Chapter 6: CHRISTMAS NIGHTS (INTO DREAMS)
The city a sea of lights. Brilliant and dazzling. Blinking and shimmering. Billions of them, in all places. Lights decorating every shop and every house. Lights covering the canopies of trees, wrapped around their bending branches. Lights on boats, floating like phantoms across the harbor. Tiny golden ones proliferated; their red and green siblings also shining cheerfully . Rarer were the forget-me-not blues and vivid violets. Lights in all formations: fashioned into the shape of stars and bulbs, building perimeters neatly framed by lights, imposing pillars and columns of lights. Arches of lights forming hallways to walk under. Veils of lights suspended in the air.
"Aren't they pretty, Edward?"
Edward and Kim found themselves walking through an upscale outdoor plaza, at the center of all these lights. He nodded. They were beyond pretty, he thought. Christmas in the suburbs was pretty. Christmas in Los Angeles was a grand pageant on the world's stage. Best of all, he had Kim Boggs to share it with.
The market plaza was crowded with exhibits and sightseers. The chatter of eager voices wishing peace on Earth. Before he ventured any deeper into the festival however, there was something Edward needed to know.
"Kim, what's Christmas about? What are we celebrating?"
"So many things. We're celebrating the birth of God in the world...we're celebrating a time when miracles happen...we're celebrating being with our loved ones...our families."
Edward noticed what was missing. "Your family is back at home..."
"Are you sad about that?"
"A little. My mother isn't happy about me being here...but we weren't having a party this year and my grandparents can't make it, so that made her more accepting. Edward?"
Kim clung to her man as they walked. "I was miserable all year after you left. I didn't want to do anything. Going off to college was hard for me. I couldn't concentrate. The only thing that made me happy was when it started snowing, because it reminded me of you. ...It never did that before you were in our lives."
Edward listened to her in sympathy.
"So when I found out you had left the mansion, I felt like I had no choice. It's what my soul was longing for."
As she said this, a vision of Edward's father passed through his mind; he turned to look at Kim.
"You can be my family tonight."
"Yes, Edward. I absolutely will."
"The night starts here, the night starts here
Forget your name, forget your fear
The time we have, the task at hand
The love it takes to become a man"
Nestled among towering skyscrapers and space-age architecture, an ice skating rink welcomed visitors of all ages. Edward and Kim were next in line, and an attendant granted them each a pair of skates. Kim laced up Edward's skates, then laced up her own. They waddled onto the rink. Kim took to the ice naturally and Edward watched her, studying how to keep his balance. He admired her elegant, swanlike movements. Edward began to move forward, clumsily at first, but after several minutes adjusting his technique bit by bit, he too was gliding with ease. "Very good", Kim praised him. He increased his speed to match her, challenged himself to go a bit quicker with each lap, and made sure he kept his hands far, far away from the other skaters. Edward told Kim "put your arm in mine", and she gladly obliged. Locked in this position, they made one another feel like a king and queen, and they strode onward in their coronation march, the most glamorous couple in the rink.
. . .
In a public courtyard, a banner reading "Christmas Karaoke" hung above a small stage with speakers, a microphone and video display. Onstage was a small girl of about 9 years old, belting out "Winter Wonderland". After the song ended, the audience roared with applause. The party's hostess approached the girl to give her a hug. "Wow, such a big voice for such a little lady! What's your name?" "Emily.", the girl spoke into the microphone. "Thank you so much for singing tonight, Emily! Happy Holidays!", and Emily walked offstage to her parents, who were beaming.
"Who wants to go next?", the hostess asked the crowd. "I'll go", Kim volunteered, and she walked to the stage. Edward looked on with pleasant surprise and anticipation. For her selection, she chose the hymn "Angels We Have Heard On High". As Edward listened to her voice dance from pitch to pitch as she sang "Glooooooria", goosebumps formed on his skin and his mouth gaped open. This song was sublime! Such a melody only could have come from heaven, he thought. Some of the other onlookers began to sing with her, their voices melding into a makeshift choir.
