Monstrous Femme

The Ouroboros of Christmas Past

The Ouroboros of Christmas Past

You thought that moving an additional five hundred miles from your hometown would increase the distance between the past and the present, but these harsh Hudson Valley winters are so reminiscent of the bitter Chicagoland winters of your childhood, you may as well have looped around and wound back up in the Region again.

It’s the first really cold day after autumn ends and you’re walking to your new job downtown—a coffeeshop job not unlike the type of customer service work you had done for the last ten years while living in the relatively warmer climate of Southern Indiana. It still got cold in Southern Indiana, there was still snow every year, but you had forgotten just how cold the cold could get when you lived near a large body of water like Lake Michigan or the Hudson River or the Atlantic Ocean, the way the cold bites every particle of exposed skin, the way it dries up your lungs and takes your breath away if you’re not covering your face with a scarf or a mask. Granted, masks weren’t really a thing yet (here in the US, at least) in the pre-COVID days of your youth back in the Region, but you’ve found that they’re pretty useful as an extra layer of warmth beneath a scarf, good for retaining your breath’s moisture and preventing your throat and lips and nose from drying out.

There is so much snow here; it’s piled up to your head between the sidewalk and the street, and you’re tall for a woman, taller than most men, even. When was the last time you saw more than six inches of snowfall? It had to have been high school, right? Yeah, your last year of high school, there was that blizzard that everyone kept referring to as “the Snowpocalypse.” You didn’t just get a snow day that year, you got an entire snow week.

You’re remembering the Snowpocalypse now, how you picked up three of your closest friends in that crappy 1995 Dodge Caravan you had in your teens and took them back to your dad’s house. The snow around the driveway went up so high that you were completely hidden from all your neighbors as you and your friends sat in the back and hotboxed your car. This was back before you started smoking weed on a daily basis, back when getting high was still new and novel rather than a daily routine.

You remember taking a big hit from the bowl and then passing it to Grant on your right, the way his fingers briefly brushed your hand as he took it from you, the way you were coughing and starting to feel high and completely unable to deny your feelings for him. He was a good-looking guy, one of the few who were actually taller than you, beautiful singing voice, sensitive and artistic, talented guitarist, practically an Adonis. The only issue was that he was tragically straight, a fact that he had to repeat to you a few times throughout your friendship. That was your problem with boys: you always ended up developing crushes on the straight ones. Not that you ever had any shortage of girlfriends, but you wanted to experiment with your sexuality at least once.

Well, at least once in a way that you wanted to.

But there was a second Snowpocalypse now that you think about it, wasn’t there? Yeah, almost ten years ago now, when you were twenty-one and home from college for winter break. You were over at Grant’s dad’s mansion—he was one of the few guys you still hung out with after high school. Both of you had eaten an eighth of psilocybin mushrooms. You’d done acid a few times before, but this was your first time with shrooms and you were excited for a new drug experience.

You remember how unexpectedly hard you tripped. Your experiences on acid were intense, but this was something else entirely. The two of you were listening to music and drawing with colored pencils. At one point you tried to play guitar, but the frets kept multiplying and you couldn’t get your fingers on them quite right, so you had to give up.

An extremely pivotal and life-changing moment happened for you when you got up to use the bathroom. Many people had warned you to never look in the mirror while tripping on psychedelics, but you always thought that “advice” was silly—you knew you were on drugs, and that any “scary” things you saw in your reflection were just a hallucination. I mean, wasn’t hallucinating and seeing weird things kind of the point of doing these sorts of drugs?

You looked in the mirror and entered an entirely new plane of existence. Your psyched-up mind perceived your reflection as your soul, and your soul was . . . a woman? Not only a woman, but an angel, more beautiful than you ever believed was possible for you. You reached out, touching your fingertips to hers, and you remember the way the mirror rippled as if you had just touched water. You pressed your forehead against hers, the tips of your noses kissing, and gazed into the twin abysses of her dilated pupils. Kaleidoscopic fractals swirled from her eyes, a multidimensional mosaic of a million yous from a million moments in your life, past, present, and future overlapping to create the perfect image of You, the You you were meant to be, the You you had been all along. You wept from the beauty of it. You know now why you had felt such emptiness within you for so long; you know now what path you need to take to fill that emptiness with yourself and become actualized.

You kept the revelation of your transgender spirit inside of you for a couple weeks, reading everything you could find online about trans people and their internal experiences and how they eventually realized that they were trans, wanting to make sure that this feeling was real and not just a product of psychedelic hallucination. Grant was the first person you told when you could no longer keep it inside of you, and he was the most immediately accepting out of all of your friends—you remember the agonizing wait for a response from the riskiest text you had ever sent anyone, and the huge surge of relief from his reply: honestly i’m not surprised lol.

You shake your head of the memory, crossing the street without bothering to look—no one’s out driving with roads like this. You wonder how much business you’re even going to get at the coffeeshop today.

You pass by a church whose yard has been shoveled enough so that the marquee out front is visible:




Snow is stacked high on both sides of the sidewalk past the church—whoever shoveled these sidewalks is a true hero. The street you’re walking down is curved to the left, and at a certain point all you’re able to see in front of and behind you is just snow. The sky is overcast, the same silvery shade of white-gray as the walls of snow around you, almost giving off the illusion that you’re actually walking in a tunnel if not for the tops of trees, powerlines, buildings, and the distant Catskills visible over the snow.

Christmas music is playing somewhere. It’s difficult to judge where it’s coming from or how far away it is due to the acoustic qualities of the snow hallway you’re walking down, but you can clearly make out what it is:

            In the meadow, we can build a snowman

            We’ll pretend that he is Parson Brown

You sing along under your breath: “He’ll say are you married / We’ll say no, man / And who the fuck is even Parson Brown?”

You chuckle quietly at the little rewrite you’ve been singing to yourself for over twenty years now, your puerile wit never failing to amuse you.

            Later on, we’ll conspire

            As we dream, by the fire

            To face unafraid

            The plans that we’ve made

            Walking in a winter wonderland

Those lines, “To face unafraid / The plans that we’ve made,” have always stood out to you. Something about them always felt so epic, so adventurous. What plans have you made that might strike fear in you? Is the singer about to embark on some perilous quest? Perhaps to engage in battle with some sort of snow demon? You were always an imaginative kid, able to construct fantastical stories like that out of the innocuous.

