…i don’t recall taking pleasure in spoiling my cousin’s christmas in 196_, at least not at first, although after his tears had subsided, no doubt assuaged by the mountain of gifts set before him by his doting parents, it may have come to me that speaking the truth may have unintended consequences — some that you can control and others that you cannot; you just need to remember to assess the risk/benefit factors before opening your mouth which is not always easy at any age (i speak from experience.)
banished by grown-ups to the rec room in the basement (or bored by the grown-ups we retreated to the rec room on our own) on christmas eve, he and i, never close to begin with, stood facing each other across the pool/ping-pong/foosball/game table and not knowing what else to say, but feeling pressure to say something, i blurted out, “you know, there is no santa claus.”
i stood there and watched as his face crumpled, his eyes welled up with tears, and a wail of disbelief left his lips, but by this time, just seconds after speaking the truth, my ears were burning and humming with blood, drowning out any sounds–watching him in pantomime then as he ran up the short flight of stairs from basement to foyer and up again to the living room (split-levels, you do remember them, don’t you?), the deep pile of sculpted carpeting like quicksand, all of this in slow motion, me following to see what would happen.
if only there were more to tell. all i know for sure is that evening a shift in our relationship occurred and although we were cousins born the same year just two days apart, living in the same small town, we never really ever were friends.