White Christmas | Cassandra Voices

White Christmas


Editor’s Note: Readers of a sensitive disposition may find aspects of this account of drug-taking and sex difficult to stomach, but we believe this is a story worth telling. Our mission is to provide a home for independent voices that inspire new thinking.


I awake, into my usual morning of panic but today might be different. My first non-family Christmas. However festive, starting it is with booze first thing in Ireland, to pang off the alcoholism beyond in the making, it’s amazing in Northern California. I am so fortunate of the micro-climate of the Mission District here in San Francisco, and its extension to my locale of Bernal Heights. The tourist map doesn’t stretch as far as here, somewhat making me more of an authentic character in my adopted city,

It is the ideal temperature for walking off a hangover.

Third fag in the sun, having skulled a coffee, a beer, and sipping another of the latter in the pre-spring morning sunshine – I’m feeling pretty good all in all. It’s amazing how well you learn to ride out the cocaine heart failure in the making. I’m a lot tougher than I give myself credit for.

Even that it gives you a nameable blight for these wretched feelings helps: you can blame it all on something rather than the general suffering of existence.

A quick reboot of last night’s misadventure: the fuck buddy of sorts with odd strings dumped me again last night. She’s no doubt an attractive lady to anyone, but she’s more man than I’ll ever be. She’d mentioned the week or so previous, having a heavy period. I asked, “Are your hangovers not so much worse?” Legs spread, practically scratching her nuts, drinking neat whiskey, she cackled, cartoon-like fag hanging out of her mouth, ‘’Women are pussy’s’’.

Our relationship, in its fast and loose umbrella, has more basis in a Jerry Springer omnibus than anything resembling love or how it’s sold. We’re short on domestic violence, as long as you don’t count hers on me, and I promise you, I bring it on myself. An uncivilized drinking partner that eats cunt like me is probably not without its charm.

But don’t ever sit on my chest, rub one out till I break through the straps to devour the offerings, and expect me not to crack jokes. Assessment of the night before damage concludes with only Evelyn rightfully popping the dive bar lovers’ bubble.

Until this morning, Christmas meant a tense mother slaving in the kitchen far too much, but refusing all help till she’s screaming, “No one helps her!” Similar to any bigger family meal, only exasperated by a dead god on this occasion. For reasons that make no sense to us secular, but we get dragged, come leap in, all the same.

This is not isolated to this home economic task either. In all my youth and my on-and-off living with my parents, an always state of arrested development, I was never ever permitted to use the washing machine, even for my own clothes.

Absorbing all this tension from my mother, about decades of meal times is likely where I have some flecks of an eating disorder to this day, which must be a riot to hear for anyone who can see my midriff.

The walk to the house we were celebrating in was brief. I’d been primed along the quiet streets that Christmas, for the most part, doesn’t really happen here, something I was fairly excited about.

I’d some brain fog to match the city fog that late morning. Or early afternoon for the non-living for the weekend types.

This winter was some of the hottest San Francisco gets, but today I was feeling the icy fog it’s known for, outside of the Mission District. Cooling my perspiration compared to my morning ritual, all the seasons in a day here are much more pleasant than in Ireland.

All folk present had a mostly infectious festivity, likely though, was that none of us had work to go to for at least a day. Before I know it, it’s dinner time with my adopted family of ragtag heroes. Each one of them seems to be plucked out of a collection of good guys, the wild aces that could have gone the other way and sometimes ended up villains.

This food is so far beyond my class. There’s cheese in front of me that retails for fifty dollars, and it’s only the size of the coked-up wank wad I’d be creating right now were not I here.

I finally get the don’t cut the cheese joke but my initial thought is: “This smells like anal and I’m not convinced I want to be a part of it.”

The crackers alone cost more than I’d spend on food in a given day.

I got a great cop-out of what to bring to dinner, myself, and my primary guide-come shaman of the whole adventure, split the cost of the prime rib along with his brother, another home economically challenged come-lazy soul.

With it’s roasting someone else’s responsibility, my sole responsibility to myself or anyone was not to drink so much that I couldn’t eat sufficiently. And I failed.

