[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y friend, Jay, hated Christmas. And he didn’t mind telling you about it.
“It’s been forty years since I celebrated Christmas.” Jay said. Then he laughed, which led to an asthmatic coughing fit. “It’s commercialism for privileged yuppies with children. The biggest hoax played on the American working stiff.”
Jay was nothing if not an optimist.
I first met Jay on a construction site when I was seventeen. We weren’t exactly a perfect match – Jay was a sixty-five-year-old alcoholic, and I was fatherless. But sensical reasons aren’t why two people become friends.
Once, I drove Jay to a doctor’s appointment. Before we went inside, he stole a swig from a pocket-flask. Then, he winked at me. “Anxiety medication.”
The doctor took one glance at Jay’s chart, and said, “Mister Jay, you’ve got to quit drinking. And you need to eat more. You’ve lost ten pounds since your last visit.”
Jay just laughed at him.
“This is serious, sir. You’re almost in liver failure. This will kill you.”
“Good,” proclaimed Jay. “Maybe folks will finally talk nice about me.”
The doctor raised his voice. “You’re dying as we speak.”
Afterward, we bought boxes of fried chicken. Jay ate four drumsticks before we even left the parking lot. Then, he sipped on his beer, leaning into his seat. Jay closed his eyes, tugging the bill of his cap over his face. He turned his back to me and sobbed.
“You know,” he groaned into his own shoulder. “I don’t really hate Christmas. I never did. I’m not a bad person.”
All I could say was, “I know, Jay.”
Because I did know.
And I said as much at his funeral.