You remember being twelve years old and singing this song for your sixth grade Christmas concert. Your elementary school always put on a little Christmas concert every year on the last day of school before winter break. This would be your last elementary school Christmas concert, the last time you would get to sing the recognizable soprano melody for these classic holiday songs, before your voice would drop in middle school and you would be relegated to some obscure tenor harmony that you’d never be able to get used to, although that wasn’t a consideration of yours at the time.

You and your classmates were arranged in alphabetical order by last name, which meant that you were next to Violet, as you had been since preschool. Violet was crying softly as you were finishing up the very last song, overcome with sentimentality. You wanted to tell her that it would be okay, there would still be Christmas songs to sing in middle school, but comforting others was not your strong suit—you were raised as a boy, after all.

Violet had been your biggest crush since you first met each other in preschool—your very first crush, in fact. You remember how excited you were when you realized that she would be with you in kindergarten too, attending the same elementary school as you. The two of you were always at the top of your class, earning straight A’s with ease—her intelligence was one of many things that you admired about her. Even though she never reciprocated your romantic feelings, the two of you were still close friends throughout childhood up until middle school, when puberty started to really sink its fangs into you and your peers, and boys and girls stopped hanging out with each other in the same way that they did in elementary school.

Thinking back on it, you wonder if Violet had known something you didn’t know at the time, if she had perhaps intuited that not only would this be the last elementary school Christmas concert you’d ever perform, but that it’d also be one of the last magical Christmases you’d ever experience. Did she know that puberty and adolescence would harden your hearts and dim the wonder? You had tried to hold onto your youthful magical thinking for as long as possible, but eventually . . . things happened, and you grew to realize that the world really was just as it seemed.

Lost in recollection, you realize that you’ve been walking down this curved road for far too long and somehow managed to miss your turn—you can no longer see trees, buildings, or mountains above the wall of snow in front of you. You turn around, worried about being late to a job that you’re still relatively new at, but there’s still nothing, just the silvery eggshell expanse of snow and sky. On the verge of panicking now, you pull out your phone to check your location on Google Maps, but your phone is glitching and for some reason seems to think that you’re back in your hometown in Northwest Indiana.

You can still hear the sound of distant Christmas music playing somewhere, and you put your phone back in your pocket and begin jogging in its direction.

            You better watch out

            You better not cry

            You better not pout

            I’m telling you why

You’re thankful that it’s not the Jackson 5 version at least—those piercing belts of a young Michael would surely drive you mad right now.

Something has appeared in the sky in front of you, a black speck breaking up the chromatic monotony. Despite the fact that the road you’re walking down is curved, the black speck in the sky is always directly in front of you—and it’s growing. At first you assume that it must be a plane—what else could it be?—but soon the spot (no longer just a speck) begins to stretch, curving around itself, twisting into a spiral.

            He’s making a list

            He’s checking it twice

            He’s gonna find out

            Who’s naughty or nice

As the tail of the spiral continues winding away from its nucleus, it thickens, appearing to get closer and closer. You’ve read Uzumaki and you really don’t like the look of this. You can begin to make out some color on it now: alternating stripes of red and white.

            He sees you when you’re sleeping

            He knows when you’re awake

            He knows if you’ve been bad or good

            So be good for goodness’ sake!

The music is louder, definitely closer now, but you’ve encountered no turns yet on this road. That can’t be right; how long have you been walking? The music can’t be coming from that ominous candy cane spiral in the sky, can it? It’s twisting around faster and faster, the outer edge growing nearer and nearer, and you can see that there’s something on the tail but you’re not sure what. There is an uncanny quality to its movements, reminiscent of stop-motion animation.

Fuck it. You jump up onto the snow wall (which is somehow well over your head now), dig the toes of your boots into the snow, and pull your body up to investigate the scenery for any recognizable landmarks. Bile rises in your throat when you see nothing, nothing at all, but more snow with a single walkway spiraling through it. You see that the direction you’ve been going will take you to the center, but you can’t tell if there’s even anything there. The opposite direction, however, extends out to the horizon as far as you can see, rows upon rows upon rows of curving hallways in the snow. The center is the only “end” in sight, but is that where you want to go?

Suddenly, the tail of the candy cane spiral in the sky comes crashing down somewhere off to your left. The force of its landing creates a shockwave, rumbling the snow wall you’re holding yourself up on into a mini-avalanche—before you know it, you’re back on the ground, lower half buried in the snow.

The music is way too loud now, and only getting louder. There is a deep, thunderous roar rising with the music as the tail of the candy cane spiral rapidly winds down the road toward you, still hidden behind a wall of snow, clouds of snow billowing up over the wall with its passage. You struggle and squirm trying to pull yourself out of the snow, but there is just too much of it on you. In a frenzied panic, you start digging yourself out, carelessly throwing handfuls of snow behind you, gloves quickly soaking through and numbing your hands.

            Oh, you better watch out

Oh no. You know this voice.

            You better not cry

You successfully yank one leg out of the snow.

You better not pout

You’re digging so frantically now that one of your gloves flies off your hand, lost somewhere behind you.

            I’m tellin’ you why

Just as you finally pull the rest of yourself free, the source of the music bursts out from around the corner to your left: a serpentine figure that completely fills the walkway, its face the color of charcoal, with red and green baubles the size of your fists where its eyes should be, still moving with that eldritch claymation quality. On its head sits a giant fucking Santa Claus hat, but instead of a pom-pom on the tip, it’s a goddamn eyeball. The eyeball is webbed with dilated blood vessels and has an iris the color of nicotine-stained fingernails, and it seems to be leading the creature, pulling the hat straight and taut in front of it, sort of reminding you of an anglerfish.

It’s looking right at you.

It opens its mouth so wide that you can no longer see its face, only that horrible eyeball leering at you from above, revealing endless rows of icicle fangs with multi-colored Christmas lights threaded between them. From behind all those rows of icicle fangs belts the voice of young Michael Jackson:

            SAAAAANta Claus is comin’ to town!

            SAAAAANta Claus is comin’ to town!

            SanTA Claus is coMIN’ to toooowwwwn!

You turn to run away from the Tim Burton monstrosity but immediately trip and fall on your face. Before you can pick yourself back up, the candy cane serpent completely engulfs you with a rushing sound like a train passing by. You expect to be eviscerated by the icicle fangs, but instead you’re just floating there in space, icicles and Christmas lights surrounding you on all sides and flying by in an epileptic blur.

A voice speaks to you from every direction:

What would you like for Chrisssstmassss, little girl?

