Christmas Day in the Morning
    A. M. Matson
My love has three dirty boats all broken and poorly maintained. I never see him. He lives far, far away by the tropical sea. He is the love I did not choose. Instead I live in the cold and ice in the warm embrace of a better man. My love washes his dirty boats and writes to me about them. How messy they are. How broken. How he takes them out onto the hot wet sea anyway and gets stuck off shore and has to be towed home. He tells me about the washing and fixing of them and how he loves the washing. He brings big buckets of soapy water to their sides and scrubs for hours and hours. He hoses them with cold water and then brings more hot soapy water and starts all over again. He sings while he scrubs silly songs—Italian and Irish love songs that would make me cringe with embarrassment me if I were there.

He loves the sound of his own voice. And it is a good voice—well trained and deep. There are many women who melt at the sight and sound of him there in the always shiny bright sun singing his heart open sloshing his water hither and yon to hardly any effect. If he nets no women after a few hours he might start fixing things. Valves and pipes and motors on the two motorboats, rudders and ropes and sails on the one sail boat. No matter how long he plays at fixing things something always remains broken. His trips out upon the blue salty tears of the loss we shared are always marred by misfortune. Towing is expensive and he lives dirt-cheap. He is very bad at catching fish. He tries but they will not come.

The women come though. He tells me all about them. How they come right up to the boat as he sings, as he scrubs, as he hammers and wrenches things badly. They sit and ask him if he is married and he laughs and says no—he tried that three times but it was evident by the third time that it was not for him. They laugh too. They are not so young as they were when I knew him and he still had a head of blond blond hair and no gray on his tan chest but they are nice looking women, beachy types, fit and smiling. They bring him food and climb on board often unbidden--often quite bidden.

He tells me how many visits per woman it takes for him to get them to open themselves for his penis. It is never just one visit. The older he gets the longer it takes. But if there is a second visit there is a body-opening visit eventually. I want to know and I hate to know. I track the progress. I vomit at the success. I respond with congratulations each time. I celebrate each withering withdraw of the women as they get to know him better, and he them. They want things he doesn’t have. Potent sperm. Money. Fidelity.

I have not seen him in twenty-five years. We write sometimes and we talk every Christmas Eve. Once my house hold is asleep I leave my happy home to stand alone at an outside untraceable phone in the sometimes rain or snow, always the cold and he asks me how it is now and what did we buy the children and how did they look in their beds as I kissed them to sleep and how did I make love to my husband under the tree and do I have any regrets? No, I always tell him I have none—and the children are calm and good and healthy—and we did all the things that a man and woman can do under the tree this year like last and it was good and it will be next year too and I still dream of him but the cold is biting into my legs and face and hands I can hardly hold the phone. Is he sorry I ask, sorry that he said no to adopting? Tell me, I ask him every year-- are you sorry yet? This last Christmas Eve for the first time he told me that yes he is. He cried as he said it. Yes he said I am sorry now. I have tried and tried to forget you and live with so many others and I am sorry now—how terrible could it have been to raise children? It could not be as bad as the years of lonely emptiness stretching out before me. He heard my stunned silence and he said it is not your fault; you let me be. I did not even write you once until after my second divorce, he said. You did not write back until after the third he reminded me. And then I said to him—someone else—you can do it with someone else now that you are ready now that you are fifty-three years old and ready—go ahead. No one would want me with no money and they always smell you all over me the bitches they know. How? How can they know? When they ask—like my wives did—what I am thinking I am always thinking of you. I don’t tell them but they know because I won’t answer and then they know there is something someone and they wait and soon enough I have too much to drink or I am half awake or just as I come, maybe into their mouths, I say your name and it is never their name and then they know for sure and I must even do it on purpose because how could I hold a baby in my arms and not you?

Are you sorry you have not come to me? Are you sorry yet? He asks me every year and I tell him no. Not yet. Last Christmas it was the same as all the others, I said no. I am still missing you but not sorry. Maybe when the children are grown I will be sorry. Maybe when they are grown I will come.

What will you sing for me tonight? I do not cringe as he sings for me because it is only for me and he said this last Christmas Eve that he would sing me--I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In On Christmas Day In The Morning--and I am glad for I know if I live long enough someday they will truly come sailing in to the harbor of ice and snow and proper choices where I live and I will board them--bidden--quite bidden. And wrinkled and old and perhaps widowed I will sail off with him and we will pretend we are twenty and we will perish out there together on the broken boats on Christmas Day in the Ice Cold Red Hot Morning.

A.M. Matson lives in New York City and is working on a collection of prose poems and short stories.


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