The Dirty Christmas Kiss
By Jane Hyphen
Life is twisted, things don’t always go in straight lines but as long as you can get back on the path, you might be okay; that was the conclusion I drew as I brushed my teeth. An acrid post alcoholic bloom had created a hoar frost upon the surface of my tongue, I used my toothbrush to remove it which triggered a fit of guttural heaving. I took some deep breaths, gathered my thoughts.
Such was the weight of regret in my frontal lobe that it felt as if my entire conscience had hanged itself from a rope and was bouncing around somewhere down the back of my shoulders. My Christmas party outfit had crumpled with guilt upon the bathroom floor, the stiletto heel of my strappy sandals were coated to the top with mud, why? I couldn’t recall being outside, perhaps I had traversed a grass verge at some point during the evening, maybe to reach the taxi, it was possible. God I’m glad Graham is away on business.
‘I can’t believe you’ve done this,’ Pat’s words to me as we shared a taxi home. I watched the sad city lights pass by, the kebab vans with their funny little silver chimneys, old people shivering at bus stops, why were they out at 1am? I wasn’t keen on Pat, she was a Salvation Army volunteer, admirable enough but she was indulgent in her use of the uniform; wearing it into work every other Friday, going through the purchase ledger in her peaked hat so she could dash out into the city to save people.
It just so happened that my house was on the way to hers. As if that wasn’t enough she has repeated those exact words in a text shortly after I got out. It was as if she had watched me stagger up my drive, going over on my heel, twisting my ankle and had felt somehow compelled to twist the knife. ‘I can’t believe you’ve done this,’ The message was still on my phone, proof, if it were needed.
The ankle felt stiff and sore but not as painful as the throbbing sensation behind my eyes. I picked up some tweezers and poked the sharp point on the tip into my temple, expecting some of the regret to escape through the hole in a dirty black plume. Nothing happened but in the mirror I noticed a twisted green blood vessel pulsating just next to my hairline, I pressed it and it bulged. I shivered, horrible, we don’t need reminding that we are just flesh and blood.
The thing is I would never have chosen to sit next to Colin but in the absence of Lynda, somebody removed her empty chair and he had moved up. ‘I think I’ll move up,’ he said with a twinkle in his eye. He always had a twinkle in his eye, it was inviting, his shiny eye dew like a social lubricant, it left him permanently braced for frictionless interactions.
We had never really chatted before because I’d always found him sort of shallow, quite good looking but a bit of a brown noser, a bit of a tool. His promotion into middle management had gone to his head somewhat, he often talked about how he was enjoying getting stuck into his meaty management role. I believed him, his breath a cross between carrion and caffeine. He said yes to everything and was always the last to leave the office. I always felt sorry for his wife.
(Foreplay) The Christmas Slime
We started with a festive prawn cocktail - a prawn cocktail with a twist which turned out to be a few nutmeg gratings speckling the Marie Rose sauce, the flavours didn’t work at all.
Colin was very attentive with the wine, constantly topping people up. That was what he did, he did the obvious really well, he was a safe pair of hands, that’s why he’d been promoted, he wasn’t a deviant. When Judith’s Vegetarian Wellington failed to arrive on the table it was him rushing to get the waiter’s attention.
The Christmas pudding was covered in a slimy white layer, rather like wallpaper paste, I couldn’t stomach more than a few mouthfuls. ‘I’m not eating that...it’s the white stuff, it’s very off-putting.’ Colin gave me a lingering took and a little smirk, he was about to make a joke but I stopped him. ‘I’m the same with pork pie jelly,’ I shouted abruptly.
‘Ah yes... aspic.’
‘Aspic, my grandfather ran a pork pie factory. Don’t worry I’ll eat yours.’
Who eats two lots of Christmas pudding? I thought, although I was quietly impressed. Traces of my saliva didn’t bother him, looking back I think that was the foreplay which led the dirty-Christmas-kiss.
We talked about Lynda’s absence, her husband’s accident; he’d fallen out of a window apparently. ‘Did he fall…..or was he pushed?’ he said, following this with uncontrolled laughter..
