Christmas in Somerville

In the front yard of the house, the plastic Santa is flanked by humungous candles, all hiding the Virgin Mary who now seems even more reluctant to emerge from her half-bathtub alcove. The owner is taking down the Baywatch-babes photo that dangles from the mirror of his old red 240SX, replacing it with a Christmas-tree ornament. He puts the photo in his pants pocket and tells his friend that he wishes they were that close to it.

It’s too warm for December, no snow on the ground, no leaves on the trees, the sun harshly exposing it all. The congregation is milling forlornly outside the Portuguese Catholic church. They’re primed for Christmas but it’s wedding weather and everyone is half expecting another brown bride to show up in white, giddily attended by her girls in peach.

Frank is sitting at the kitchen table trying to write the letter his wife Ella has asked him to. He’s written the date and “Dear Ella” and “I think the reason is because” but now he has put the pen down and turned on the football pregame show. The Steelers running back sprained his ankle in a fall from a stepladder during the week, and so his normal status as a starter is now relegated to “questionable” for today’s game.

About the same time as he was falling from the ladder and cursing that burnt-out lightbulb, Frank was sitting on the edge of another woman’s bed, pulling on his socks. When he walked into his own bedroom about three hours later, Ella looked at his wrinkled shirt, smelled his hair, and then asked him who she was and why he did it.

Why is what she’s asked him to write down. “And also how much you’re sorry about it, Frank, and how stupid it was and how likely you think it is that you’ll do it again any time soon.” He mutes the TV and walks to the bay window which looks down on Watt Street. Santa is encouragingly jolly, but the Virgin is staring straight ahead, implacable.