I ate, sure, I even didn’t start the morning wrenching from alcohol poisoning – that being the common way to spoil this day, but I didn’t sufficiently consume my favourite meal of the year all the same.

Me and Evelyn, the cheesy proprietor, exchange many an awkwardness in the run-up to our first chat of the day. I felt her pity for me made it challenging to tell me to feck off as harshly as I needed to hear, or her say it. I am like a puppy who needs a boot, but we don’t because of compassionate society and all that wank that will lead to China ruling us all.

The booze pours festively and rapidly it becomes a whiter Christmas than I’ve ever known. I had nearly no experience with Peruvian powders two months ago now I’m hitting it with the power and comedy of a staged drunk on reality TV.

You know you’ve a problem when the most degenerate drug user you’ve known the Christian name of says: “Jesus, O’Dowd! Go easy on the sneachta!”

All my co-workers, and even suppliers, were Mexican so maybe I was Jeh-sus O Dowd


Around 18 hours later my investigative skills found me suddenly in a bad, bad dive bar. A menacing, not affectionately labelled dive. My resurface into consciousness is like coming up on psychedelics. But I’m by no means psychotic.

I’ve an odd if valuable ability to for the most part know what’s real and isn’t, even when experiencing lots of unreal. Things here have a melted quality. Fortunate of my previous jaunts to this bar, I knew already it had a Lynchian, “between dream and nightmare” feeling to it mostly caused by how fucked up you have to be called to the district’s only 6 am opening bar.

Cheese trader Evelyn is back and forth at the bar with a dealer trying to work herself up to the purchase. Women like foreplay. Men like a job done.

I smack my glass hard on the bar, spilling it down to my hands about the base making a mess: “Mr barman sir, who sells sneachta in here?”, stressing a H sound like my Sligonian heritage demands of me.

He smiles, like one does at a moron, and nods to some gentlemen playing pool. Remember those red and blue gangs who were all the rage in the 90s? Well, these were the reds, or at least pretending to be.

The meaner looking of the two with the facial artwork brought me into the toilets, then the cubicle for the exchange. This was commonplace. I believe there must be a legality in no one actually witnessing the exchange.

Even if everyone knows exactly what’s happening behind 35mm of chipboard, flashed with hospital baby blue laminate, certainly bought for a bargain. I request, with a combination of question, statement, and just general Celtic mangling of Germanic sentence structure: “Does he do 50 bags?”

He appears amused by the utter shambles before him. He has the sorely required zip lock, out in a moment, while I’m pulling fistfuls of every denomination of US dollar out of every crevice I am aware of having on my person. I must flash 300 plus dollars in front of him.

You’d be wrong to assume I was flush. This had to last me almost another month till my flight home. Why the hell didn’t he rob me? What sort of opportunist, outside the law, is he?

He’s the reason China is our future dominant global power but bless his tear-drop tattoo heart all the same. Or maybe he cherishes this date more traditionally than I do. As I step out my dear friend Fionn steps right in. Evelyn looks rather peeved at this.


It’s suddenly many hours later, I’m in an Irish bar I know, but not this messed up. Certainly when I’m pretty sure there’s daylight out those windows. In all the years of it, I’ve never felt as scummy as being really impaired during daylight.

There’s possibly latent Catholic guilt that I shouldn’t enjoy myself till all childer are in bed. Everyone present is new excluding Evelyn. Everyone including Evelyn is knee-slapping at whatever I am uttering.

I can surmise she is her variant of back into me again, a token nod of hand deep in my inner thigh. It, however, would be a Christmas miracle for me to make any use of that scenario with the Colombian blizzard I have been battling through.


Some incalculable time later. We’re as naked as the bed, with no sheets, pillows, duvet, or comforter (when in Rome), about us. Illuminated by street lights coming in the window like a synthetic moon, all of our phones are dead, including my burner brick which I thought was immortal till now.

Even the clock is dead. Is this a nightmare? She is freaked. You ought to be in your own gaff in this confusion, let alone next to me again. Why is the hair dryer broken in this room rather than working in the bathroom? Why does the house smell of piss? Why are our clothes all over the flat? Why is the shower broken?