As he shifted in his seat I noticed his aftershave, it reminded me of a boyfriend I had in school and it took me back to a time of heady youthful excitement. Briefly or perhaps not so briefly I drifted away into another dimension.
‘Don’t you think?’ said Colin, quite serious now.
‘Yes, yes.’ I nodded.
‘Okay, great. I’ll bring it up at the next meeting. I’ll say...and Alison thinks so too!’ He said winking.
Wait what? I’m not sure what I had agreed to but the alcohol had now reached down to my legs, they felt numb like they were separated from my body.
The Disarm - A Brass Monkey
Some people had started to dance and the waiters were clearing the tables. I felt his hands on the side of my head. ‘Just adjusting your party hat,’ he said, ‘you were about to lose it.’
Indeed I was losing it, there followed a period of time which I have little memory of. I know I went to the toilet and noticed in the mirrors my complexion was very pale. When I returned Merry Christmas Everyone was playing and Colin was waiting for me with a cocktail in his hand.
‘What’s that?’ I asked.
‘It’s a Brass Monkey…..with a twist.’
I was feeling torn now. I was both repulsed and attracted to Colin. ‘What’s the twist?’ I asked.
‘They’ve run out of ice,’ I looked at him confused. ‘So it’s not quite cold enough to freeze the balls off.’
He laughed at his own joke. I watched half horrified half amused. I’d never really bonded with any of my colleagues, Lynda was alright, she was quiet, harmless…..or was she? Last year I had left the Christmas party early because I’d felt sort of lonely and detached. Now Colin seemed to me like a warm blanket enveloping me with his shiny eyes, bloodshot now like two glace cherries. I liked his voice and there was something about his undivided attention that undid me, maybe I just needed some attention more than I knew; those long nights alone while Graham was away establishing his air conditioning business.
The next thing I knew Colin’s hand was touching the skin on the back of my neck. I gave him a questioning look. ‘Don’t worry, I’m not undoing you! I’m just sorting out the strap on your dress, it’s twisted.’
There had been an uncomfortable sensation on the back of my neck all evening, the halter-strap of my dress had been digging into my flesh. Colin’s demeanor had changed now, he was quieter. Stay Now by East Seventeen was playing and he held held out his hand and led me through the drunken crowds away to a mysterious enclave. I’m not sure how long this journey was but it seemed to go on forever, I remember passing through clouds of dry ice and an echoey corridor. We arrived in a small room covered in tinsel twisted around coat hooks, there were twinkling lights and faux snow, it was a changing room come grotto.
The next few seconds were a bit of a blur but I had consumed a Brass Monkey and was now somehow back on the wine and I became aware of the presence of Mistletoe; Mistletoe and wine, that heady combination was also the song that ruined Christmas.
Colin focused his soft, twinkling eyes on mine and leant in. I caught the scent of his aftershave and became a melt. Our lips locked and the ensuing kiss was…..awful, dirty, horrendous, sloppy, I pulled away and tried to leave the ‘grotto’. My way was blocked by the three other ladies from accounts, one of them being Pat. ‘We’re doing the Secret Santa in here,’ she said in a deadly serious deep, Salvation Army voice.
‘Excuse me,’ I said, pushing passed them. I went to the toilet and wiped my lips with rough toilet paper until they were raw and red lipstick stained my chin.
I spent the remainder of the evening drinking sparkling mineral water with Bev from HR. I spun her some yarn about feeling on the verge of a panic attack, hating social gatherings etc and never left her side until the taxis were called at the end of the evening.
My eardrum buzz is deafening. I have taken some Disprin, gathered up the rope of my conscience and taken time to reflect on the error of my ways. There is no way to smooth away the shame, shame that I am quite sure that Colin is not party to. I conclude that Christmas time can often shine a light upon the holes in our lives, alcohol flows and the urge to fill the hole grows. I fell into the trap of filling the hole with dirty stuff and now I will have to work at being clean again.