The minuscule-sized pin seemed to gloat rather than glint at her as she removed it from her bike wheel. What she had believed was merely an errant leaf or some other such trail debris turned out to be, of all things, a Santa hat-shaped pin: gold-tone on the back and glittery red and white on the front. Of all things. On Christmas Eve. Who even wears pins anymore? She further cursed the irony when taking into consideration that, only yesterday, she was singing along with the Britney Spears lyric, “Santa, can you hear me?/I have been so good this year…” Apparently not in Santa’s eyes. Apparently, this is what she got for trying to stay fit during the peak week of holiday-inspired consumption. Had she just stayed inside, surrendered to two days of doing nothing as all are expected to during the imposition of Christmas, her wheel would still be intact. Now, it was hissing and squeaking, like a dying animal.
She wasn’t far away from home, if she had wheels. But without them, all distances were rendered impossibly long. She had grown spoiled from all this time spent relying on her bike for exercise, as opposed to the tedium and lengthiness required of walking. Even if everyone was insistent that walking is what made French women so thin, for Desdemona, it meant wasted extra minutes that she could spend on doing something else. A bike, on the other hand, burned just the right amount of calories in just the right amount of time. Plus, who really wanted to emulate French women?
With no choice but to hoof it back home (for she couldn’t really describe her location to anyone she might call, and didn’t want to trouble somebody unnecessarily on “precious” Christmas Eve), Desdemona—who felt she was truly living up to her name’s meaning, “misery”—gripped the handle bars like a mother trying to stop the blood on her child’s wound and proceeded ahead. With regard to children, there was no doubt in Desdemona’s mind that this “cute,” “little” pin belonged to someone of that breed. That fucking insensitive breed. Probably an asshole boy who arbitrarily decided to drop the item because he grew bored with it or distracted by something else. Or was too unintelligent to correctly put the pin on in such a way so that it would not fall off. Whether the spawn was responsible or not, their goddamn parents shouldn’t have given them a hazardous pin in the first place. It seemed, to her, a testament to how one person’s seemingly innocuous act totally fucks up another person’s life.
As she ambled defeatedly on the trail in the direction toward her abode, she found herself surrounded by all the types of people she abhorred—all the types of people she could usually avoid noticing if she was whipping past them on a bike. Perhaps only Pee-Wee Herman could understand her pain right now. Even if his bike had been stolen instead of maimed, his reaction to the loss felt like the closest to her own at the moment. And then, because she had just seen the Friends episode where Phoebe watches It’s A Wonderful Life all the way through for the first time, she could hear Lisa Kudrow’s voice echoing in her head, “It’s a sucky life—and just when you think it can’t suck anymore, it does!” That was already how Desdemona had been feeling of late. The puncturing of her wheel by a Santa hat pin that winkingly taunted, “Merry Fuckin’ Christmas!” was emblematic of everything that had already happened over the course of what seemed like the longest year of her life.
Not only had she endured a heart-wrenching breakup that entailed her switching countries, but she had also been fired from her remote job. Faced with the prospect of having to seek employment that might actually require her to show up in person (like, say, being a cashier at Home Goods) due to her desperate need for money, Desdemona was experiencing the kind of low that can turn one suicidal if even the most minor of inconveniences occurs. And a flat bike tire is so much more than just a minor inconvenience. Especially when one is already broke and has spent any extra “leeway budget” on groceries for Christmas Eve. What was surely already to be a sad Christmas Eve anyway as she could only finagle three people to form a “ragtag gang” of orphans for the holiday. You know, the sort of people who either had no family or couldn’t bear to be around their own. Would prefer to slum it with the likes of Desdemona. In any case, that’s what her “extra” money had been spent on and she doubted whether she would be able to repair the bike before the beginning of February. That meant an entire month of no legitimate exercise, even though everyone knew January was when you were supposed to “get your shit together,” physically and mentally. Which is antithetical considering January is the most depressing month of the year.
After about forty-five minutes of walking, she finally arrived back at her apartment, her heart feeling as deflated as the wheel presently was. Over the course of her journey, it had been given all the time it needed to grow as flattened as Desdemona’s hopes and dreams. She stomped up the two flights of stairs with it and leaned it against the wall as she unlocked the door. Gently easing the compromised transportation inside and placing it near her chode of a Christmas tree (the mini kind bought from Target and placed on a table), all she could do was stare at it in disbelief.
She removed the pin, which she had decided to keep as a trauma souvenir, from her fanny pack and glared at it. In a fit of rage, she screamed, “Santa, can you hear me? I have been so good this year! And all I want is one thing: tell me my new bike wheel is here!” In response to her prayer (because Santa is, for whatever reason, presented as a godlike figure), the bike tipped forward out of nowhere and crashed to the ground. She stared down at the pin in her hand and squeezed it tightly so that it pierced her palm, leaving a stigmata-like wound. “Merry Fuckin’ Christmas.”