This Christmas. fiction by Marzia Rahman

Marzia Profile Pic

This Christmas

This year, Christmas will come quietly, unceremoniously. There won’t be any Christmas party this time. Santa will come, wearing a mask, riding a chariot but he will avoid the crowd.

April is the cruelest month—T. S. Eliot once wrote in his epic poem, The Waste Land—Ryan, a young Bulgarian poet in his early twenties, wonders why? December seems to be the hardest. Eating a slice of blueberry cheesecake on a Christmas night, alone, he checks up the pictures of his former girlfriend in Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg tweeted he is excited to roll out the new real-time stream home page to Facebook.

Rahim, a little boy in Nepal, has never heard of Mark Zuckerberg; he doesn’t like chewing hard roti and cries for cake or pastry. He lives with her mother, two young siblings and a very old grandmother in a slum which reeks of rotten fish and urine. His sixty-years old grandmother pretends to be blind when she goes out to beg in the morning.

In a condominium in Singapore, a young woman lights a scented candle in a late afternoon and looks out of the window.

An empty road, deserted. A cat sits close to a water fountain, licking its leg.

The woman wants to pray but could not find her prayer beads. Did she have one? She reads a magazine with pictures of dogs and cats instead. She always wanted a pet.

A young boy draped in a yellow robe, chants quietly. He gazes up at the red prayer flags, fluttering in the winter wind at a mountain-top monastery in Bhutan.

A middle-aged woman in India opens her window, the pure, fresh wind of early morning brushes against her face. She looks at a tree, opposite her building. Two green parrots perch on the tree, pecking at the branches.

A man in a bicycle passes by; half of his face covered by a mask.

A few wildflowers bloom unanimously by the road-side. A hawker sits nearby with two bundles of saris and salwar suits. He will buy a Christmas suit for his son to go to the church if he could sell most of his fares today.

Sagarlata—a sprawling vine sprouts in the empty sea beaches of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. “It grows where humans don’t tread,” says a surfer in a red wetsuit looking at the red crabs crawling on the sandy beach.

“There is no toilet paper, no hand sanitizer on the shelf” a young wife says to her husband standing in a queue in a supermarket, 2 metres apart. The queue gets shorter and shorter until the only man left in the shop is the salesman, a bulky young boy of sixteen who misses his mother.

His mother worked in a sweater factory and brought woolen jumpers for him; she died of Covid last Christmas.  He puts earphones, listening to a hip hop song, trying to be merry even if there is nothing much to be merry about.

A middle-aged man turns on tv after a day’s work at office.

A gigantic tornado has ripped through a suburb of Oklahoma City.

Boris Johnson ‘s aides joked about Christmas party in Downing Street while London was in lockdown.

Shane Warne named his top five current batters in test cricket and included one player from India in the list.

He turns off the TV. Bored. He misses drinking in a pub, catching up with his friends, and taking a walk in the park. He misses his wife who died of cancer, not Covid.

A very old grandmother in Singapore fondly remembers her childhood days.  She waits for her son to visit her. No one comes.

A migrant worker returns home. Quarantined. Waits for 14 days to embrace his wife and kids.

A man looks for the doctor in an empty corridor; the male nurse asks him the symptoms. Whether he has fever, cold, headache? If he has returned from South Africa? He nods; he has come from a different country with a difficult name he finds hard to pronounce. He is waiting for his wife who has come for an ultrasound. He has two sons, he wants a girl this time. He will name her after Ma Durga, the Goddess of power, energy, strength and protection.

A small boy flies a kite in a big open field in Kabul, his grandmother grins at him every time he looks at her. The kite flies higher and higher in the winter wind.

A young dancer dances to the happy tunes of a happy song; she will return to her home for Christmas after two years. She smiles looking at the bright light, seeping through the window of the auditorium.

A middle-aged writer writes about people being brave and resilient. Haven’t we survived two World Wars, Hitler, Spanish Flu, Atomic Bomb? We will survive this too. His dog, Patty wags its tail, proudly. A bird sitting on the open window near the writer’s desk flies away in a bright sunny sky.

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Marzia Rahman is a Bangladeshi fiction writer and translator. Her writings have appeared in several print and online journals. She is currently working on a novella and a collaborative translation project on Shahaduz Zaman’s Ekjon Komlalebu. She is also a painter.

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Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie is now completing her first novel where, for a family with a Seventh-day Adventist father and a Mennonite mother, the End Times are just around the corner. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

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