christmas 2021: a fantasy

(just a moment to dream, thank you:)

I wake up not in a hotel in Beaverton, Oregon, but in a super-nerdily decorated apartment in Chicago, Iowa City, New York City, somewhere in Rhode Island… It will just be my apartment, for the first time. (Don’t ask me how I can afford it on a grad student salary, just go with me, okay?) Elton John is playing on the record player I now own and my sweet cat Clementine is curled up asleep on his kitty tower, his jangly little bow tie secure around his chonky neck. The walls are festooned with Star Wars and Good Omens and Jurassic Park and it is mine. The air smells like sweet vanilla sugar nonsense and my hands are warm around my coffee mug.

I’m not in class, because we’re on holiday break, but my hands still ache with all the writing I’ve done all semester. My brain is full of ideas, I have an outlet for them, I am surrounded by other writing nerds, I bake them cookies for our peer reviews, I invite them over to my apartment to write and to drink coffee and to listen to Elton John.

But it is a break today. And I am wearing my Christmas pajamas and sipping my own coffee and it is an hour before my family is coming to visit me. I have gotten them all something wonderful, because I have had the space in my heart to be ingenious about gift giving this year.

Upon the gifts underneath my tree (I’ll have a tree! Me!), it is scrawled: Love, Daniel.

And my face is less round, my hips less full, perhaps my belly still soft, treacherous in its love of each and every pastry imaginable. That would be okay, I think. My outfit is laid out for the day. My nice shirt and vest and tie. And this is no secret to anyone anymore. All the tears have come and gone and the explanations made, and I am just Daniel and everyone knows now.

They will call my name that first day of grad school. (Do they call role in grad school? I don’t know.)

“Danielle Elise?”

(They don’t call middle names in role. Stay with me.)

“Daniel Elton, please.”

And everyone will know. And it will be okay. And my voice will sound like I think I’ve always wanted it to sound and won’t that be a thing?

To Daniel Elton: Merry Christmas, we love you as you are.

It is 2020 today and I am sitting on a messy hotel bed in Beaverton, Oregon, and I am pretty okay. I’ve made it this far. (We’ve made it this far, you shining star.) And tonight I will see Christmas lights at an unfamiliar zoo, but next year I will have the capacity to welcome everyone into MY space. My space on a new bit of the Earth, my space where Daniel’s shiny boy-shoes clutter the front hallway.

I know I know I know that no ONE THING changes everything. But I am so full of dreams and hope today. I am so ready to be done with what I think perhaps might have been a low thrum of pain in my heart for a very long time. And there will be new thrums of pain, new heartaches and breaks and complications and sticky, stinking goblins clawing their way through my ill brain.

But.

But the presents under the tree all say Love, Daniel and everyone knows.

That, I think, would be enough.

Merry Christmas, sweet friends.

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