A Visit with Saint Nicholas



'Twas the night before Christmas and I saw Santa on the ĎNí. I was waiting for the 44-O'Shaughnessy, but when I saw him I ran over to catch the train. Luckily, Santa had a red light. I hopped on the train and paid my $1. I walked up to Santa and sat down in the seat behind him.

"Santa," I said, tapping him on the shoulder. He turned around and glared at me. I think he was afraid I'd blow his cover. Santa was incognito in a navy jogging suit with gray piping.

"Santa," I said, a little more softly, leaning in so close I could almost feel his white hair on my cheek. "Where are your eight tiny reindeer and sleigh?" I heard a soft sigh, but Santa didn't respond. He flipped the pages of his "Sports Illustrated." I wondered if he was looking for exercise tips, he did look a little slimmed down.

"Santa," I tried again, voice even more hushed, my lips brushing the silky hair behind his ear. "Santa, why aren't you up North, isn't this your busy night?" Santa finally turned and looked at me, his eyes hard. I supposed he must be pretty stressed out, it being only a few hours till delivery time. He opened his mouth to say something, but he stopped. He watched me for a moment. I realized my lower lip was trembling.

"Santa," I said, my voice a little muddled, a little uneasy. "Santa, I wonder if you've seen what's been going on this year. I know you're pretty busy, keeping an eye on all those little kids all over the world. But, see, things haven't been gong too well for me and my friends this year. I mean, well, one of my friends had a bad breakup with her fiancé and had to move out. And my sisterís husband of 10 months is still in France because INS wonít let him move here. Another friend had to move back in with her mother Ďcause she couldnít afford to live in San Francisco anymore. Another friend is having trouble with his girlfriend and may be moving out. Another friend got laid off, twice. And as for me, well, one of my best friends moved out of the country, I was in a car crash and lost my van, and a few months ago I broke up with my boyfriend of 5 years, which was incredibly hard." Santaís eyes became softer and he put a hand on mine on the seat back.

"Did nothing good happen this year?" he asked. His voice was deep and kind, like a voice from the movies. He caught my eyes and held them. I started to nod.

"Well, yeah. I mean, my friend Nate moved to London, which is pretty cool for him. And my friend Tom is publishing his second book, which is really great." He kept looking at me and I thought some more. His eyes were clear and twinkling blue and encouraged me to continue. "And my friend with the ex-fiancé? She moved out into a great apartment with roommates she loves. She goes out dancing all the time and she looks great. She seems pretty happy, actually. And my sister whose husband is in France? Well, she did get married this year and Iíve never seen her so happy and confident in a relationship, even if he isnít actually here. My friend who moved home is getting to concentrate on school now and lives close to her niece and goddaughter, both of whom she loves a lot and were born this year." I stopped and he continued looking at me. I saw the reflection of my red-lipsticked lips in his glasses.

"And you, little girl?" he said, his voice lulling me like warm milk. "Has this Christmas brought you any happiness?" I couldnít help it; I saw my reflection start to grin. Santa smiled back and his eyes disappeared in laughlines.

"Yes, Santa. Yeah, I have to say that since I broke up with my boyfriend things have been good. I guess I didnít realize how unhappy I was until I became happy again. I relish this freedom and Iím really enjoying not knowing what the future holds for me. I feel like my narrow view has broadened infinitely and suddenly I could do anything. I turned 30 just over a week ago and Iím actually really happy and excited about it. I feel like Iím starting with a fresh slate. My friends have been very supportive and I've realized how much I love them all and how lucky I am to have them. My family has helped me a lot, too, which I appreciate more than I can say." I nodded, thinking of the last few months. "I feel like I really see my life now, for what it is and what it could be, and I like it." Santa patted my hand again; his hand was rough and callused, but warm.

"Sometimes we donít get what we ask for at Christmas," Santa told me, as if I was a six year-old sitting on his knee. "Instead, sometimes we get what we need, like socks and underwear." Santa smiled at me, his mouth drawn up like a bow, and I kissed him on the cheek.

"Thanks, Santa," I said, as the train slowed to a stop. Santa stuffed his magazine into a messenger bag and stood up. A wink of his eye and a pat on my head, gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

"Happy Christmas," he said, stepping off the stairs and onto the platform. He looked back up at the train. I barely heard him exclaim, before the doors closed...

"...And to all, a good-night."