You laugh. You can’t help it, the voice just sounds so stereotypically evil and satanic, all whispery with an emphasis on the s sounds. You’re reminded of the line from the 2015 film The Witch—Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?

“What kind of Junji Ito nightmare are you?” you ask the lights swirling around you. “Krampus? Satan Claws? Fucking Oogie Boogie?”

The voice just laughs at you, a deep, resounding guffaw that assaults you from every direction, echoes twisting into themselves and creating the illusion of a choir. Suddenly you’re no longer floating but falling, falling through this endless kaleidoscope of color and cachinnation.


You’re eight years old. You’re waiting in line to see Santa Claus at the mall with Dad and you’re beyond excited. Christmas music is blasting on the speakers overhead, there are lights and decorations everywhere, and you couldn’t be happier—it’s the most wonderful time of the year, after all. Hundreds of frantic shoppers, all bundled up in their winter clothing, carry shopping bags and boxes as big as you as they scuttle from shop to shop.

It’s finally your turn!

One of Santa’s helpers, wearing a green elf costume, takes your hand. You know she’s not a real elf since she’s as tall as any other grownup (plus one of her fake ears has fallen a little and is pointing down instead of up), but that’s okay. All the real elves are hard at work back at the North Pole anyway.

There he is, the Big Man himself: Santa Claus, the most holy of icons to all children, holier even than Jesus Christ. You can hardly believe it—Santa Claus? Here at the mall this close to Christmas? But if he can make it down every chimney in the world in one night, then it stands to reason that he can hang out for a while in various shopping centers in the weeks and days leading up to Christmas.

You’re standing before him now, and even though he’s sitting down, he’s still larger than life. He looks at you from his throne, smiling with the warmest, kindest eyes you’ve ever seen on any adult besides Mom.

“And what would you like for Christmas, little girl?” he asks.

You’re taken aback. It was the first time anyone has ever “mistaken” you for a girl, and it feels . . . good?

“He’s a boy,” Dad says, a recognizable hint of anger in his voice.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Santa says, the jolly grin never leaving his face. “What would you like for Christmas, little boy?”

You’re confused, unsure of what to say. You want to tell Santa that you want a GameCube for Christmas, but the look on Dad’s face is scaring you, and your words get caught in your throat as you’re trying to process Dad’s emotions and Santa’s expectations and the music and the decorations and all the hustle and bustle around you. You feel tears welling up in your eyes, which you know will only make Dad angrier at you, but you can’t help it, it’s all too much to take in, you don’t know what you’re supposed to say.

Afterwards, Dad takes you to get a haircut. That’s the last time he ever lets you have long hair.

And then you’re back in the tunnel of swirling ice and color.

“Oh, I get it,” you say. “You’re the Ghost of Fucking Christmas Past, aren’t you?”

If that is easiest for you to comprehend, then yes.

“What the fuck kind of non-answer is that? I can’t even count how many morally ambiguous, all-powerful, fictional characters I’ve heard say something like that. Do you realize what a cliché you are? What are you and what do you want from me?”

It doesn’t answer you, and now you’re eleven years old, lying in your bed at night and watching the snowstorm out your window. You’re touching yourself. You’d never thought to do this before, but some deep intuition has compelled you to do it tonight. It feels wonderful, like scratching an itch that never goes away. You’re rubbing little circles through your underwear, a masturbatory motion that you learn years later is more common for girls than for boys. There are no sexual thoughts in your pre-pubescent mind, no picturing of nude bodies, no fantasies of touching or being touched by another; it’s just you with yourself, in the dark, watching the snow blow by in the window, listening as the wind whistles through the trees’ naked limbs—a perfect, magical winter night.

You close your eyes as the sensation begins to overwhelm you, flying higher and higher beyond any physical pleasure you’ve ever experienced, rubbing your little clockwise motions faster and faster. Behind your eyelids you see a blizzard raging around you, each individual snowflake standing out with its own brilliant iridescence, dancing lights in vibrant colors you’ve never seen, rising in intensity and brightness before suddenly exploding in ecstasy. Your mind is pure white for a moment as your body is wracked with waves of euphoria, dry spasms pulsing against your now-still fingers.

Eventually you come down, panting softly, your body numb and tingly. You feel like you’ve just discovered some secret within your body, a special place that you can take your mind to with just your fingers. Does anyone else know about this? Surely people would be talking about and doing this all the time if so, right? Over the days and weeks and months following this night, you would regularly take yourself to this special place, always touching yourself through your clothes, never making any sort of mess in your underwear, feeling more connected with your body than ever before.

A year later, age twelve, winter once more. You’re touching yourself again, as you had been doing almost every night since you discovered the act. There is no snow outside your window; the night is still, the sky blank and black. Your eyes are closed, but for some reason the colors you’re conjuring are dim and distant—stargazing on a partly cloudy night. You still feel that pleasant and now-familiar sensation, but there is a faraway quality to it (your older self would compare that tactile distance to physical stimulation while inebriated or on other substances that numb the body). You speed your movements, racing toward that special feeling that you in your juvenile nescience always called “the throbbing.” The lights behind your eyelids are dancing, but it’s difficult to focus on them—they’re desaturated and you can only barely make them out in your peripheral vision, like some optical illusion. Abruptly, you arrive at your destination, but there is no explosion of light and color like you had been experiencing over the past year. Your mind goes black for a moment, and you realize with disgust and shame that there is a hot wetness in your underwear now. You had sex ed in school at the end of last year and you knew that this was something that would eventually happen to you, but you had secretly hoped that maybe you would be different, maybe the puberty fairy would spare you and keep you pure.

After that night, it was over twice your lifetime before you would be put on the proper hormones and feel any sense of oneness with your body again.

You’re back in the present now, back in New York. There is no candy cane serpent, no spiraling walkway in an endless expanse of snow—you’ve made it downtown. You still hear music playing somewhere, probably from one of the ritzy shops here on Main Street. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! Was that what did it for you? Did hearing the Jackson 5 send you traveling through time in a reverie of reminiscence? It seems fitting that the family of singers from Gary would be the ones to take you back to your years in Northwest Indiana.

You hope it doesn’t happen again.

