Peppermint Candy Canes

Cold evenings and roaring fires that throw smoke and ashes high into the air. Cups of tea slowly warming freezing fingers through thin, store-bought gloves. The scent of cinnamon and pumpkin wafting through the air, rising on the breeze trying to push through thick coats.

Fantasies of autumn. Fantasies that didn’t come true. Not for her. Not then.

There were cold evenings, but they were mostly spent curled under four blankets on the couch, alone in a basement suite with a flickering television that spat out generic sitcoms with unnatural laugh tracks. Sometimes they made her feel better because being pulled out of her own life into the unreality of the fancy apartments that these twenty-somethings couldn’t afford in real life and eternal coffee dates with good friends reminded her that some people had nice lives and maybe she could too. If she went to a store and bought a white porcelain pumpkin and a stack of cute wicker boxes she could cut and paste herself into a non-reality that resembled one of these girls with the gorgeous lives.

Even if the coffee dates never happened.

There was one fire. But it was too far away to keep her feet warm and she was surrounded by people who had anything to talk about other than something she knew. She never contributed to conversations much anyway. As far as she knew, no one cared what she had to say. Jumbled mumbles rising from her lips with as much force as can be exerted by a butterfly’s wings as it lifts off from a flower. Easy to talk over and easier to forget it even exists.

On the bright side, there was a lot of tea. Chai and rooibos and green and black and white, mingling in a cupboard designated solely for that eternal collection. Fumbling through dulled silver tins to find just the right combination of flavours that would burst on her tongue exactly when she most needed the comfort. Which was always these days. Her roommate (oh that’s right, she had a roommate – it was just hard to meet her when she never emerged from her dark, dirty cave. It was like the girl lived alone, only with more mess and no help) had her own sky-high stash of tea, but she never drank it. The girl stared longingly at it as she picked through her own meagre supply, eyeing her roommate’s tin of caffeine-free pumpkin cheesecake rooibos. Why have what you’re never going to drink? Tea-loving poser and infuser-stealer. What kind of roommate steals her friend’s infuser and moves away with it?

She tried for the scents of cinnamon and pumpkin. There were unlit candles and dreams of baking delicious treats with her ever-elusive roommate that amounted to no more than broken ideals, like cookies in which the sugar was forgotten. The dry, crumbling sawdust of both the dreams of baking and the friendship itself. Disappointing. Boxed brownies and laziness.

Forgotten forgotten forgotten. Who cares.

Fantasies are just that. Forgotten. She should know better. Like cracks in the asphalt that just grow and grow, webbing out from a single point until bits of blackened pavement begin spilling from the ground like marbles, carving a hole that can’t be properly filled again. So with fantasies.

After, she stood outside and stared at the moon as it was pulled down by the claw of darkness to make way for the rising sun. Someday, she would be all right. The pain would fade into a silent throbbing and the fantasies would reignite with someone else, somewhere else. But until then, she would stand under that black sky, wander through thick woods, step over ice-cold streams, searching for something she could call life. Something that she didn’t copy from a sitcom, or try and force out of an unwilling unbestfriend. The laziness and claustrophobia of undetermined insensibility long forgotten and washed away by the lull of the ocean and the smell of salt-water freedom.

And maybe just a sprinkling of love, like the mini peppermint candy canes that dotted her favourite black tea.

That would be her life.