What Do I Want for Christmas?
By Andrew Roberts
“Do you put any thoughts into what you want for Christmas?”
I pondered the question as I sat in the corner of the Farmer’s Bar. The man who asked it seemed friendly, but his question came out of the blue. However, I didn’t want to be rude so I tried to come up with an answer.
“Not really,” I said, sipping my pint. “These days I have fewer materialistic desires.”
“Do you think that’s what Christmas is about? Materialistic desires?” he asked.
I paused. He had a point. “If I had asked that a few years earlier, I might have said yes. I reckon it’s more about happiness and good company, at my age.”
This time last year, I’d been feeling content. I’d got myself a job; I’d settled into a new college; and I’d finally passed my driving test. There was nothing I really felt I wanted. But things hadn’t gone so well this year, with being unemployed again, and having to re-sit exams.
“Well, I suppose if your desires aren’t materialistic, what would they be?” the man asked.
I thought he was prying too much. But at the same time, he seemed well-meaning, as he sat there stroking his beard and smiling kindly. I once had a job for Christmas, but that only gets you some seasonal work for a couple of weeks. Besides, I wasn’t really cut out for the kind of work they offered for the season. Another Christmas wish I had was to be reunited with an old flame. But wish for that, and you normally end up getting new socks. If I expressed any other of my desires, I’d probably be seen as some anarchist or dissident. Perhaps something I haven’t tried before? “Some kind of day out,” I said, “but I’ve drawn a blank on anything more than that.”
“What kind of work were you in?” He changed topic.
“I was doing an accountancy qualification with an apprenticeship at a local firm. But that finished six months ago and I’ve not been able to get anything since. I tried a few other things but they didn’t work out.”
“Accounting? I suppose it’s a guarantee of work.”
“In theory, yes.” I took a long drink, figuring I could move the conversation on. “What kind of work are you in?”
“Retail,” the man said. “I specialise in toys.”
“Really? What’s the name of your company?”
“Oh, it’s not a company. But I have been working with many companies all over the world. For as far back as I can remember.” He seemed to disappear into his own thoughts and we sat in silence and finished our drinks. Finally, he stood up. “Well, I’d better be going,” he said. “These next few nights are always the busiest.”
I shook his hand. “It was nice talking to you,” I said. “And have a lovely Christmas.”
“The same to you,” he replied.
I watched him leave, wondering who this man was. I left my glass at the bar and thanked the landlord. Stepping outside, the stranger was nowhere in sight. As I walked home, I glimpsed a light in the sky, perhaps a shooting star. While I watched it, I was certain I could hear the man’s voice in my head: “Merry Christmas.”