To your right, there is a huge wall of snow on the street just off the sidewalk—you assume that a snowplow probably just drove through the middle of the street rather than once down both lanes, so that the sidewalks wouldn’t be completely covered. You have no idea who shovels the sidewalks in this town. There are no cars, but a surprising amount of people are out and about, talking, laughing, walking their dog(s), window-shopping. The windows of all the shops are filled with holiday decorations: tinsel, Christmas lights, poshly ornamented trees, faux presents wrapped in vibrant red and green paper and tied off with bows of ribbon, even the occasional menorah and Star of David. There are a lot more Jews here in New York than there were back in Indiana—hell, there are a lot more of just about every kind of person here. You like that, it makes you feel closer to the rest of the world. Plus, you stand out way less than you did in the Midwest—everyone here already knows like a dozen other trans people; you are no longer a novelty to be gawked at.

One of the shop windows displays a Nightmare Before Christmas diorama. You stop and look at it. You could barely get through this movie as a kid but absolutely adored it in your early teens. It was that scene toward the end, where Jack Skellington is playing Santa Claus and delivering all those wretched monster-gifts to the children on Christmas Eve before eventually being shot down by the military, that was too much for you. Christmas was a downright sacred holiday for you as a small child; any corruption or ruination of it was blasphemous, heresy in the highest degree. You couldn’t even finish that episode of The Simpsons where Bart accidentally burns down the Christmas tree.

Middle school was probably when Christmas began to lose its sanctity. The luster of the world in general began to pale with the arrival of your facial hair, deepening voice, and semen.

In the glass of the shop window, you see the reflection of a teenage couple walking and holding hands behind you: a boy in an oversized hoodie and super-tight skinny jeans, eyes obscured behind his bangs, and a much shorter girl bundled up in proper winter attire with too much dark makeup smeared around her eyes. They look to be about fourteen or fifteen. They remind you of your first serious relationship, when you were in eighth grade, with a girl named Emma.

You remember the way the two of you would hold hands while walking around downtown. This was a thing you ended up doing with a lot of different girls throughout your adolescence, sure, but the first one will always be special. She loved The Nightmare Before Christmas (really, she loved all of Tim Burton’s movies, but Nightmare was her favorite), and you were with her the first time you were ever able to get through the whole thing without becoming too upset during the final act. With her eyes a similar shade of blue as yours, and her face just as speckled with freckles, you had always thought that she’s what you’d look like if you were a girl. You had a unique and meaningful connection with Emma, one that you didn’t and couldn’t have with any of your guy friends. Of course, that’s how relationships work in the first place, but this was deeper than that—you could actually be yourself with her, really and truly you, in a way that your guy friends would only ridicule you for. With this being your first relationship (and hers), and the two of you still early in puberty, you weren’t yet bogged down by cultural expectations of heteromasculinity. You didn’t yet know how you were “supposed” to act and be as a “boy” in a relationship with a girl—you were only yourself. Over a decade later, when dating other women as a woman on estrogen for the first time, you realize in retrospect what made this middle school romance stand out over the dozens of other relationships you’d had as a “boy”: it was proto-sapphic in nature, with a tenderness and vulnerability that only girls can share with each other, whereas every relationship after was tainted with heteronormative ideals.

Emma was the first person you had come out to as bisexual, and she to you as same. Later that year you made the mistake of coming out to one of your guy friends, who turned it into a huge joke and told everyone at school. You were permanently treated differently after that: boys started seeing you as a potential threat, and everyone assumed you were fully gay but too afraid to come all the way out of the closet (despite the fact that you still dated more girls than all of your guy friends put together). Tough times that you don’t want to think about. You probably would’ve come out to Emma as transgender too, if you’d understood and known about the existence of trans people before college. You’re remembering now that she was with you the first time you bought a pair of skinny jeans—the tightest pair of women’s black pants that you could fit into, joking (but not really) that you hoped they would inhibit your testosterone production.

You realize that the couple behind you has been staring at your reflection while you’ve been reminiscing. You turn and continue on your way to work, hoping that the kids will leave you alone. Most of your interactions with teenagers have been pleasant—in general, they seem to be a lot more knowledgeable and empathetic about trans people than most adults in your own age group are—but they can be unpredictable, and you’re running late for work anyway.

The sidewalk is strangely empty now: where there had been at least dozen people and half as many dogs, there’s now . . . no one. The Christmas music has stopped, but behind you comes a new song:

            Kidnap the Sandy Claws

            Lock him up real tight

            Throw away the key and then

            Turn off all the lights

Of course you know this song, it’s from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Great song, wonderful soundtrack—and isn’t it funny that someone with the name “Elfman” would write the music for a Christmas(ish) movie?

The only other sound besides the music are two pairs of approaching footsteps behind you. It’s pretty obvious that the teens are playing “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” from one of their phones, probably trying to intimidate you for some dumb TikTok prank or something. You walk faster, not taking the bait, but they’re getting closer to you and you’re still a couple blocks away from the coffeeshop. Every shop you pass by seems to be closed, with darkened windows devoid of display. Where did everybody go? Even seeing just one other person would make you feel safer, but everyone has disappeared. As the teenagers gain on you, you can’t help but think about every video you’ve seen online, every horrible true story you’ve read, about teens committing random acts of violence on others just for the fun of it.

            Kidnap the Sandy Claws

            Throw him in a box

            Bury him for ninety years

            Then see if he talks

You can’t go any faster without jogging, which would be a clear sign of fear on your end, and showing fear would probably just make things worse for you once they catch up, so you decide to turn around and face them, preparing for the worst.

You weren’t prepared for what you see.

It’s you and Emma, from all those years ago. Standing there, holding hands, just . . . staring at you. There is no expression on their faces; they don’t say anything. Your breath fogs up your glasses, and you realize that there are no clouds of vapor exhaling from their faces—they’re perfectly motionless. The music is still playing, but you can’t tell from where.

You don’t know what to do. You’re shivering, your heart is pounding, and you feel like you might throw up. What the fuck is happening today?  This obviously must be related to that weird candy cane spiral serpent hallucination you had earlier. Are you having some sort of psychotic break, like Abed in that one Christmas episode of Community?

The linked hands of the doppelgänger couple suddenly begin to merge as the fabric of their gloves unravels itself and drops to the ground, revealing skin like candle wax, fingers melting together into one seamless ball of pink goop. The sleeves of their respective coat and hoodie follow suit, unraveling and dropping, as their arms also melt and join the growing mass between them.

You take a cautious step back, and when you see that the couple does not move toward you, you take another. The teens only approached you as you were looking away from them, so you figure as long as you walk backwards and keep an eye on them, they shouldn’t follow.

