by Aleks Haecky
I don't remember how long ago I wrote it, but its original is on a typewriter. The uniformity of the print suggests an electric typewrite, so sometime between graduating and switching to a computer. As I said, a long time ago.
Many years ago, there was another Christmas. The tree was all silver: the balls, the lametta, the little bell, and all the other ornaments. The candles - real candles - were red in contrast. The living room smelled of burning candle wax and homemade Christmas cookies. And under the tree, almost crushing the nativity, were piles and piles of parcels. Never had there been so many before. I was young, and the parcels meant more than the tree, and I could not wait any longer. The songs had been sung, the Christmas story read, and I had flawlessly performed a little piece on my recorder.
Finally, my father gave us permission to open the first present. We did this in an orderly fashion, one present at a time, for hours. I received many beautiful gifts, probably many books, and some clothing. Maybe this was the year I got my new skis. I am not sure. But one present has stuck in my mind through all these years.
I opened the parcel from my godfather. In addition to the usual chocolate, it contained a small doll, a harlequin. It was fragile, the dkeleton made from pipe cleaners. The clothes were glittering with silver stripes. But it was the face that confused me. I did not like the face. And I did not like the gift. This hadn't happened to me before.
I could even like the woolly underwear my grandmother used to knit for me, because it did keep me warm after all when we went sledding in the middle of winter. But this? I tried to say something appreciative, then put the doll aside, and opened the other presents.
In my thank you letter I said the usual, hoping my godfather would not notice.
The harlequin ended up in a box somewhere in my bedroom, where I did not have to look at it. But not for long. I was plagued by guilt and finally gave it a prominent spot on my bookshelf, where I tried to to see it, hoping it would get old and dusty, and I could get rid of it easily.
But, the harlequin lasted. It even seemed to magically deflect dust.
When I moved out from home, it ended up in a box again, in the attic, but it kept creeping into my thoughts at the most inopportune moments, and I felt sorry for it, because it was not loved, and guilty, that I could not love it, though I was meant to do so.
Many years later I moved to another continent. I could not take anything with me, except a few clothes, and certainly not a doll. I sorted out my possessions, almost obsessed to keep as little as possible, giving as many items as I could part with to my mother to sell at her flea market stand.
Last fall, suddenly, the harlequin popped into my mind again. I was gripped by fear, that I might have thrown it away, and I was consumed by a guilt totally out of proportion. How could I find out?
I ended up going to Switzerland in December, and on my first day there, I climbed up the ladder to the attic of my parents' house, and ripped open the few boxes of personal belongings I still stored there. It took only a few minutes, and I held the harlequin in my hands. He was smiling at me, with the same smile, and it seemed the most beautiful smile in the world. I almost cried, so relieved was I, that after all, he had not fallen victim to my purges. He was undamaged, the colors like new. I cradled him in my arms, took him downstairs with me, and he traveled to California in my suitcase a few weeks later.
Now he is sitting on my typewriter looking at me. I have come to like him, and even if I didn't, it would not matter. He is beautiful, untouched, and a symbol for all the unnecessary guilt I have carried over from my childhood into my adult life.
If I can love the harlequin, maybe some day, I will be able to love myself.
Right after typing up this story, I became consumed by worry, that he might have gone lost. I went to my bedroom and opened tow boxes I haven't touched in over a decade. I became frightened, when I saw the contents, my life history flooding back at me, and I couldn't deal with that right now. I kept rummaging and I found him. He is untouched still, after over 45 years. He is also small. His face is delicate, and its expression between smiling and sad. Stuck between emotions, and that still makes me very uneasy.
I do not love myself.
I do love that Bajass.