The scene was a familiar one. The street was filled with people hustling and bustling and jostling with each other from time to time. Their breaths hung in the freezing air like little trails of smoke. The street was lit in the darkness of the winter’s late afternoon by the colored christmas lights hanging from each lamp and in the shop windows. With just a few days left until the holiday, these were the last minuters – those who were ever increasingly desperate to grab their last few bargains and presents.
Phillip watched in silence. The scene had a surreal quality about it. The anxious faces of people who in some instances, could ill afford the presents and gifts they were trying to purchase. He watched with increasing understanding of each individual’s dilemmas. He felt sorry for the single mother, loaded down with two young children. He knew she had little money and little confidence and yet her kids eyes shone with excitement. It would be a meagre christmas for them, but they were excited anyway.
He observed an older man silently gazing into the window of a jewelry shop and he understood that he was crying. He was crying inside because he faced his first christmas alone in over 40-years and he had noticed a ladies watch that looked very much like the one he had bought his wife for christmas the previous year. She had been dead four months and the pain still wracked his heart. He hadn’t a clue how he would get through the holiday without her.
He watched the street entertainer playing the guitar and singing and understood how cold his fingers were in the freezing air. He was hoping that these shoppers could spare enough change for him to have a hot meal. There would be no Turkey and trimmings for him this year. No sitting in the warmth around a brightly lit tree. He would be lucky to find a warm place to sleep and maybe a small bottle of rum to keep him warm through the night.
And yet, in all of the mayhem and the personal stories of life – sadness, happiness, stress, worry and all of those other emotions, Phillip understood something else watching that scene play out in front of him that night. He understood the meaning of christmas. He understood that it wasn’t about gifts; the giving or receiving. It wasn’t about the lights, the trees or the big movie on TV. Christmas, he now knew, was about hope. It was about the hope and the faith that people could learn to love each other. It was about the little things then that came from love and hope and charity. It was about the humanity behind humanity and its potential for good.
He could see this now in the light of love that he could see glowing more strongly or weakly around those people in the street. The brightness of it gave him hope. Even now, the brightness was growing and in that light he could see his father smiling. It was time to go.
He took another look at his body, crushed and deformed by the tram that had hit him moments ago, and at the people gathered around it trying to revive him. Then, he moved towards the light. He grasped the hand of his father and was pulled into a hug as the light enveloped him and the scene faded for all eternity.
An edited version of this story and several other short stories are to be found in my book – The Pink Bus