by Orion Oss

I was sitting in astronomy when somehow I was thinking about [I don’t remember], and then I’m sitting at the kitchen table and I am seven years old writing my Christmas list on our fancy, once-in-a-year green festive paper (the kind that if you erased the green would fade to white) to Santa flipping through a PlayMobil catalogue. I am still too young to understand that Mommy and Daddy are Santa Claus and I do not yet know what I really want for gifts, nor do I understand what to write on a Christmas list because no one has explained it to me. Daddy is sitting on the window seat and I’m writing down the name of a tiny PlayMobil extension set – I think it has a horse or a dolphin – and my mommy comes down in her exercise clothes and looks over my shoulder. She starts to frown at my beaming smile full of Christmas joy. For some reason she starts to yell at me. I do not understand why. I thought you were supposed to write down everything you wanted and Santa would choose the best toys for you because how else are you supposed to know what you actually want? You are still seven. Mommy says that I’m not allowed to write down such small toys or such specific toys or something like that; at that point the ocean rushing through my ears had become too loud that it had started leaking through my eyes and nose. When she’s run out of steam, the angry words aimed at me and Daddy, Mommy stomps off, mad for a reason I cannot yet comprehend. I sob, shaking, shying away from Daddy’s comforting hands, knowing that it’s my fault Mommy’s mad and Daddy’s going to be annoyed and Sister’s going to glare at me for making everyone act weird and I’m not going to be able to eat dinner because my tummy hurts and I feel like I’m going to throw up (which I hate doing).

Eventually Daddy gets me to stop heaving and gently persuades me to write:
Dear Santa,
Please just get me what I told my Mommy I want.
[ ]
I only realize in this moment (and I feel 30 years old) that maybe my dad let me write that so behind the curtain (the tree skirt) he could get back at my mom for making me cry, because they were Santa, but I didn’t know that. That little girl in me would be angry and hurt and maybe feel glad that Daddy got back at Mommy for her. She doesn’t understand the world. The not-so-teenage boy (who understands maybe a little) in me now is just sad. Hurt, too, but in a different way.
I didn’t deserve to be hurt. I don’t deserve to still feel that hurt.
Mom and Dad didn’t deserve to be mad at each other.
I just deserved a Santa.

And now we’re talking about dark matter.

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