The night before I checked myself into the hospital, I told my brother that I only had two episodes of the third season of House left to watch, and that once they were over, I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. He can’t be blamed for thinking I was exaggerating.

I’d like to just lie in my bedroom. Not this one. I fantasize about the one that I’ll be in – above some bar where I’ll wash dishes on Main Street in a small town no one has heard of in one of the less interesting United States – right after I run away from it all.

I went down to the local pool today to take out a membership. Fifty bucks for the signup and another twenty four for every following fortnight isn’t too bad, especially when you consider that I’ll make that back in locker hire in the first thirty-six days if I go every single day. Once again, the YMCA have proven themselves to be nothing but a bunch of chumps.

I’m not actually interested in the pool, the fitness classes (if I want to go cruising for soccer moms, I’m told that the richest pickings will be at the Eclipse premiere), or the waterslide (OK. I am slightly interested in the waterslide). What I’m after is their sweet, sweet sauna facilities.

Christmas.

That’s the word I come back to. My brain, sometimes, gets quiet, but never silent. In the background, there is a restless rustling, the sound of my mental secretary, poor girl, who is always working. The frontal lobes are at rest, passive, eyes and ears like buckets, just receiving, while somewhere in the amygdalae, she is trying to get my attention. “What about… what about… what about?”

The only word that comes through is Christmas. I’m not even religious. It may be May or September. There are no gifts taunting from under the tree, no early bird sales, no Advent wreathes, just me and that word like comfort food that presents itself to me. Christmas — it repeats itself soothingly. The gentle crunch of the c-h-r like gravel under foot. Christmas, the i-s-t-m whisper like prayers on a December night. Christmas, with the m-a-s pronounced like “muss,” like a dirty face, scrubbed clean and nestled against a pillow, excitedly trying to sleep. Christmas, and my inner secretary stops to consider where this word came from and why, and for a moment, she puts down her stacks of paper, forgets about the stapler, stops struggling to straighten her ill-fitting business attire.

Christmas. Christmas. Christmas.

I’m sorry this piece is so short. I really should make more effort. But from the next office I can hear them,  in their meeting, making plans and saying, “Yes, just ask Mary. She’ll take care of it. Just ask Mary,” and my mental secretary, poor girl, is getting restless again, reaching for her pen and pad, preparing to take notes or at least look busy should someone come out of that meeting needing anything at all, even just needing some reassurance that work goes on here. It is her job to uphold the image that this is a place of business, that things get done, that orders get places and packages tracked. She makes reservations and cancels them. She makes mental notes to pay the bills but not too soon, never all at once, always just a few days before they come due. She has her list. She’s checking it twice. She is always nice.

Christmas. Christmas. Christmas.

When she hears them fall into another language she knows it’s a chance to catch a break. The meeting ends. A door closes. Someone take a personal call. My mental secretary scoops up something in her arms, from a distance it’s hard to make out. She pulls the bundle to her chest, a favorite stuffed animal, a cloth baby doll. She whispers to it, to her soft self:

Christmas. Christmas. Christmas.