. . .
The bakery sold seasonal desserts and Edward bought two gingerbread men for he and his lady. Kim chewed her treat, eyes closed in sweet delight. Edward impaled his on his index scissor, then moved to take a bite out of the head. It was a yummy torrent of tastes: chocolate, cinnamon, whipped cream, fruit slices...glancing at the man's half-devoured head, Edward noticed that his smile was still there, absent any pain, as if totally unaware that he was being eaten.
The more he thought about this strange juxtaposition of morbidity and bliss, the more he smiled. Eventually he couldn't contain what he was feeling and he let out a chuckle. Then he suddenly grew quiet. This is the first time I've ever laughed, he realized. Edward was familiar with happiness but laughter was new to him. He had learned to mimic laughter, at some of the limericks his father would read, at some of the remarks his co-workers would make, because to not laugh was to mark one's self as a beast, and not a man. But none of it was real on the inside. Until now.
Kim hadn't heard him. She was finishing off the last of her gingerbread man and then went back to scanning the sights around her. Edward was relieved by this. He felt he had absorbed enough pity from her and if she knew that was his first genuine laugh, it would only generate more. Christmas wasn't the time for pity.
Exiting the shopping center, the couple walked along a main road, where pedestrians hustled, cars cluttered the lanes and commuters crammed into metro trains. "I wonder what we can do next?", said Kim. At that moment, something landed in her hand. The sensation was icy. When she glanced down, she saw frost, melting into water in her palm and when she looked up, she saw something she would never forget.
Snowflakes were beginning to slowly descend from the gentle blackness of the night sky. Only a few at first, but then with greater frequency, crystalline and delicate. People around them were gawking in disbelief. "Oh my gosh, this is amazing!" "I've gotta get a picture of this." "Wow, I never though this would happen!" "Dude, no way!" Yet, here it was. In Los Angeles, synonymous with beaches, palmtrees and California sunshine. Kim turned to Edward, who stood motionless in the surreal storm.
"It snows wherever you go!", she told him. "You've got something magical in you." He shrugged and smiled shyly.
There was a park in a nearby neighborhood, and young kids, wanting to get the most out of what could be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, rushed the parkgrounds en masse and dug into the snow. They pranced in it, they slid across it, they caught flakes on their tongue. They tried to build with it. Mostly just small forms, but one particularly ambitious group of boys was scooping snow into a large ring on the ground, then began building it higher and higher. "We're gonna make an igloo!", their leader declared.
Edward watched the children build, wistful and curious: what was it was like to be so small in size? Edward's father had created him using the frame of a fully grown man, so the sensation of "growing up" was lost to him. Was it frightening? Or would it be fun to be a little larger each year? Or was the process so gradual as to be mundane? He didn't know.
Edward's pensive thoughts on childhood were disturbed by something soft and wet hitting him in the back of the head. A snowball. He shook his head rapidly to cleanse his hair of ice, then looked around. Who had thrown it? He turned to Kim, who smiled cheekily, feigning innocence but being nothing except obvious.
Two could play that game. Squatting down and holding his scissorhands together as spades, Edward scooped up a massive pile of snow and hurled it right at Kim. She yelped, knowing immediately she had picked a losing fight. There wasn't even room to dodge. WHOOF! Edward's big chilly arsenal knocked her to the ground.
"Eep! Okay, okay, I surrender! There, you happy?"
"Yes", Edward grinned, and began to brush the snow off of her with his boot.
"Gosh, talk about overkill!"
"I thought it was funny."
"Maybe to you, but the fight would've lasted longer if you'd thrown something smaller."
"I wanted to win."
"You've made your point."
Looking for something to do besides play hardball, Kim thought a moment, glancing at the increasingly snowy ground. "Hmmm...do you want to make snow angels?"
"That's when you lay on your back in the snow and move your arms and legs back and forth to make an angel shape."
"...Okay, I'll try it."
They sprawled on the ground and soon two snow angels appeared. Edward found the image endearing. The span of his long fingers made its wings majestic.
