Prose

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“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”  (Albert Camus).

A very aggressive statement.  Assertive to the point of misconstrual as it alludes to a social taboo, imparting an emotional charge that often triggers dismissal in the mind of the casual reader.   Whether one has been personally touched by the suicide of a loved one, the dire implications attached to the act by most religions, or the simple instinctive preference of life over death, it is frequently the case that one strongly prefers not to invite such a topic into their field of thought.  However to fully explore the Absurd it is vital that these overlying layers of emotion, religion, and instinct be stripped away to grasp the dichotomy that is its source; the driving human need to find meaning in life clashing with the lack of any within the Universe.

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I dutifully sit in church for Christmas Eve services, trying to feel assurance in the seats that I have chosen for our family—in the last row of the pews. Because my youngest is fidgety to say the least, I hope this location will obscure us. Directly to my right sits my oldest child and then my husband. To my left is my youngest child, who wants to do anything but sit.

The atmosphere is somber with the usual monotonous sermon that goes on endlessly, except for a long silent pause each time they switch from one production to the next. My youngest is just as eager as I am for this evening to come to its end. For her it means going home and carrying out her plot of catching Santa in the act this year; whereas, for me it means breathing a sigh of relief that we have successfully made it through the Christmas Eve services and can all sweetly dream of sugar plums dancing in our heads.

As I sit and pretend to listen absorbedly, my mind keeps wandering; will my youngest make it to the end of the services, or at least till intermission. She is trying very hard, after all Santa is watching for goodness sakes. Even so, her tiny finger keeps beckoning my ear to her impatient, little lips. They repeatedly part to squeak the same polite request, “Can we go now.” To which I give the same hushed reply each time, “Not until it is over.”

My mistake, which I make as swiftly as a visit from Saint Nicholas in the night, is adding to my last hushed reply the words, “After we sing it will be over.” Just moments after I give my youngest this spoken assurance, before the echo of my own words sink into my own mind, the girls who were on stage end their attempted concerto and clumsily pack up their things so they can return to their seats. There is—a long pause of silence just after singing.

My youngest is swift to perceive this as the long awaited end to the evening and enthusiastically shrieks into the silence, “Can we go now!” The only other sound to be heard is the loud thud which comes from my chest. The moment that followed felt as surreal as Christmas morning does to children; the silence is replaced with laughter & giggles from everyone who is present. What can I say but, "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

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I sat there dumbfounded in silence as the man on the other end of the phone continued explaining. He assured me this was a group of very sophisticated, elite, and well educated people. However, it did nothing to lessen the blow that I was still reeling from. I had been so excited to receive my second interview with this company. I had responded to their job post on the website. My first phone interview had gone very well. Jenna was her name and she loved my writing. She assured me that her boss would want to speak to me. And then the next day, an email and the second call.

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Our best friends were having a baby. Inwardly, I groaned.

“You know what this means, Frank?” I complained to my boyfriend. “They won’t be going out with us anymore.” One by one our friends had succumbed to the bothersome burdens of boring adulthood: first marriage, now children. Soon only Frank and I would be left gloriously unencumbered.

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             The Star of Bethlehem sits watch atop our Christmas tree like a holy beacon, casting a yellow light across the living room. No more than a few feet away, my mother’s snores slip out beneath her bedroom door, and echo ever so slightly in the base of our fireplace. About an hour ago, I heard her tip-toe upstairs to my room to kiss my sister’s sleeping forehead, and soon felt the peck of her warm lips on the stubble of my own cheek. She still smelled a bit like the twelve hours of bedpans and soiled linens she had cleaned that day, but the familiar scent of her shampooed hair calmed me.