A Wonderful, Awful Idea
With his frozen fingertips wrapped around a steaming mug of coffee and the sunlight just starting to hit the snow on the rooftops, streaming through the window in a pleasant sort of way, Jack Kelly sat down in front of his computer to begin a marathon of one of his least favourite activities in the world: Christmas shopping.
And not just shopping for anyone – shopping for his fiance.
It wasn't only that shopping for David was one of the most infuriating activities in the universe – he was the type to insist that all he needed were his "loved ones" – but Jack loathed shopping more than snakes, ABBA, flavoured coffee and Bono combined.
Every year, for the last five years that he'd known David, Jack had braved overcrowded malls and overplayed music to buy him an overpriced gift, to which David would react overenthusiastically to cover up the fact that it wasn't what he wanted, not in the slightest.
Then Jack would open his gift from David and it would be something amazing and obscure that had been bought months in advance and ordered from some random manufacturer in Japan. Then they'd eat their Christmas brunch in awkward silence because Jack got an amazing, rare video game or a t-shirt from some weird band that he loved and David got another monogrammed gym bag.
This year, David was spending an entire weekend at the library, working on his thesis and only passing through the apartment for sleep, food and, if the planets aligned, sex. Christmas was still a month away, but Jack was taking no chances and devoting himself to finding the perfect gift for his fiance this weekend, even if it killed him.
And so, he took a heartening slug of his coffee and began his search at the easy and accessible giftshop.org. He was greeted by a large, colourful banner imploring him to check out their holiday gift guide.
Why not? Jack thought to himself cheerfully, and as he wriggled his bare feet happily, he wondered why he'd never tried online shopping before. No crowds, no shopping bags and, as he fired up his iTunes, he was grateful for the lack of grating holiday "classics".
An hour and a half, three cups of coffee and two playlists later, Jack had several perfect ideas of what not to get David, but not the vaguest of inklings of how to make his fiance's Christmas.
Jack leaned back in his chair, thoughtfully gnawing on his thumbnail. He had two days to find David the perfect gift – there was no time to dwell. He had to act quickly and rationally.
David, the law student, was the master of quick, rational thought. What would he do in this situation?
Like a sign from above, David walked through the door, his curls sticking up on one side, his cheeks pink from the cold.
"Want to know what you can get me for Christmas?" David moaned as he slammed the door behind him. Jack perked up.
"A time machine. So I can go back to the summer before I started this stupid degree and decide to be a kindergarten teacher instead." Jack cursed under his breath as David flew into the kitchen.
"How's the thesis coming?" Jack called out, quickly opening a work document to cover up the shopping website.
"Really, really not great," David replied flatly, head buried in the fridge. "There's still pizza in here right?"
Jack chuckled as David's head reappeared, face already stuffed with a cold, greasy slice of pizza. "What're you doing?" David asked through a mouthful.
"Oh, uh, work stuff. Contract stuff, benefits, you know."
David beamed. "My fiance, assistant union president."
"Assistant to the union president," Jack mumbled bashfully as David ducked back into the fridge. "Say, um, David?"
"My, uh… boss has a tough decision to make and he was wondering how you, as a law student and a rational person, would solve such a problem."
David raised an eyebrow. "Your boss was wondering that."
"Um… yes," Jack replied, clearing his throat uncomfortably.
"Well, what's your boss' problem?"
"Oh, that's, uh, strictly confidential."
David's eyebrow began to disappear behind his hairline. "Well…" he began, his tone still tinged with suspicion, "being, as you say, a rational person, I like to lay out all the facts on paper when I'm solving a problem. It lets me see all the possible solutions."
Jack mentally slapped himself. Of course – how many times had David been writing frantically about this law and that order on a piece of chart paper while Jack watched CSI?
"Right. Well, I will… email that suggestion to… my boss."
"Jack, are you alright? You didn't overdose on the Dimetapp again, did you?"
"That was one time."
"Well, it is cold and flu season."
