Sunday, September 21, 2014

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An introvert on Christmas Eve.

Bustling. Talking. 

It seems a million conversations are taking place at once, like there’s a race to see who can be the loudest, most important. The heater is on full blast because it’s cold outside, but it feels suffocating from the center of the room. I want to go outside, but then I might have to talk to people. I can see my cousins through the window, the puffs of their cigarette smoke indecipherable from their warm breath as they talk about their lives. It seems this year everyone wants to talk to me about mine. Where I’m going. What I’m doing. What I should be doing. Where I should be going. It’s more than I’m used to. This is the first year I haven’t brought a boyfriend with me, a fact my uncle laughingly pointed out to me a few seconds earlier.

“Where’s your boyfriend? You didn’t bring anyone?” He asked.

I do have a boyfriend, but we just started dating, and knowing how harshly I judge my boyfriend’s by their interactions with my family, I didn’t want the relationship to end before I really gave it a chance. So he wasn’t invited.

“Not this year. I’m dating, but it’s nothing serious.” I told him.

“What a shame.” He said. “I can always tell where you gals are at in life by the types of guys you bring as your dates. Now I’m gonna have to ask you!”

He’s not the only one. Everywhere I turn there’s another family member eager to interrogate me on my current path in life, and frankly I didn’t get enough sleep to be able to handle all the interaction. The introvert in me is ready to retreat.

I take a step toward the back door, but I stop. My mom is at the sink and we make eye contact. She looked startled and then amused.

“You have the same look on your face that you used to get when you were real little. I used to have to take you into the back room and sit with you with the vacuum on. Do you remember that?”

I nod my head, but I don’t.

“It’s loud.” I say, and she nods.
“A little overwhelming, huh?”

I nod, feeling guilty. It’s Christmas Eve. I spent the entire morning opening presents, and now I’m surrounded by family I love, about to open more wonderful gifts. I shouldn’t be complaining.

“Well, I think it’s a little overwhelming for anybody.” My aunt chimes in. “It’s so loud and crazy in here. Your brain wasn’t meant to have to process all this chatter-boxing at once, you know?”
I smile and nod again, grateful for my aunt’s empathy.
“You want me to turn the vacuum on, honey? We can go sit in the back room.” My mother asks jokingly.

She pats my shoulder and I smile because I know she’s kidding and that’s what you do when someone makes a joke. You smile. Yes, I’m at the point where I have to consciously follow social etiquette.

“Yes, mommy. I need the vacuum.” I play along, and my mom giggles and then turns back to the dishes.

I think maybe I should help with the dishes, but the sink is already crowded with women doing dishes, and I’d rather stay out of it. I know I won’t be able to join in without going on a feminist rant about how wrong it is for the women to be here doing the dishes while the men are outside drinking beer and smoking cigars.

But I don’t really know what to do with myself. I’m not fit for coherent conversation right now, or at least not the mundane kind that requires regulated responses and a lack of genuine interest or passion. I’m too tired. It’s too loud. I’m soft-spoken, I think. I always feel like I’m shouting when people can barely hear me. I don’t like to repeat myself, and I really don’t like yelling. Sometimes, I wonder how it’s possible one half of me belongs to this loud, obnoxious family.

I decide to sit down at the table, and I wait. Someone will come talk to me soon. They always do.

Until then, I have my thoughts.

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