            Kidnap the Sandy Claws

            Tie him in a bag

            Throw him in the ocean, then

            See if he is sad

Despite the growing distance between you and the doppelgängers, the music is increasing in volume. Also, you notice that this is no longer the original song from the movie, but instead it’s the version by Korn from the 2008 cover album Nightmare Revisited. You loved that CD as a teen. Emma had given it to you for Christmas—no, wait, that can’t be right, you and Emma only dated for Christmas of 2007. It was Circa Survive’s 2007 album On Letting Go that she had given you. Someone that you dated in high school gave you Nightmare Revisited . . . but who?

You’ve retreated enough to where you can barely make out the couple in the distance—granted, they are no longer a “couple” so much as an amorphous pink mass over a pile of threads. Over your head is an awning from which hangs a metal sign bearing the name of your coffeeshop. Without taking your eyes away from the pink mass, you sidestep to the door, watching as the blob begins to shape itself into a tall, gangly, humanoid figure. You grip and twist the doorknob, unsure if this place will provide you any adequate protection from whatever that thing is, but you really have no idea where else to go at this point. You open the door and step inside without looking—

—only to find yourself falling, falling through the sparkling and polychromatic maw of the candy cane serpent you’d hoped had only been a hallucination.

“You again,” you say.

Me again, yes.

“No Ghost of Christmas Present this time?”

You know this isn’t that kind of story.

“I don’t know what the fuck is going on at all, let alone what kind of ‘story’ this may be. What you showed me last time was pretty fucking weird and invasive, and I’m really not looking forward to whatever’s next on the agenda.”

But you know that you have no control over the matter, and soon enough you’re fifteen again. Fifteen and in the car with your dad. It’s Christmas Eve night, and you’re coming home from your grandma’s house. This was the first family Christmas Eve celebration you had after your mom had left you and your dad one summer morning, later calling to tell you that she’d be living in Arizona indefinitely. You don’t really remember having any feelings about her leaving; you definitely had a much closer and warmer relationship with her than you did with your dad, but as a teenager entering high school, you didn’t care much about having a relationship with either of your parents. Plus, Dad was a lot less strict in his parenting, so if anything, you got more freedom when she left—even more so since he started drinking heavily and passing out on the couch in front of the TV as soon as he got home from work. Of course, your meals became a lot less nutritious, and your house got much dirtier without any basic upkeep, but why would you care about those things?

It’s dark, the roads are icy, and Dad has a half-finished bottle of Jack between his legs. He’s driving over the double yellow lines in the middle of the road, going about fifteen over the speed limit, swerving between lanes from time to time. You’re pretty sure you’re going to die.

“Listen, son,” he says. “Never get a girl pregnant. That’s a problem you can never run away from.”

When you were younger, you had accidentally stumbled upon your parents’ marriage certificate and found that they got married a year after your birth. You were surprised because Mom was always telling you never to have premarital sex—in fact, that was about the only thing she ever had to say about sex. Knowing this, it’s hard for you to take your dad’s words in any way other than a hurtful one: your mere existence is a problem that he’ll never be able to run away from. Except that Mom got away. Mom got away and left you with him. And it’s clear that neither of them intended or wanted you to be born in the first place. It’s hard for you not to hold your dad’s words close to your heart. He was always emotionally distant, but at least your mom was there for you, although now you wonder how much of that was just an act, how much of that was just a woman trying to fit into a role that was thrust upon her. If she loved you, why would she move so far away without warning? Did anybody truly love you? Or were you just an accident that everyone had to deal with now?

Miraculously, you make it home unharmed and without encountering any other drivers. Christmas more or less lost the rest of its magic for you after that.

About a month later, your friend Alex is spending the night. You’re both on your futon in the basement, which has basically become your bedroom since your mom left. Alex is kind of a weird guy, but he’s one of your only friends who asks you to hang out first, so you hang out with him; as far as friendships go, you take what you can get. He’s obsessed with really edgy movies—Rob Zombie and Eli Roth and the like. He’d browse 4chan for recommendations on disturbing movies and for videoclips of actual violence. You don’t like watching actual violence, but he makes you watch anyway—that, as well as hardcore pornography, which you feel is more disgusting than enticing. He’s also someone you occasionally make out with—the only guy you’ve ever kissed, which feels special and meaningful to you, though it’s not the same as kissing girls.

“Have you ever sucked a dick before?” he asks you.

“You know I haven’t,” you say. “You’re the only guy I’ve ever done anything with.”

He says nothing for a moment, then: “I wanna know what it’s like.”

“Then get a boyfriend.” It’s really late, close to 4am, and you’re on the verge of falling asleep; you can barely hold a conversation.

“I don’t want people to think I’m a faggot.”

You don’t have anything to say to that. You’ve been getting called “faggot” on a regular basis for a while now, and you can understand why someone wouldn’t want to endure it.

Just as you’re beginning to slip into a dream, Alex shakes you awake.

“Can I suck yours?”

“What?” You’re hardly able to register what he just asked you. “No, I’m tired, let me go to sleep.”

“Oh, come on,” he presses. “I’ve already eaten pussy before, I just wanna know what it’s like to suck a dick, too.”

“Maybe some other time,” you say, annoyed, rolling over onto your side to face away from him.

He rolls you back onto your back. “Come on, just for a little bit.”

You try to turn back to your side, but he’s holding you down.

“Oh my God, dude, just let me sleep, it’s like fucking four in the morning.”

“Come on, let me suck it just a little, it’ll feel good.”

He pulls the blanket off of you.

“I’m really not in the mood right now,” you tell him, starting to feel worried. You’ve had oral sex with girls, and that was always a nice time, but it was something that the two of you would talk about and agree to beforehand—no one has ever pestered you for your body like this before.

“It’ll be quick,” he says, hooking his fingers into the waistband of your pajama pants and boxers. “Don’t tell anyone.”

You don’t say anything anymore. It’s clear that you’re not in control of this situation and there’s nothing you can say or do that will make Alex relent. You’re half-conscious and hoping that maybe you’ll be able to sleep through it, but the stimulation is overwhelming, and you’re wide awake for every second. Of course you don’t come, you can’t even get all the way hard, and Alex makes fun of you for it.

You try to tell your other guy friends at school about it a few days later, but they just laugh at you, making jokes about you getting “rape-blown.” They explain to you that it’s not rape if you weren’t penetrated, and that to claim you were sexually assaulted is an insult to girls who were actually raped.