"I'm perfectly fine, David," Jack replied a touch sharply. "Anyway, shouldn't you be back at the library by now?"
"Shit," David muttered as he glanced at his watch. "Okay, I'll be back some time before midnight." He barely had time to peck Jack on the cheek as he ran out the door again.
With renewed energy, Jack bounded over to the closet where David kept the easel and chart paper and dragged it over to his work station. Across the top of the first clean sheet, he wrote, "DAVID EZEKIEL JACOBS" with a thick, odorous Sharpie. He paused, tapping the marker against pursed lips.
What did he know about David Ezekiel Jacobs?
Well, he was a law student. He had curly hair and blue eyes. He was an obsessive cleaner and organizer. He liked soccer, Leonard Cohen and perogies. And he could play a mean acoustic version of "Hot in Herre". And he was engaged to Jack.
There were more, of course, but Jack's printing was large enough to fill the whole page with those few facts. Certainly, there was something in that arena.
Law student could mean some sort of dictionary or functional, scholarly tool. Organizational skills – he could get him a planner agenda! Except that he'd gotten him a planner for his birthday last month (which had turned out better than Jack could have imagined, as it led to some creative bedroom time management). He already had a bunch of Leonard Cohen albums, he liked playing soccer casually more than following the professional sport and Jack was a horrible cook, so homemade perogies were out. And curl control shampoo was too awful an idea to even write down.
Jack collapsed on the sofa, sulking. That was it. He was converting to Buddhism and he'd never have to buy Christmas gifts again. He was just horrible when it came to shopping for his fiance; always too many bad ideas and never enough good ones. And a half dozen bad gifts, does not a good gift make…
Jack sat bolt upright. An idea had struck him – a wonderful, awful idea.
December 25th, 2008
As David gently peeled back the Rudolph wrapping paper that was on sale, Jack fiddled nervously with a loose string on his pajama bottoms. David's gift to him had been, yet again, amazing – a rare, vintage Batman t-shirt from the seventies, ordered from Korea.
The lid from the box was pulled back and David removed a small, plain scrapbook from the box. Shooting Jack a questioning look, he turned to the first page and laughed out loud.
"'Christmas Gifts I Would Get You If I Were Rich, Smart and Could Control the Universe'," David read off the paper and Jack grinned.
While compiling the book was amusing in itself, it was nothing compared to seeing David's reactions. #4, a friend with a pole in the basement, seemed farfetched at the time (even when he wrote "I'm just kidding like Jason" underneath) but David cottoned on to the lyrics to "Hot in Herre" immediately. #12, the ability to physically manage time, accompanied by a poorly Photoshopped picture of David holding giant clocks, elicited laughter for several minutes and a wistful sigh. #25, a law degree, made David snort so hard hot chocolate came out his nose.
Some were cute (#32, more time in bed; #15, a fiance who can cook), some were ridiculous (#9, the world's most powerful Lysol toilet cleaner; #40, a rocket ship [so that your ass can be out of this world both physically AND metaphorically]) and none of them really constituted an actual gift, but Jack, who could cock his head and make anyone melt, was counting on his own adorable factor to make it a winner.
Shaking his head, David laid the book on the coffee table. "You know you're a girl, right?" he teased.
Jack merely grinned wider and said, "I know."
David smiled. "You know I love you, right?"
"I know. Come here." David scooted down the couch to duck under Jack's extended arm and lay his head on his chest.
"So it's okay?"
David tilted his head upwards to look at Jack. "Jack, it's amazing," he replied with sincerity.
"Good," Jack said. "Because if it wasn't, I was going to offer you rigorous Christmas sex as penitence."
David raised an eyebrow. "And that's… off the table now?"
Jack looked down at David, a stoic expression on his face. "What makes you think that's not part of the gift?"
Several hours later, as they ate pizza in their boxers, cranberry sauce left untouched in the fridge, Jack washed down the last piece of deluxe pizza with eggnog, let out a small belch and, before David could stop him, cried out, "God bless us, everyone!"
David shook his head. "I am so lucky I'm with you."