"Awww, so cute! It looks like one of them is protecting the other one!", Kim cooed, as Edward swooped down to give her a little kiss on her face.
As the snow continued to fall, Edward and Kim sat on a wooden bench, reflecting on their immensely enchanted evening.
"My goodness...Everything is perfect right now. I don't want this night to end, Edward! I want it to go on until the end of time."
"This is the most fun I've ever had Kim. Even more fun than when Kevin took me to Show And Tell."
Then he added: "...could you please not tell Kevin I said that?"
"He'd agree with you!", she said to Edward's relief.
"Don't you love it out here? It's better than Florida, isn't it?"
"Haha, yes! It's true what they say. California knows how to party."
Kim lay her head against Edward's shoulder and Edward sat closer to lean into her.
"Edward...when I'm with you, I feel safe."
Edward basked in the warmth of her compliment. "You didn't before?", he asked.
"I didn't...I was really nervous about traveling across the country, especially by myself. I've never been out west before. But now...that's all faded away."
Kim stroked his forearms, moving up to the ends of his wrists, where his metal hands began. "Nobody's going to hurt you. What happened to you last year won't happen again. You have these. They're a defense against people taking advantage of you...against people trying to hurt you."
Edward was not flattered but frustrated by the danger he presented. He blurted a lament. "I want people to see I have good intentions. Sometimes people think I'm a weapon. I don't want them to see me that way. I'm not here to harm."
Kim continued without directly addressing his statement:
"You kept me safe from Jim. I can't ever thank you enough for that."
A squall of rage howled in Edward's chest at the sound of his name.
"Kim...why did you like Jim?"
"It was when I was a junior. I was lonely and I wanted a boyfriend. He was on the football team and I was a cheerleader. I talked to him after a game one night and it went really well and I just became infatuated. He seemed so charismatic. We were dating soon after that. Looking back, I was careless. I didn't know alot about him when we became a couple. If I'd known he had...issues, I would've just kept looking somewhere else."
"He tried to rob his own father."
"He resented his father. He'd complain to me about him alot. They didn't have much of a relationship and he always felt his father just wasn't there for him. Like he just didn't care all that strongly. I'm glad it was different for you. I can tell your bond with your dad was very special."
"I miss him. He taught me so many things. I didn't go to school like most people."
"I've been wondering: why did he invent a human-making machine?"
"...he wanted to help infertile people. I think he and my mother were infertile. They had to find another way to have a child. "
"A machine that can help infertile people...Edward, that's the sort of thing that should be shared with the world. There are so many hurting people out there, people who want children but can't have them."
"His research notes are still at the mansion. Maybe there are some engineers who could build more of them if they had his notes."
"So there's hope..."
Just then, Kim's memory lit up with something urgent.
"Do you remember when my dad asked you what to do if you find a lost wallet?"
"Yes. I said I'd give the money to my loved ones."
"I need to talk to you about that."
"You said it was kind."
"It is kind...but sometimes you have to look at more than kindness. The money in that wallet already belongs to someone. There might be some sort of emergency where they need that money to pay for something, and they don't have it."
Edward thought for a moment. "That's true."
"Yeah, so if you find a wallet, there's someone looking for it. Take it to someone who can tell everyone quickly. Like a store manager or a security guard..."
"Thank you, Edward. I...went too easy on you back then. And now that you're out in the world again, I knew I had to tell you the whole truth."
"I'm glad you told me. It's good to know. Luckily I haven't seen any lost wallets since I got here." He smiled sheepishly.
And so the night wore on and eventually the snowfall subsided. The children played until a late hour, when their parents told them it was time to go home, to their great disappointment. Little by little, the park emptied out, until the only ones remaining were Edward, Kim, and the kingdom of snow before them: a sky of low clouds, swooping to caress the mountains with their graceful fingers, tall shady trees sprinkled with snowfall, the expanse of a white meadow, majestic hillsides shrouded in silver mist, with houses upon them, their distant lights calling across the shores of a gentle, silent lake.