All I can do is offer to look at the shower and realise. I am not a man. I masquerade as a man, but I am no man. The last thing I fixed was a VCR which must have been in the 90s.

She’s overdone now. This is too much for anyone without a lashing of “Mother’s Little Helper” to counter whatever chemicals we’re out of. She takes charge.

“My folks are away,” she states, “we’ll go there and watch cable till we can handle the situation.”

Pack up and go down the stairs to realise, she doesn’t have her keys, and she doesn’t know whose she has instead. We’re too distraught to deal with any of this. She’s going to have to replace both hers and her folk’s locks. For the second time. This winter.

But these others obtained along the way are really getting her briefs in a braid. We decided to order a Chinese and survive one more day. This was the first, truly, deeply, menacing come-down I had experienced here. The first that mirrored true depression to the point I feared I might actually be depressed.

Many friends, come-corrupted acquaintances, have asked me how I can hit, and hard, the class A narcotics when I suffer from a “medication for the rest of my days”, mood disorder. It’s nothing on real depression.

You still have enough introspection, even after the unholiest binge, to know that this too shall pass. You don’t get that luxury with the real thing.

With the genuine darkness reigning down on you, the best bargaining you can do with yourself is “this too shall pass.” With a firmer, maybe, “you fight”, entering your head. But even with manageable bouts of the garden varieties of utter despair, it will come back again. And again. Like Terminator sequels.

It never truly goes away, it just leaves you for a holiday. This experience was that traumatic, we should have been soul mates after this. Alas, we’re not even friends who share memes

I meet Fionn, the big spender, soon after for drinks. He seemed plenty chirpy till we began to converse in our cubby. I tell him how little I remember in a jovial way. His gate takes a shift downward. Around his eyes grows black, and baggy, skin turning jaundiced in pigmentation, losing elasticity.

His voice cackles with a poor handle on his life. “You don’t remember, do you? Fuck you don’t!”

Once we purchased our narcotics in the twisted dive bar, sometime the morning after Xmas dinner, we’re not so sure, we went out on the somewhat busy street to consume them with pinches and keys. Away in our world together we are shot back into the real world where the war on drugs is very, scarily, real.

And suddenly, I too recall at least this brief window of time. Siren’s tear through the, I wish, night. Blue and red bounce about the nearer buildings Fionn pelts back into the bar in fits of internal shrieking. Chucks his big spender 100 bag under a stool, and hops on a chair in the farthest corner, knees to chest rocking and now audibly panicking.

“Oh fuck I’m going to prison, I’ll never meet my daughter!”

“Oh fuck, Brian is definitely going to prison, they’ll never stop raping him!”

And I return to the busy bar to loudly proclaim,


Later that very night I got home and Evelyn called to fill me in on her recovered memories since we parted ways after the Chinese.

Kenneth had rung her to apologise and tell her he was paying for a new mattress and whatever else, and it had all flooded back to her. More of a trickle for me.

Deep in the darkness, engulfed in the memory bank, a mini party kicked off at hers at some stage, and Kenneth was put to bed as we went off gallivanting into whatever time of day it was. When we returned sometime later, Kenneth had pissed her bed and was trying to dry his jeans with the hair dryer. He burnt it out, trying to hurry through our giggles.

When he left we had a deep meaningful conversation, which she thought would be better not to bring up, stated with a tone that meant never. I performed an act of great kindness on her there in the living area before bed, like the gentleman I am, and off to bed we go. But she can’t relax in the piss-soaked sheets, so we strip the bed and proceed to have sex in the shower

Naturally, we break the shower, in what could only be awful, uncoordinated, glamourless, aqua-bonking. And the mystery of the keys is solved. Kenneth’s wife and Evelyn were powdering their noses in the deviant little girl’s room, and each of their keys wound up in the others’ bags. No need to change security systems after all!

Nollaig bán shona dhaoibh

Feature Image: Swing near the top of Bernal Heights Park, looking east.


About Author

'Brian O'Dowd is originally from Sligo. He writes stories, essays and standup comedy.

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