You have a Music Theory class with Alex in one of the band classrooms, back in the corner of the Fine Arts wing of your high school. The two of you haven’t talked since that night. You wonder if he feels any shame over what he did to you.

Class is over, and as you’re packing up your books and getting ready to head to lunch, your teacher calls you over to his desk to talk to you about an assignment you had forgotten to do and how you can make up for it. It’s a short talk, but everyone else is gone by the time it’s over.

The band locker-bay outside the classroom is empty. At the moment, your biggest concern is how many kids have already gotten in line at lunch, how long it will be before you finally get to eat. Just as you’re about to round the corner into the main hallway, someone grabs the back of your shirt and yanks, your collar momentarily choking you. You’ve been threatened with violence several times since you were outed as bisexual, so you always figured it was only a matter of time before something like this happened, but you’re surprised to see that it’s Alex who’s grabbing you by the throat and slamming you into a locker.

“Stop fucking telling people that I raped you,” he says, his voice low and uneven, tears standing in his eyes.

You can’t breathe, can’t even swallow. You reach your hands up to grab his arm, try to push him off, but he’s bigger and stronger than you and he doesn’t move at all. It doesn’t occur to you to try to hit him; you’ve never been the aggressive type.

“Stop telling people,” he says again, “or I’ll fucking kill you.”

He finally lets go just as the periphery of your sight starts to get snowy. Then he disappears around the corner, leaving you alone and gasping for breath.

But now, thankfully, you’ve returned to the serpent’s throat.

“That sucked,” you say. “That really fucking sucked.”

Pun intended?

“Oh, fuck off, you asshole. Why are you showing me these things? Will it earn you your wings and get you into heaven or something?”

Is heaven a place you believe in?

“No, but I also didn’t believe in giant claymation Christmas serpents that swallow me whole and make me relive my worst memories before today, so I’m pretty much willing to accept anything at this point.”

Not all of these are your worst memories.

“Right, yeah, okay—me learning how to jack off as a kid was all right, definitely not a weird fucking thing to unearth from my psyche.”

You’re sixteen years old. You’re walking around downtown with Violet, holding hands. The two of you had gone to different middle schools after elementary graduation and your friendship had fallen off for a bit, but there was only the one high school in town and you both wound up in the same tenth grade Honors Algebra II class, seated next to each other in alphabetical arrangement. At some point the two of you decided to meet up at her place to study for the big semester’s-end test, but you finished that pretty quickly and so were now here, downtown, holding hands. You don’t know what possessed you to take her hand—especially since Violet has consistently rejected your romantic attempts over the twelve years you’ve known each other—and you don’t know what’s changed since elementary school, but you’re glad you went for it. Even though you’re both wearing gloves, you still are able to feel an electric tingle between your locked hands. You haven’t thought about your childhood crush on Violet since sixth grade, before the two of you started going to different middle schools, but your recent reconnection has reminded you of all of the traits you’ve always admired in her—not to mention that puberty has only made her prettier.

The sky begins to darken, and the two of you decide that it’s probably best to head home. Since you’re closer to your house, Violet walks you the rest of the way there.

You’re standing on your front porch, facing each other, blushing and grinning, unable to maintain eye contact for more than a couple seconds at a time.

“Um, I guess I should go in,” you finally say.

“Yeah, I guess so, too,” she says.

You continue to stand there awkwardly for a moment before going in for a hug. The two of you have hugged before, sure, but it was never like this, you had never embraced so tightly or for so long—plus, she has breasts now, which you can’t help but feel against your own flat chest, sparking an embarrassing, growing heat between your legs.

You finally release each other, lock eyes for a meaningful second, then raise your hand farewell as you say “see ya!” and turn and enter your front door.

Standing inside your house, still wearing your winter clothes and boots, you replay the events of the last few hours in your head. Is Violet into you now? Is this a relationship you should try to pursue? Should you have made a move in addition to holding her hand?

You burst out the door and sprint down the sidewalk after her. She hears your boots slapping against the pavement and turns around just as you reach her. Before doubt can begin to sprout in your mind, you grab her shoulders and kiss her. The world freezes for just a second before she wraps her arms around your waist and kisses you back, pulling your body against hers.

“I’ve always wanted to do that,” you tell her once your lips have finally parted.

“I know,” she says, and kisses you again.

You can hardly believe it. After spending basically your entire remembered existence pining for her, Violet is actually your girlfriend now. The two of you hang out almost every day, which is easy since her house is only about a fifteen-minute walk from yours. You even start sneaking out of your house at night to go make out in her bedroom after your dad passes out. (Sneaking isn’t exactly necessary, since you literally could slam the front door behind you without disturbing your dad’s slumber, but it’s more exciting than just walking out the door like normal.)

For Christmas, Violet gives you a CD of Nightmare Revisited. You give her a DVD of Donnie Darko, her favorite movie. Then you spend a lot of time making out in her bedroom.

As the weeks pass, the two of you gradually become more and more adventurous in her bed. You’ve done some sexual things with other girls before, mostly hand and mouth stuff, but you haven’t gone “all the way” yet. The idea of it kind of scares you, even though guys are supposed to want to do it. Something about it just feels inherently violent—you don’t want to hurt her. You try doing it once with disastrous results. After managing to get the condom on, nervousness wilts your erection. Not wanting to waste the condom you just put on, and not wanting to have to fumble with another one, you try to regain your erection by rubbing yourself against her vulva, hoping that some friction will do the trick. Unfortunately, this only causes you to achieve what you hadn’t known was physically possible: a fully flaccid orgasm. The humiliation is so severe that you weep in her arms. What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you do this? Will you ever be a man? Are you actually just gay? But your love for women feels so strong, so true, how could you possibly be wrong about it?

In February, when the snow begins to melt, Violet asks you to the Turnabout dance with her. It’s your first school dance together since you’ve started dating. You always envied the girls you would take to these dances—their dresses and makeup were so pretty, so much better-looking than the drab suits guys were expected to wear. You never cared much for men’s formal attire, always wearing the same dark blue button-up shirt and black dress pants to each dance.

When the two of you drive back to your house afterwards, you’re surprised to see that your dad isn’t home.

You know that tonight is going to be the night.

You take her down into your basement bedroom. You’re kissing before you even make it to your futon, tongues dancing, biting her lower lip in a way that makes her moan. She does this thing where she swipes her tongue along the inside of your upper lip, an odd move that no one else you’ve kissed before or since has ever done to you, and it drives you wild. You try to delicately lay her on the mattress, but she grabs your shirt and pulls you on top of her with an unexpected urgency that sends you both into giggles.

