Welcome to my family:
It's Christmas Eve, so the phone calls have started pouring in. When you're in a family as big as mine, somebody has got to start early otherwise we're all going to end up on call waiting. Ladybug called first. I sent him a package full of goodies and he called to thank me for them. He sounds like he's having a good time, but he also sounds lonely.
And then I remember - it's not his first year in the Marines, but it is the first year he's been away for Christmas. We spent an hour talking, laughing, the longest I've ever spoken with him on the phone, and hopefully he comes away from it feeling a little better. I've come away from it feeling a little more heartbroken. I didn't have the time to realize how much I miss him, but now that I've slowed down and we've spoken - I miss the boy who jokes with me in broken Russian and draws comics we plot out together and understands my jokes.
My other brother called tonight, "I heard you're going family-less this Christmas?" he jokes. His humor is dry and biting.
"That I am. I'm just too tired this year. I need a break. You get a break every year!" I accuse. He lives 20 hours away from our parents and his wife makes the trip more often than he does.
"Yeah, well, this year K's mom is coming over," I wince for him. "You at least getting laid? Spending it with a girlfriend?" I wince again.
"Fuck you, I'm working on it," I groan into the phone.
"K, she's in a woman mood! This is your problem!" I start to protest but he hands the phone to his giggling wife. I love K, and even though we're not blood-related, she was the first sibling I came out to.
"Hello? What's wrong with you?" she laughs.
"He's just being a jerk," I smile. "Wants to know if I'm getting laid for Christmas."
"Ah," she pauses. "So, do you have a girlfriend?"
"Jeez, you're blushing, even through the phone! Tell me!"
"I don't have a girlfriend," I pout. "Leave me alone. Merry Grinch-mas, I hope your presents suck."
She laughs and calls to my brother, "Someone's got her in a twist!" I can hear him answer faintly in the background "Tell her to work it out! She needs to relax!"
"Goddamnit, I'm hanging up," I threaten.
"Wait! So, you don't have a girlfriend, but you obviously like someone, so what's the hold up?"
"I-" I'm frustrated and embarrassed and don't want to talk about this, but I also do because I feel like my heart is going to explode. "We're just talking," I say instead, and keep my deep, dark secret to myself.
"Oh, okay," she sounds disappointed. "You got kicked out of class every single day in high school, so I know you've got a back bone. Use it," she threatens good-naturedly.
"Noted. Merry Christmas, K. Love you. Tell the kids I'll Skype with them tomorrow." We hang up and my heart feels heavy. I want to confess. Want to write her an email, but I know how crazy it sounds. It sounds crazy to me!
I've been having dreams that I'm married. I imagine having the courage to tell her. I don't know who she is, or if it is psychological and just means that I'm finally ready for a real relationship again, but she's been plaguing me for months. My brain says "No, it's fake, find a real-life girl!" but my subconscious drags me back in, and amidst her laugh and her hands in my hair, I drown.
But I stare at my phone and the screen is black. All my courage is gone.