I don’t celebrate holidays.
“I celebrate every day,” I say if anyone asks. Mostly, I just prefer to avoid crowds and social pressure.
My home reflects this choice for solitude and quiet. I live at the end of a gravel road where all but one or two of the houses I pass are vacation homes, empty most of the year. To the left is a mile of semi-private beach with Puget Sound stretching out in front. The ships that steam past and the jets moving across the sky heading for SeaTac airport only heighten the sense of stillness. It’s like watching a television on mute. This is my world.
Except on holidays.
Yesterday, the 4th of the July brought dozens of drinking, screaming, motor-boating holiday-celebrators to the houses next to me. In defense, I buried myself in my book. Once I’d begun, I was rooted to the spot, turning pages while anything beyond what was happening in the story disappeared for me.
This is not a book I would ordinarily read, a true account of the author’s brutal rape at the age of eighteen. The title of the book is Lucky, chosen with bitter irony. But this is not an ordinary time. I’ve begun to process through my own stories of the past, to weigh what is real and what is not, and I needed to hear this woman’s truth.
As the tension in the story escalated, the world around me started to intrude again. A woman next door began to scream. I knew, knew that she was unhurt, that she was only reacting to the shock of going into what would feel like a very cold ocean. But my body didn’t know and my guts coiled into knots.
It wasn’t fear. It was anger. There was a perfectly safe woman making the sound of one in danger, and I wanted to run out and scream back at her, how dare you, do you have any idea what it is to cry in genuine need?
But I didn’t.
I went to the chicken coop I built that stands facing Mt. Rainier. I put my hands on this beautiful solid thing that I created and I breathed in my own truth: I am strong and whole and alive. Whatever did or did not happen in my past, it brought me to this place and this version of myself. I am lucky.
Kristen MacKenzie lives on Vashon Island in a quiet cabin where the shelves are filled with herbs for medicine-making, the floor is open for dancing, and the table faces the ocean, waiting for a writer to pick up the pen. Her work has appeared in Brevity, Rawboned, GALA, Extract(s) Daily Dose of Lit, Maudlin House, Blank Fiction, Cease, Cows; Crack the Spine, Bluestockings, and NAILED and is included monthly in Diversity Rules. Pieces are forthcoming in Minerva Rising , MadHat Annual, and Crab Fat. Her short story, “Cold Comfort,” placed in Honorable Mention in The Women’s National Book Association’s annual writing contest.