Authors: Sean Kennedy
Tags: #m/m romance
An Australian Christmas in New York
apartment door crashed open, and Vince immediately burst through it. The room always seemed filled as soon as he entered it, not so much because of his size but because of his natural boisterousness.
He stared at Chuck lying on the couch, his brow furrowed in a mixture of displeasure and disbelief. “I don’t believe it!” he cried. “It’s colder in here than it is out there, and that’s saying something!”
Chuck grinned and closed his book. “I think the heat’s on the fritz again.”
“Again?” Vince demanded. “Name me a time when the damn thing’s actually
“We’re paying for the view more than the utilities,” Chuck said, an oft-repeated mantra that hoped to justify their extravagant rent.
“Aww, come here and get warm.” Chuck lifted a corner of the blanket he was burrowed under and indicated that Vince should crawl in with him.
It didn’t take much to persuade Vince. He kicked off his shoes and threw his jacket across the room before running over and tackling Chuck, pushing him further into the couch. Chuck made a feeble protest as he was crushed under Vince’s weight, but he could barely squeak out any resistance.
“Am I too heavy for you?” Vince asked without remorse.
“Love you… just the way… you are…,” Chuck wheezed.
Vince shifted his weight so that Chuck was no longer being crushed and wedged himself more in-between his partner and the back of the couch.
, he reminded himself.
They call the damn things sofas over here
He had been in the Big Apple for four years now, but he still couldn’t change certain words to fit in more linguistically with the natives. Chuck still looked at him, waiting for the punch line, when he told Chuck he was going down to the deli for milk.
A deli’s where we go for pastrami on rye
, Chuck would reply patiently.
Or how about looking for the trolley when they went to the supermarket?
No, that’s a
. And we go
Vince had replied snottily.
What you call a trolley, we call a tram anyway. And you know exactly what I mean, we’ve been together for long enough
, Chuck always said.
I just like you when you get all red and flustered. You actually have to be born here to be considered a true New Yorker, so just be yourself.
It wasn’t like Chuck was a true New Yorker either; he had come from State College, Pennsylvania. But at least he had the lingo down enough to be able to truly blend in.
“I can hear your brain clanking,” Chuck said, interrupting Vince’s trip down memory lane.
Vince didn’t reply; he just nuzzled against Chuck’s neck, taking in that sweet smell he couldn’t exactly describe but was ultimately so…
. His partner with the all-American name and boyish demeanor that made him seem to come straight out of some Hollywood golden-age family drama. The boy next door. Who just happened to like boys.
“Talk to me,” Chuck said. “What’s on your mind?”
Vince’s hand snaked beneath Chuck’s shirt and rested against the warm skin of his chest. “You.”
“That’s sweet,” Chuck said, grinning. “But you’re full of it.”
“Well, I always think of you,” Vince protested.
“I don’t think I even want to know.”
Vince lifted the hem of Chuck’s shirt and kissed his belly. “Really?”
Chuck reached down and took Vince’s face in his hands, cupping it gently. “Spill it.”
This time Vince blew a raspberry against Chuck’s belly. Then he looked back up at him. “You know I love New York, right?”
Chuck laughed. “I’ve heard you call it a shithole full of assholes quite a few times, but it’s usually with affection.”
“Right,” Vince said earnestly. “But today on the subway, it just got to me.”
“That everyone’s getting ready for Christmas, and I’m not.”
Chuck rubbed his shoulder. “There’s still plenty of time to get ready for Christmas.”
“What I mean is I’m not
it this year. Usually by this time, I’m getting excited just thinking about it. I’m already planning gift lists and thinking about putting the tree up… I’m just kind of—” he struggled for the right word to signify the depth of meaning, “—
… right now.”
Vince pulled away so that he could sit up properly, and Chuck had to rearrange his legs so Vince could fit on the other end of the sofa.
“This is going to be my fourth Christmas here. And the first few have been really exciting. Different, I guess, from what I’m used to. They’ve been the stereotypical white Christmas, like you see on movies.”
Chuck’s brow furrowed, showing he didn’t really get the problem. “But this is a good thing, right?”
“It was fun,” Vince said, once again trying to choose his words carefully, this time so as not to offend the man he loved.
?” Chuck asked, and Vince could tell he was already getting his back up.
“Well, it still
. Who doesn’t like snow and rugging up and having to wear mittens and scarves while throwing a quarter into Santa’s bucket outside Macy’s? While chestnuts roast on the streets and get sold to you in little brown paper bags? It’s like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Until you get asked by someone if you want to buy crystal meth.”
“You’ve never been asked to buy crystal meth,” Chuck scoffed.
“I was just trying to add some New York flavor,” Vince said.
Chuck whacked him. “So, Christmas is becoming too
for you, then?”
“I wouldn’t say that exactly,” Vince stated thoughtfully. “It’s just not
“Is this going to devolve into another America versus Australia debate?” Chuck asked warily, as it was a common theme whenever Vince got homesick.
“We’ll always win because we have Vegemite and kangaroos,” Vince said matter-of-factly.
Chuck threw a cushion at him. “You’re lucky you ever evolved as a nation with that foul thing you think is a condiment.”
“It’s not a
!” Vince told him for the millionth time. “It’s a spread!”
“Wikipedia says it’s a condiment.”
“And that’s why you shouldn’t believe everything Wikipedia tells you. It was probably some Yank who wrote it in the first place.”
“Do you realise when you call us Yanks you sound like some Southerner who still thinks the Civil War is going on?”
“Well, stop picking on Vegemite!”
“It tastes like
,” Chuck muttered. “Not even mold—in fact, I’d rather eat mold.”
Vince glowered. “That can be arranged.”
Chuck began to laugh. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt the feelings of a yeast spread.”
