Merry Fucking Christmas

Let me begin by saying that I suffer from a grave psychiatric disorder; that is, clinical depression. I can only remember a few times in my life when I felt the emotion of joy or even less, happiness. As a very small child, before I possessed words, I can remember looking in the mirror and thinking, “Are you real?” I can remember looking at my parents and siblings and thinking, “Who are these people? Why am I here?”

Before I go into Christmas 2014, I’d like to recall a few Christmases past. There was the one around 1970 when the police dragged my father out of the house for drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident, just up the street in our own neighborhood, Forest Heights, Maryland. I remember an earlier Christmas in a different house when my mother refused to get out of bed. My father picked her up and carried her into the living room. We then began to open presents while my mother leaned on her wrist and stared blankly into space. There was the Midnight Mass at Saint John’s in Piscataway, Maryland. My father was blind drunk and I was so embarrassed. I can see him now, smiling down at me, not even realizing how blitzed he is or than I can tell. Little did I realize then, but most of the folks at Midnight Mass were blitzed. Episcopalians party.

Here we are at Christmas 2014. In the past year, I have alienated pretty much everybody in my family. I gave away some dark secrets that I’d been carrying for decades. From the beginning of 2014, my mental health began to deteriorate rapidly. I checked myself into the rubber room about a week before the first anniversary of the death of R., my wife of ten years. Interestingly it seems as if my life has been spiraling steadily downward since her death.

After ruining my relationships with my mother, siblings, nieces and nephews, I moved from my mother’s house to Baltimore. Just to backtrack a moment, after R. died, I moved from Hollywood, California to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. My sister M. flew all the way from the East Coast a couple of weeks after R.’s death. She helped me finish boxing up the few things I was taking with me. We drove together across country. I did all the driving because I felt obliged after all she was going through. She had a daughter-in-law who was due to have a baby at any moment. It was a major sacrifice on her part. My mother loaned me $2,000 to help pay for the expenses of moving out.

M. and I had quite an adventure driving across country. But that is neither here nor there. What was truly traumatizing to me was how I learned of R.’s death. I was in Lewisburg, helping to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday. She didn’t come. She hated my family and I believe the feeling was pretty much mutual. At any rate, I got the news over the phone. “Your wife is deceased,” said the paramedic. I asked him, “Is there nothing you can do?” He said, “No, she’s deceased. By the way, you’re going to want to talk to your building manager. When people expire, they lose their bowels. There’s going to be a bad stain on your carpet for them to deal with.” I swear on all that is holy that this is the God’s honest truth. I couldn’t even respond to that. I asked him to let me talk to my building manager.

You see, the last time I spoke with R. was on the last Saturday in February 2013. That was over the phone. She was disappointed in me because I was still smoking cigarettes. Apparently she used the bank machine the next day. I sent her several emails and left her several voicemails over the next few days. That Tuesday night, my mother in law called me and told me R. hadn’t shown up for work on Monday or Tuesday and hadn’t called in. I freaked out. I asked her to drive over there with my father in law. We got off the phone. I called the Hollywood Police Department, some neighbors around the corner and my building manager, asking them all to check on R. Alas, alas.

When my building manager got on the phone, she said to me, “This is my second death this year! I don’t know what’s going on around here!” At that point, I was crying hysterically and didn’t really comprehend what I was hearing. I must have stuff like, “Please tell me my precious Robin isn’t dead! Please!” I was totally hysterical even when I was talking to the paramedics. You can’t comprehend the horror of hearing those fatal words through the speaker of a phone, garnished with such unbelievable callousness and vulgarity. Sylvia, the building manager said, “How are you going to make it?” The subtext, of course, was, “How are you going to meet your rent?”

I lived in Baltimore, all alone with my two kitties, from July to November 2014. What happened there and how I ended up where I am now are a story for another time. The point is, for me, this will probably be the worst Christmas I’ve ever had, and I’ve been through some bad ones. I plan to buy some presents on Christmas Eve, when my Social Security check comes in. These will be for my housemate (and former lover’s) family. I’ve not even gotten a card from a single member of my family. Merry fucking Christmas.

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About Russell Smith

I was born at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. I find inspiration in the lives of so many people from Joan of Arc to Oscar Wilde. While my primary avocation is photography, I also enjoy philosophy, theology and most of all, history. My beloved wife, Robin Anne Smith, who passed away in 2013 is also an inspiration to me. My beloved partner, Dana is also a great support and inspiration to me. I'd be remiss if I did not mention my cats: Natasha, Maxwell, Tigger and Nigel.
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