Feeling her body through the fabric of her deep purple dress as she unbuttons your shirt—hard nipples poking your palms, the flat plane of her torso, the dip of her navel, the curve of her hips. You take your shirt off once she has unbuttoned the last button, then slip the straps of her dress off her shoulders. Pulling her dress down, slowly revealing her body inch by inch, you still can’t believe how beautiful she is. It occurs to you for the first time that you’re glad it took her twelve years to come around to dating you, glad for the opportunity to mature and become a more complete version of yourself (you thought at the time) before giving your body to her.

She pulls you out of the suffocating confinement of your pants and boxers—O, blessed release—and you slide her panties down her smooth legs. You look into each other’s eyes for a moment; you open your mouth to ask if she’s ready, if she wants to try again tonight, but she’s already nodding and saying “yes” before you can get the words out. Wanting to set the mood before proceeding, you put On Letting Go into your boombox and hit play. Dreamy guitars, thick with reverb, wash over you as you retrieve the foil package from beneath your futon and tear it open. You feel a little embarrassed as she watches you awkwardly unravel the slippery contraceptive down yourself, wondering what the wait must be like for her, if she feels as sick with anticipation as you do—you know that sex can be painful for girls, especially when they’re inexperienced, and you don’t want to hurt her, but you also know that she wants this just as badly as you do.

You kiss her, press yourself against her, eyes closed, focusing on taking slow, deep breaths. After grinding yourself against her for a few seconds, she reaches down, wraps her fingers around you, guides you. You push, slow, gentle, feeling her heat parting for you. Suddenly, incredibly, you’re in, just the smallest amount of you—you pull out a little, push back in a bit deeper, out again, in a little more.

“Is this okay?” you ask in a whisper.

She nods, moving her hips in time with you, helping you slide the rest of yourself into her.

The sensation is indescribable, being one with Violet. It’s like a fairytale, the stuff of romance novels: not only are you dating your childhood crush, but you’re actually losing your virginity to her too. Eyes closed again, your whole world is the fragrance of her breath, her shampoo, her perfume, the redolent musk where your body meets hers, your tenor moans harmonizing with her soprano, torsos slick with sweat brushing against each other, lips and tongue and teeth, the squeak of your futon, Anthony Green’s enviously effeminate voice serenading you over layered guitars and complex drum rhythms. For the first time since before you hit puberty, you see vibrant colors behind your eyelids again: a pair of lights, one indigo, the other scarlet, dancing circles around each other, closer and closer, seeming about to touch before darting away in opposite directions, then closing in again, kissing for just an instant before splitting off again; the pattern repeats, each time the lights kissing longer, overlapping deeper, a majestic magenta appearing where they converge. The album continues, each song bleeding into the next—when Anthony Green sings “I can’t believe it’s happening or lasting this long” on the penultimate track “Close Your Eyes to See,” you and Violet laugh: indeed, you can’t believe your first time is lasting this long. As the album’s final song begins, her movements take on a new frantic pace, pulling you entirely inside of her, barely giving you time to pull any part of yourself back out before she thrusts you into her again. The dancing lights behind your eyelids are no longer parting, remaining joined and spinning in counterclockwise circles, growing, the magenta becoming brighter and brighter until all is white. You can hardly register the feeling on your own body; for you, this experience is more about a vicarious enjoyment of Violet’s sex than the stimulation of your genitals. Maybe that’s why you’re lasting so long; maybe that’s why, as she suddenly arches her back and stiffens her body in orgasm with a brief cry, you’re finally able to come, the last notes of the album fading away.

You hold yourself against her, still inside of her, both of you sweating and panting. When you eventually pull yourself out, you are overcome with a pervasive emptiness of the heart and soul—her body is only hers now, and you are only you again. Without fully understanding why, you begin to quietly sob into her neck. Guys aren’t supposed to cry after their first time, and part of you feels ashamed for this. You’ve just experienced the most beautiful hour of your entire sixteen years of life, so why do you feel so terrible, so empty, so . . . wrong?

“Goooood morning!” your boss greets you with his usual peppiness.

You blink a few times in rapid succession, trying to make sense of where and when you are.

It’s the coffeeshop you work at, downtown in your new home in the Hudson Valley. It’s now, you’re thirty years old and far-removed from the burgeoning dysphoria of your first puberty. Years have passed since you last had PIV, since you last had sex with the implicit expectation of taking a penetrative role. You’re three years on estrogen and it’s impossible to understate how you you are, the connection you feel between your body and mind and soul, how magical and fulfilling sex is now. You still mostly have sex with women, but it’s no longer a means to escape your body and chase another’s secondhand sensation.

“How’re you doing today?” your boss asks.

“Uh, I’m okay, I guess,” you answer, taking off your mask, hat, scarf.

“What happened to your glove?”

You look at your hands, vaguely recalling the way your glove flew off your hand while you were trying to dig yourself out of the snow. But that wasn’t real, was it? That couldn’t have possibly happened, there’s no way, it doesn’t make any sense.

“I’m not sure. I guess I lost it.”

You remove the rest of your winter gear and stuff it into your cubby in the back of the shop. You tie your hair up into a bun, wash your hands, and start your workday.

“Are we expecting to get much business today?” you ask your boss.

He shakes his head. “No, this town is pretty much dead around this time of year. But the people who live here on Main Street will still come in for their drinks and pastries like usual, and of course there’s always deep-cleaning to be done.”

So mostly busy work—the kind of thing you hate doing when you’re already so lost inside your own head.

Christmas music is playing, smooth jazz versions of all the classics that, at the very least, are unfamiliar enough that they don’t throw you into an ecstasy of nostalgia. You try not to think about all the strange things you’ve seen today, about the painful memories you’ve relived. Things are better now, life is good now, there’s no need to dwell on what happened to you so long ago.

The shift trudges forward uneventfully. You make your regulars their espresso, their mulled apple cider, their quad-shot peppermint mocha latte, but mostly you just clean and look at your phone.

The sun begins to set around 4pm, and by the time your boss leaves at 5, it’s fully dark out. You start your pre-close procedures, not expecting anyone else to come in before close at 6.

            I’ll be home for Christmas

You snort. You certainly were “home” for a bit there, weren’t you?

