This morning, I came out of my room to find my flat-mate, Amanda, sitting on the lounge room floor. Around her was spread a whole pile of magazines, newspapers and catalogues, all brightly festooned with coloured Post-It notes and carefully penned notes.
“Ugh!” I said in greeting as I schlepped into the kitchen. Mornings are never a good time for me. As I made myself a strong cup of coffee, Amanda began nattering about something. Ten minutes later, as the caffeine kicked in and her annoying mosquito whine took shape into words that my morning brain began processing, it finally occurred to me that she was talking about presents and wrapping paper.
“There’s so little time left,” she was saying. “And I suppose we should also think about getting a tree.”
“Tree, what tree? Owww!” That was Saffy, coming out of her room with her eyes sealed shut with sleep-crust and promptly banging into the dining table.
“The Christmas tree, of course!” Amanda huffed, tossing her lustrous hair. Even at that time of the day, the woman looked like she’d just stepped out of a page from Vogue.
Dead silence. I blinked, my brain suddenly feeling very heavy. Saffy peeled open one eye and stared at Amanda in horror.
“Are you talking about Christmas?” she whispered in hushed tones. “But it's only September. Why are you talking about Christmas?”
Amanda looked prim. “I like to get an early start!”
I felt faint. Christmas? I don’t like Christmas. The thought of shoving through the throngs of aggressive shoppers, wait in line, panicking that I’d exceeded my VISA limit, hauling bags of useless junk back home. And then, when I had a lovely pile of presents nicely wrapped and ribboned, it would always occur to me to wonder if I’d left the “For Sale” stickers on the coffee mugs I’d so carefully wrapped.
As for Saffy, Christmas is always an opportunity for her to open the bottom drawer in her cupboard and drag out all the presents that she’s been given the previous Christmas and then spending a stressful few days trying to decide how to recycle the presents.
“Oh God! I can’t remember who gave this to me,” she said last Christmas, holding up a coffee mug (with the words ‘I can’t be fired! I’m a slave!’). “I want to give this to Amanda, but I think she gave it to me in the first place! What’s with people and coffee mugs anyway? It’s such a senseless gift. And look, it’s still got the “For Sale” sticker on the bottom!” I carefully looked the other way.
It’s little wonder that every year, both Saffy and I erase the entire month of December from our memories, until Anal Amanda reminds us. Meanwhile, Saffy, both eyes now firmly open, glared at the pile of newspaper clippings and catalogues around Amanda, as if hoping that everything would just burst into flames and Christmas would be called off.
“I was thinking of getting Pooch a dog-collar from Gucci!” Amanda said brightly.
“Are you mad?” Saffy exclaimed, her formidable chest rising sharply. “That dog leads a better life than anyone else in this flat! Jason feeds him foie gras. He sleeps all day in an air-conditioned room. And now you want to get him a Gucci dog-collar? Are you mad? Oh, hello, good morning, Pooch!”
My beloved adopted mongrel dog trotted into the room, attracted by the rising voices of panic. I scooped him up and took him into the kitchen for his breakfast. Standing there in the dim kitchen, the sun slowly creeping over the neighbouring hi-rise buildings and watching Pooch bury his face into his bowl of roast chicken, it occurred to me that maybe a Gucci dog collar would actually look quite good on him. It’s hard buying presents for dogs. Especially since they don’t drink coffee in the first place. And certainly not from coffee mugs anyway.
“Look!” Saffy moaned to Amanda in the living room. “How about I pay you to do my Christmas shopping for me? Oh, go on. You like shopping after all. How about it?”