"Did you hear that?" Edward's softly spoken question woke Kim from her reverie. Listening close, Kim could indeed hear something faint. Every few seconds, from out of the silence, voices arose. Many of them. They were coming from the south, from somewhere beyond the park entrance. "Maybe they're carolers...", Kim suggested.
Rising from their bench, they decided to walk off and search for the source of the voices. Southbound, out of the park and into the streets they wandered. Each step they took, their feet crushed the snow beneath them. They walked five minutes, and then ten more. The sound was continually growing louder, yet there still was no source in sight. What was remarkable was just how far the voices carried, guided by spirits, travelling wildly to any and every destination.
Finally the singing climaxed and they knew they must be near. They turned the next corner...and the origin of the voices was revealed. The two of them were standing before the black iron gates of a one-hundred year old church.
Passing through the gates, Edward and Kim stepped across a courtyard to an ivory building, its blue doors wide open. From outside looking in, a crimson carpet led through the foyer to a wall of golden icons depicting Jesus and various saints. There were candles everywhere, at the main altar, hung from chandeliers, and in the hands of everyone present. The laymen stood at attention as the priest sung his proclamations, some solemn, some triumphant, and the choir responded to each of them, rich and swelling. Smoke billowed from a swaying censer and permeated the church with the fragrances of myrrh and frankincense. "This is beautiful...", Kim said as she stared forward. Edward nodded.
There was another arrival behind them. Walking his way to the door was an older man, perhaps in his 60s, with a luminous lion-esque beard. He went to Edward, and beaming as he looked directly into his face, the man spoke cordial words in a language Edward didn't know. He then headed off into the church and, entering the crowd, vanished. Edward and Kim remained outside the door and continued gazing into the chamber, the sway and flicker of candlelight in their eyes.
Kim was perfectly familiar with the Nativity Story, but did Edward know about it? Was it something his father had taught him? She couldn't say.
In Edward's mind, he wasn't absolutely certain, but he felt two things about this scene. First, it seemed like the people in this building wanted it to be a sanctuary for beauty, with the icons and candles, the uplifting choir and the flavored scents. A place where beauty could flourish and not be swallowed by ugliness or blandness. He admired that. Second, it seemed like everyone there was anticipating the arrival of a friend, and were there to greet him. ...Who was the friend, though? Was it the man who had just spoken to Edward? He did arrive after the others, he noticed. Yet, no one seemed to greet him. It was an intriguing mystery.
Edward and Kim watched the church as it worshiped for about half an hour, through various prayers. By this point, sleep began to give in. "It's getting late", Edward said. "Yeah, I'm a little drowsy.", Kim affirmed. Reckoning now was good a time as any, they walked from the church, down the road to the nearest bus stop. Soon a shuttle came to take them the several miles journey back to Edward's humble house.
This night had been something supreme to them both, a night of promise fulfilled, a night of unity and celebration, a night of bliss. Sadly, it's at these exact moments, standing at what seems the pinnacle of our existence, when we can become most vulnerable to attack from the forces of negativity, fear and self-doubt. They choose this moment more than any other to strike, wanting to ruin the flourishing we've obtained. Which is exactly what happened.
From somewhere unknown, a haunting thought had lodged within Edward as they were at the church. It started as small discomfort and grew and grew during the bus ride home. By the time he was getting into bed, it was a frustrated pounding in his brain. An anxious, existential shock, the clear path to a goal suddenly lost, leaving him trembling, lying awake under the sheets.
He said nothing the rest of the night and it took him hours to get to reach sleep. His blanket was thick and fuzzy, his pillow was cool and fluffy, and Kim's hand cupped his shoulder as she dozed in dreamland, but Edward was wide-eyed and tortured by his realization:
Ever since his father died, just before he was to receive human hands, Edward had yearned to become a finished human, but now, he understood: becoming finished meant far more than just "having hands", and not only did he feel he had fallen short of these points, he had lost his certainty that he even knew what "being a finished human" meant.