You decide to make yourself one last latte before shutting down the espresso machine for the night, when an androgynous voice asks you, accentuating the sibilants: “Excuse me, are you still open?”

You turn and your breath catches in your throat when you see them: slender, towering almost a full foot over you, ashen skin, short bluish-gray hair peeking out under a Santa Claus hat, suit with alternating horizontal stripes of red and white, thick-framed glasses with one lens tinted red and the other tinted green. They smile, revealing braces over inhumanly sharp teeth. You’re cold all of a sudden, freezing, your skin prickling with goosebumps; a cloud of vapor appears before your face when you finally exhale.

“Uh, yeah,” you stammer. “We still have about ten minutes, if you wanted to get some coffee or a pastry or something.”

“Do you have any raspberry iced tea left?”

“Of course.”

            I’ll be home for Christmas

            If only in my dreams

“Are you going home for Christmas?” they ask you as you exchange the tea for their cash.

“Well, I’ll be here in town,” you say, counting change.

“But you’re not from around here.” It wasn’t a question.

“I grew up in Indiana, yeah.”

“Sounds like a place you definitely don’t want to be.” They laugh, a loud and uproarious guffaw that seems to shake the entire coffeeshop, the lights flickering, the front door blowing open with a gust of frigid wind. As you try handing them their change, they tell you, “Just put it in the jar.”

“Thank you,” you whisper automatically, dropping the dollar and coins into the scant tip jar in front of the cash register. When you fail to hear the clink of coin hitting glass, you lean forward to look in the jar.

Your missing glove is in there.

“Oh, and one more thing,” they say, leaning down to be at eye-level with you, your noses almost touching: “Be careful when gazing into the Abyss”—their glasses slide down their nose, revealing a pair of snow-white irises and bottomless obsidian pupils that suddenly blossom and overtake their eyes, consuming their face in a fraction of a second—“or you’ll shoot your eye out!”

You’re seventeen. It’s Christmas night and you’re watching the final showing of A Christmas Story’s twenty-four-hour run on TBS in your basement bedroom. It’s not even 8pm yet but your dad is already passed out on the couch upstairs.

You don’t know what’s wrong with you. Your parents don’t know what’s wrong with you. Doctors don’t know what’s wrong with you. The girls you’ve dated couldn’t figure out what’s wrong with you and how to help you, and wouldn’t stay with you for more than a few months—not even Emma or Violet. You’ve been having a lot of sex with a lot of different girls, taking a lot of your leftover hydrocodone from your wisdom tooth surgery the previous year, and those moments are the only ones where you’re disconnected enough from your body to feel halfway okay.

Doctors have prescribed you a plethora of pills: antidepressants, anti-anxiety, mood stabilizers, acid reflux. You take too much of all of them, with some hydrocodone for good measure, washing them down with the peppermint schnapps you snagged from the fridge in the garage. Maybe this will fix you. Maybe this will at least numb the ubiquitous and all-consuming wrongness you have felt in your body and soul since middle school.

Or, at the very least, maybe this will make it all go away.

You try to stay awake for the ending of A Christmas Story, thinking about how cool it is that such a classic film takes place here in Northwest Indiana—aside from that one Johnny Depp movie that they filmed in your hometown a few years ago, you don’t know of any other major movies or stories that take place in this obscure corner of your bland Midwestern state.

You don’t end up dying. You don’t know if you even wanted to actually kill yourself or if you were just crying for help—you could’ve swallowed more pills if you wanted to die. But instead you wake up and throw up, feeling weird but not on the verge of death. You check yourself into the psych ward the next day, where they prescribe you a new antidepressant, but you stop taking all your medications—even flushing the rest of your hydrocodone—after your three days are up and you go home.

You’re eighteen. You’re bowing at the end of your high school’s final run of It’s a Wonderful Life. You’d never auditioned for any theatrical performance before, but it’s your last year of high school, and you love the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, so you figured you may as well give it a shot. No one was more surprised than you when you found that you’d landed the major role of Clarence, the guardian angel who shows George Bailey why his life matters, why he shouldn’t kill himself.

It was a fun role—you played the comedic relief in a story that was mostly depressing. The director, your high school’s theater teacher, encouraged you to ad-lib during certain points throughout the play, which always brought a huge laugh out of the audience. It made you feel good, being able to entertain so many people, to bring them joy and to warm their hearts during a difficult time of the year. You’ve never felt so liked before—even among your main friend group, the other guys often make you the butt of their jokes, ridiculing any and all of your interests as “gay.” Grant isn’t like this, but he’s a year below you and therefore not part of the main group of guys that you hang out with on a regular basis. In fact, Grant is the only one of your friends who actually came out to see you perform tonight—or any night, for that matter.

You remember Grant congratulating you afterwards, complimenting you on a particularly funny ad-lib, and you burst into tears. It was over—the nicest, most wholesome and fun thing you ever did in high school was over. You couldn’t put into words how meaningful this role was for you, but you didn’t need to tell that to Grant: he was your only friend who knew of your suicide attempt last year. He was also your only guy friend who would hold you as you cried in front of him, your only guy friend who wouldn’t make you feel embarrassed for any vulnerable expression of emotion.

I realize now that I’m not reliving this memory, only recalling it, though somehow I am still wearing my angel costume from the play, including the pair of wings I earned at the end of it. Still floating in the cavernous gullet of the candy cane serpent, I watch as its mouth opens before me and the tip of its red-and-white-striped tail comes rushing at me. The tail completely fills its throat, shattering the icicle fangs and shorting the Christmas lights, piercing my chest and thrusting me into complete darkness.

I don’t know how long I’m here in the dark before the window appears. I glide over to it as soon as I see it. When I reach it, I see that it’s not actually a window, but a mirror—specifically, the mirror in one of the bathrooms at Grant’s dad’s mansion. I watch as you come through the door and shut it behind you. I watch as you stumble up to the mirror and look at me. I see all of the pain in your dilated pupils, all of the ways that people have hurt you over the years, and all of the pain that you have yet to endure. I reach out to touch you, and the mirror ripples like water where our fingertips meet. I lean in to press my forehead against yours, trying to offer as much comfort as I can through the mirror.

Here I am, your Angel of Christmas Yet to Come, and I am here to tell you:

It is going to be okay.

It won’t be easy, and there are still many hardships to come, but it will get better.

Just keep holding on.

It will get better.

The world is beautiful, and magical, and that magic still exists inside of you.

It is going to be okay.