“It’ll be a Blue Christmas without you,” sings Elvis on the TicTok I make of my synthetic Christmas tree. The iPhone camera swirls around glittering orbs. Settles on a commemorative wedding ornament for Jasper and I. Our group wedding photo backs a clear slow globe. Full of gold sequins. Hung on a red ribbon. Shutterfly. Hanging nearby, a silver heart inscribed “Andrea and Katie’s first Christmas, 2011.
Neither wife joins me for Christmas 2019. Whether specter or leather.
I remember both days so clearly. Although a decade apart. July 2019. Jasper and I march up into the Washoe County Commissioner of Marriages arm in arm. Summer rain torrents non ironically. The rain drops like the rice no longer en vogue to toss. Grisly old men in wheelchairs cheer from the Senior Center. I wave a nosegay of peonies.
In newlywed enthusiasm, I order “Lambert Family ’19” photo Christmas cards from Shutterfly. While we are still together. She is still working at the electric car factory. We are so happy at first. Something I learned from my first wife is that a polished, festive couple’s Christmas card is an excellent way to convince far away relatives my same sex marriage is as legitimate as their own straight union. Performative heteronormativity perhaps, but normal and happy is what my family wants to see. They don’t need to know what we do to each other in the bedroom.
October 2019 I left Jasper in a hospital in another town and changed the locks. A Titanic lifeboat situation. Withdrew like a hermit crab. Lost track of time. I spent four months shut down inside alone. Thinking only of myself. While she was sleeping rough in Nevada winter. Camping in subzero temperatures.
With perspective I see that act now as a desperate, drastic, tragic selfishness. My PTSD was triggered by hospital trauma. Dedication to sobriety above all. My privacy issues over a healthcare aide visiting. Including a hefty yet healthy dose of worse case paranoia.
I’d invite a vampire in before a social worker. They could ruin my life in ways far worse than bloodsucking quick death. The front lintel of the House of the Rising Sun has a HooDoo protection charm on it. Salt, pepper and flour in a pentagram under the doormat. I still doubt that essentially this raw pie crust minus lard and water can keep evil out. But it can’t hurt. The presence of a social worker with misguided righteousness and the medical establishment backing them? Scarier then whispering “Ave Satanas. Descensum.” while dropping off to sleep. I would have no rights once voluntary or involuntary hospitalization occurred on this authority’s whim.
Catastrophe-zing is an addictive personality trait I read in a rehab handout in 2013 in West Hollywood. Jasper tries to get her life and health together in a program for those months while I don’t know where she is. When I left her, I didn’t expect her to follow through. The clarity in her eyes and voice when next we meet tells me all I need to know.
December 25, 2019, I awake at four am as usual. An interim between my folks coming over for presents under the tree. I put on black sparkly tights. A green and black velvet patterned dress. I got the garment at Target when my first wife was alive. Dearly departed grandma’s pearls and white fur. Thigh high lace up dominatrix boots.
I sit beneath the glowing tree. Film a Christmas/Yule/Winter solstice message. As if I was the Queen of England. Or the Pope. Or Kim Kardashian. Ridiculous, but what else am I supposed to do in the wee hours of Christmas morning? I post it on my Youtube channel. Unscripted on one take. Watching it again, later? I look heartbroken. Incoherent in a dress too young for Madame Mim. Tattooed arm fat among opulence. Mumbling in tangents. I should have scripted first.
On my coffee table is a Shutterfly plastic framed wedding shot of Jasper and I. The same picture on our Christmas cards. It appears in Diva Magazine’s November issue. Reed and CalArts alumni magazines. After Jasper and I separate, these publications show up in my mailbox. Anguish. I photograph and the images on social media. Where this entire affair is entirely too public.
The curse of creative nonfiction. Embodiment branding. Selling yourself as a story. A product. A Barbie for Mattel’s 2050’s “Inspiring Women” series. I can’t help but want one of those recent Frida Kahlo Barbies. Problematic as they are.
