Creative Wellbeing Writing Prompt: Think about a character who’s stuck inside. How do they feel about it? Why are they there?
We were the picture of tranquility as we stood in an aisle of our local lawn and garden store the day after our first Christmas as a married couple. I was burrowed inside a black down jacket, a woven red scarf around my neck. His coat stayed in the car; he didn’t like to wear it shopping. Married six months and change, we made the joint decision to buy everything we needed for future holidays on clearance. We got our Christmas fix by going to his parents’ house, conveniently located right around the corner from our apartment. He was physically incapable of separating from them, which meant that I got lots of family Christmas time. It wasn’t the same as having our own tree though, so on December 26th, he finally caved and we found ourselves staring at picked over half off holiday merchandise.
“How ’bout this one?” He pointed to a glossy fake tree that was easily six feet tall.
I leaned my head on his shoulder. “You don’t think it’s too tall for our apartment?”
“You doubt me?” His voice had that slight familiar edge it got when he was angry.
“No, I just—”
“Maybe you’re right,” he cut me off. Pointing at another tree, he asked, “Maybe this one?”
The second choice was full and green and not quite as tall as me. It seemed the perfect size, was only forty dollars, and was one of the few still available in a box. We loaded it into the cart, and then moved on in search of ornaments. I took several glittery reindeer from their hooks and put them in the cart, while he went for blue and silver glass balls and dangling icicles. We paid and took everything outside and put it all inside the trunk of his black Chevy, carefully locking up so we could go see a movie.
It was around eleven when we got back home. We hauled everything into the lobby and then leaned against the wall. I suggested we take it all down to our basement storage area, since Christmas was already over. “I’m tired.” He pulled the keys out of his pocket and unlocked the door to the hallway that led to our apartment. “You do it, if you wanna be the boss.”
“Hey, wait!” I shoved the tree box into the doorway to prop it open as he turned towards our apartment. “It would go faster if we both did it.”
I didn’t need to look at him to feel his eyes boring into me.
“This is heavy. We could probably do it in one trip. If we both went, I mean.”
He shrugged, rolling his eyes. “Fine. Whatever.”
I couldn’t understand why his mood had so suddenly changed, from happy one second to cold and distant the next, but I was grateful for his help. We each looped bags over an arm, took our respective ends of the box, and started down the stairs into the dark basement. Everything fit easily into our storage area. I was on tiptoes putting a plastic tote I’d stuffed with ornaments on an upper shelf when I felt his eyes on my back. I turned around, and he was leaning against the doorway.
“It’s amazing to me,” he said quietly, “how many things you can’t do for yourself.”
I bit my lip and turned away from him so he wouldn’t see me tear up. The evening had been so nice—dinner, a Christmas tree search, a movie—and it had suddenly changed. Had he not liked the movie? Was it something I’d said?
“Did I do something?” I stayed facing away because I couldn’t bear to look at him.
“Oh man,” he laughed. “Are you crying? You can’t even have a simple conversation without being a stupid little baby?”
The idea that I could never make him completely happy because I never knew what he was thinking was a frustrating one. Perhaps it was the frustration that made me cry rather than his actual words—the sudden realization that I was, in fact, never enough and never would be, that I had put myself into a hopeless situation I couldn’t walk away from.
I turned back towards him, blinking furiously to push back the tears, and moved to shove past him. He pushed me back, and I grabbed fistfuls of his jacket in a failed attempt to keep myself from falling. There I was on the ground, my cheek stinging from where his fist had struck it. “Don’t touch me,” he spat, towering above me. “Don’t ever touch me.” He left me there on the floor in tears and shut the door between us. I heard the key click in the lock but made no effort to stop it.
He went upstairs, and I sat on the floor in the storage area, my back against the Christmas tree, and cried. I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong; his words were the only words that were important to me and any thought I had of my own didn’t matter. When he saw me, when he spoke to me, I wasn’t nothing. He was the first person who ever truly loved me.