I was left wondering if there was something else I should have done. Could have done.
It’s not a heartwarming yarn I’ll spin for the kids around the fireplace this Christmas season, but it’s an experience that’s staying with me and one that always seems to magnify itself this time of year.