“Can you stop talking about Vegemite and listen to me?”
Chastened, Chuck nodded. “Continue.”
But now Vince was distracted. “Mum’s relief package should be coming soon. Which means more Vegemite, some Cherry Ripes and Twisties. And there better be Tim Tams.”
“Now Tim Tams,
good,” Chuck agreed.
“You’d sell your soul for anything with chocolate on it.”
“True. I can’t believe your mom still sends you
“You’ve seen how much they charge to buy that stuff over here!”
“I’ve also seen how many REESE’S Peanut Butter Cups you can chow down, so I’d think you could survive on them if you had to,” Chuck teased.
“Yeah, well let’s see you survive in Australia if you didn’t have access to Cherry Coke or ingredients for s’mores,” Vince reminded him.
Chuck slapped his cheeks in a rather poor Macaulay Culkin imitation. “Life without s’mores!” He leaned in and pulled Vince against him again. “Life isn’t
bad here, is it?”
“Of course not,” Vince said. “Just missing the homeland today, that’s all.”
“What’s so special about an Aussie Christmas, anyway?” Chuck asked, and Vince could tell from his tone that he was only joking. More than likely he was trying to get him to open up and get it all off his chest.
He decided to oblige him. “The weather, for one thing. You wake up in the morning, and it’s already stinking hot. You put on shorts and a tee, and you’re drinking beer by ten.”
“Are all Australians alcoholics?” Chuck mused.
“It’s Christmas Day! You’re allowed to drink by ten, just like a box of Cadbury Roses can be your breakfast if you really want it to be. Besides, Aussies know how to hold their booze, mate. You open your presents, have a fried breakfast with lots of bacon and eggs, and you get started on the beer. You’ll then go on to the cheese and onion chips and French onion dip while the main meal is cooking. The kids will have a swim in the pool because they’ll already be sick of their new toys, and it’s too hot to do anything
swim. The air conditioning will be cranking in the house, trying to fight against the oven, and the men will be standing about in the backyard fighting over who gets the honor of doing the meats on the barbecue.”
Vince could feel himself sinking into a reverie as he recounted what happened every year—in fact the only things that seemed to changed were the heights of the kids, the size of the waistline of the adults (and the numbers of grey hairs they had), and the extravagance of whatever toys were popular that year for delivery by Santa. Chuck was listening attentively, even though he had heard it all before.
“Soon enough everything will be ready, and even though it’s a hundred degrees and the sweat is rolling down our faces, we will still sit down to a full-cooked roast and veggies with gravy. Everybody will be flushed with heat, but no one will complain. Crackers will be pulled, and silly hats worn, and the jokes that come with the crown will be told, and everyone will find them funny even though they’re not.”
“I think that part of Christmas is pretty much universal,” Chuck said. “Just like the toy in the cracker is pretty much guaranteed to suck and be thrown out with the crown.”
Vince laughed. “True. But you can’t have a Christmas without them.”
“It would be too weird.”
“Anyway, after the crackers, there will be two desserts.”
“Gluttons,” Chuck teased.
to have the plum pudding with brandy sauce and custard. Otherwise, what’s the point of having Christmas at all?” Vince smiled to himself. It wasn’t even like he was a fan of plum pudding, but to have the big dinner without it would have been tantamount to sacrilege. “But you can’t go without Mum’s trifle either.”
“I don’t know how that thing can be delicious, from what you’ve said before it sounds ridiculous.”
“Says the man whose dad deep frys Twinkies every Thanksgiving.”
a tradition.” Chuck was practically salivating at the thought.
Vince was having his own Pavlovian dog-like response to the vision of a bowl of trifle before him. Jam roll and fruit soaked in port wine jelly, then layered with cream and custard, and topped off with a broken-up flake—chocolate shavings for those not in the know. Best dessert in the world, and especially perfect for a hot summer’s day. And nobody could make it like his mum—why could mums only make certain things so well?
“After the cleaning up, everyone retreats to their own corners for a while. Either to sleep or play with whatever they got that day. Then in the afternoon you swim, drink more beer, and eat leftovers as the sun starts to go down and the Fremantle Doctor comes in.”
Chuck looked blank, obviously expecting further clarification.
“Do you ever listen to anything I tell you?” Vince chided him. “It’s what we call the wind that comes in the afternoon and cools down the city.”
“Like El Niño?” Chuck asked.
Vince rolled his eyes. “Yeah,
like El Niño.”
Chuck lived up to his name with a low chuckle. “You are too easy to tease sometimes.”
“You shouldn’t be teasing me when I’m obviously in such a fragile state,” Vince complained.
“Okay.” Chuck held up his hands in surrender. “Look, I can understand why you’re feeling homesick this year. But it’s like you said, the excitement’s worn off now. That’s only natural. But I promise you, when the day itself comes, you’ll get your mojo back.”
?” Vince laughed. “Maybe I will.”
“That’s the spirit. That’s the Aussie guy I know and love.”
“Don’t be such a sap.”
“I’m a sap? You’re the one wanting your mommy.”
“Well, stop sooking. Our Christmas will put Hallmark movies of the week to shame.”
Vince decided he would let himself be mollycoddled, but he couldn’t help but think of the extreme heat of the sun glinting off the waves of an over-chlorinated pool while smells of a roast dinner floated in from the kitchen. The sights and sounds of a true Aussie Christmas.
* * *
countdown to Christmas began to speed mercilessly towards its inevitable arrival. It got colder, and Vince felt the marrow in his bones grow icy. It wasn’t natural. The days should be heating up, and families should be clustering around the nightly news weather report looking to see if the seven-day forecast would proclaim if Christmas Day was going to hit the forties or not. Centigrade, that is.