Int. bedroom, afternoon. White overhead lights illuminate a red room. Falling rain is heard and seen through the open curtains of a window.
RED sits on a loveseat with a wireless keyboard and mouse, browsing the internet on the large television opposite him.
No one's online. The only movies hitting streaming services are fucking holiday shit. YouTube –
(snorts, shakes head)
YouTube hasn't successfully suggested a video I wanted to watch in at least a week.
And this weather's like a fucking prison sentence.
RED takes a deep breath. He stares blankly at the wall for several moments until, eventually, his right hand moves back to the wireless mouse.
Yeah, welcome to my November 24th. We're not huge on holidays at The House of T, T, & V. We still observe the bigger ones in our own ways, but the older two kids are out of the house, living their own lives; the youngest is 18. None of us need an overblown extravaganza. If we get everyone under the same roof for a dinner everyone enjoys, it's a success; doesn't even have to be on the actual date of whichever celebration.
It's proving something of a problem for me these past few years.
The COVID-19 lockdown gave me, like it gave most of us, a lot of time to look at and better know ourselves. It eventually led me to realize that I have (had) autism spectrum disorder and inattentive + impulsive ADHD – through the incredibly frustrating, disheartening medium of progressive energy loss and incompetence. I couldn't see my friends safely; even if something was planned with safety precautions, I was so decreased that the odds of my venturing out were slim.
(An aside: thank fuck for credit cards, online medical visits, and motherfucking amphetamine salts [aka Adderall]. I don't feel like an eggshell-thin porcelain tchotchke anymore.)
What did I do for social interaction? Well, what anyone does in this age: I got even more online than I was before.
- I got online in cool, new places…that my offline friends still refuse to investigate.
You should understand something about me: I have been extremely online since my mom got a modem for our Tandy 1000HX and signed us up for a Prodigy account. If those aren't strong enough referents for you to place the year, one of the things I loved about my new toy was reading updates on Operation Desert Shield without having to actually watch the news.
It was 1990. I was 11. "Online" has been a very real part of my life for 32 years.
As such, even with the memory issues my combined conditions cause, I remember a lot about early online spaces and communication tools. I was happy to see sites like Twitter and Facebook come around, as I could find most folks I knew in one place; I was one of the Early Frustrated as both of those – all of the – "walled garden" social media sites began sliding down towards the Shit Thermocline.
I try new things online. I found the Fediverse. I spent more and more time there, because every time I opened one of the Big Blue Sites, I saw (and smelled) that Shit Thermocline coming up fast.
It's too bad most of my offline friends are just now pushing or hitting their 30s. They don't have the experience; they don't know what the Shit Thermocline looks like. "Online" has always been one, or two, or maybe three sites and apps where they could find everyone.
I'm not there. I refuse to go there; I can't stand the smell, and the soles of my shoes get dirty. They refuse to try new spaces because, without everyone they know already having an account, it isn't "online" to them.
- Less happens online during the holidays.
News sites take time off; "content creators" queue up a retrospective they slapped together ahead of time. Even my online friends spend less time on their computers or phones. (I mean, that's a "me" issue, not a "them" issue. They're visiting their parents, or cooking for their families; I'm past most of that. My own parents have to come to me with an all-included travel package before I'll consider seeing them, and I still require a bit of arm-twisting to accept.)
There's just not a lot of novelty to be had on the internet, or anywhere, for the two or three days surrounding a major Western holiday.
- The biggest Western holidays come at the times of year with the crappiest weather.
It rained six of the past seven days here in Houston. On the one clear day, temperatures rose to the mid-60s.
I don't do cold; my average internal temperature and my BMI are too low. I don't do "gray"; it fucks with my mental state. I don't do rain; I attended too many events that should have been fun, but instead were a Hell of cloying, odorous mud – mud that almost caused a truck of drunk rowdies to plow into a sleeping friend's tent.
That line up there about the weather resembling a prison sentence? That's crushingly genuine. I have trauma (and assuredly some light hearing loss) from repeated ear infections. I have experience with frostbite, and not one, not two, but three experiences with bone-rattling, skin-purpling hypothermia. I watched a combination of "rain" and "idiots" come literal inches from killing a friend, and it's not as though "rain" and "idiots" only come together in sporadic, isolated incidents.
- The biggest US holidays started as religious festivals, except for that one that celebrates the giving nature of a people my forebears slaughtered.
🤦 Yeah. I love community, kindness, and generosity; as an atheist who actually tries to let the past inform his present and future, I can't get behind "the Reason for the Season". I'm not excited to celebrate these apocryphal events. Don't get me wrong: I'm glad for a few weeks each year where Everyone professes to share my values (for the wrong reasons entirely); do wish you'd all just wipe the dates off the calendar & make any one of them a lifelong practice.
Throw all that together,
and for days, I am a caged animal with very little enrichment. I catch glimpses of people loudly lauding the right things for the wrong reasons. I watch them decorate obliviously with the trappings of oppression and murder, and I
confined by the elements, blithely forgotten by friends, bereft of novelty and activity.
Edward Pola? George Wyle? Andy Williams?
It is not "the most wonderful time of the year".