The highway is empty and the sky is clear and stark. It’s cold outside; the interior of the rental hasn’t yet warmed from the struggling heater. I rub my red hands together above the steering wheel and blow into them, trying to keep them from going numb.
After the Christmas dance, I’d driven her back to her parents’ house. The way the snow was falling so beautifully and slowly outside and the way her face was lit by the light of the big plastic candles on the lawn, it just seemed like the right thing to do, to try to kiss her. To hold her.
I don’t know what came over me then. But when she rejected me that way it just made me so angry, so very very angry, and before I knew what I was doing I’d reached for the crowbar in the back of my Dad’s pickup, and I was on top of her and tearing her clothes off and beating her face in with it and stabbing her with the sharp end. Her father ran out of the house screaming. I think he wanted to kill me.
That first Christmas, my present: tried as an adult, 25 to life, attempted murder in the first degree. I’ll never forget the bang of the judge’s gavel. I’ll never forget how she ruined my life, how she took it all away for me, for just one kiss.
25 years. 25 Christmases. No phone calls. No visitors. No presents. No cards. In prison Christmas is just another day. 25 years of being the model inmate while I was beaten and abused and tormented. While I learned what it was like to be on the receiving end of someone’s anger. Why they’d locked me up in the first place.
The heater is finally starting to work. The interior of the car is gradually warming. There is a crowbar on the back seat, blue like the one in my father’s old pickup so many years ago, God rest his soul.
That’s the thing about small towns. People don’t go far. People aren’t hard to find if you want to drop in on them. To wish them a Merry Christmas, as it’s that festive time of year. Or perhaps to reminisce about Christmases past.
I switch on the radio and music floods the car in AM, crackly and far away, and I start humming cheerily along with the tune:
I’ll be home for Christmas…