“Shutterfly won Christmas this year,” I remark at my aunt and uncle’s house for the repast. My mother and I marvel at a photo puzzle of my second cousin’s face. My gift to her was from Shutterfly also. Months ago, she texted me a photo of herself looking happy, grey haired, and free in a verdant marijuana field in Morocco. It made a hilarious photo mug.
We nosh on salami and homemade guacamole. My mother sips Cabernet. I gulp La Croix from a can. The avocado lump I greedily take almost falls of my chip. I know the recipe for homemade guacamole: Pico de Gallo salsa mashed up with fresh avocados. I ate guacamole as green packaged drool from Portland Safeway. Fresh spoonfuls in super burritos and quesadillas. In Mission San Francisco taquerias. Los Angeles taco trucks. I’ve tasted the ways of guacamole, for better or for worse. My uncle’s is spot on delicious. Evoking all these memories at once. Cities and people I’ve lost. Left behind. Bittersweet. I have to sit down.
“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” wrote Willian Shakespeare. My rhinestone and pearl Snow Queen tiara feels heavier and heavier. A manic online impulse buy. As is the elven crown I wore my marriage to Jasper. Beautiful, but costume pieces are not meant to be worn for twelve hours. Pretty soon, I have a full on pulsating migraine. My mother drives me home. Less than an hour after arriving. I make my teary eyed goodbyes. I earnestly did want to spend time with my family this Christmas. Eat the prime rib and ravioli my uncle handmade. Listen to their laughter amid clinking wineglasses.
“Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have, but I have it,” sings Lana Del Rey in her album “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” I play it over and over once I get home from dinner fail. Sing along, “Tearing around in my fucking nightgown 24/7 Sylvia Plath.”
Jasper calls me “the queen.” As I type this, a leather cuff reading QUEEN hits the keyboard. A gift she crafted. Serious Freddie Mercury fan. Jasper picked her own pseudonym in my writing. I try to always ask real life characters to pick their own. My second wife wears Jasper circle stone necklaces on black cord. The rune stones I gave her were the stone Jasper also.
Intertextuality I cannot not help but notice as I watch “The Royals,”in her absence. The romantic lead is named Jasper. A Las Vegas con artist. In a long con he travels to the UK to work in Palace security. Plans to steal the Cote Noir. A huge diamond with a Druid curse. Of course.
While working security detail. For various members of this fictional Royal family. Over four seasons, Jasper falls desperately in love with Princess Eleanor. Gives up the con. Is knighted. Proposes to the her in the Season Finale. Beaten and bruised, I lose myself in this fairy tale. The romanticism of love conquering all. A Nevada golden soul redeemed.
Christmas night. When I am finally alone in my safe space. I reach out and call Jasper. She hasn’t blocked my number. How long has she been just right there on the other end of the line, were I to call, I realize, numbing myself with marijuana? Hiding in fairy tale soap operas? I am only avoiding the Valentine red love for her pumping through in my heart. I cried so many tears that winter. I don’t want to end our marriage. I want to try again. I post the lyric video for Lana Del Rey’s “Fuck it I love you,” where Jasper may see it online. Find sleep.
“And what I am, is a big time believer, that people can change, and you don’t have leave her.” Lana Del Rey sings as I doze off. After next morning texting. Hours of talking. Heartfelt apologies. Explanations of our mutual misunderstandings. Pegging. Blissful snuggles. Jasper and I slowly come to the accord that we will stay married, yet live apart. The Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera method. Keep the passion. Quit fighting over the thermostat.
In the four months, some days and down to the hours Jasper is apart from me? She relocates to a nearby small town. Now that we are back together, she drives up to visit me regularly. We have a date night of American Horror Story: 1984. I finally get her to eat that Mint Chocolate Chip Breyers that’s been sitting in my fridge for her since we parted. Four months ago. Crystallizing ice. Ice cream is too painful for me to eat alone. With a spoon. Out of the carton. As we once did together in bed. She wipes out that carton is a few satisfied minutes. All is well again. Sealed with a chocolate chip.
My marriage is saved. In new formation. More workable for us both. It’s a Christmas miracle in a Dolly Parton state
I finish typing this essay. Glance down at the phone notifications that kept dinging. Bleep blorps of war. Fast away the decade passes. Will I last the next? Will we?