I stand in the center of the store and question how I got here. Lost among seasonal blends and the past year. The baristas know my name and start making my drink, even before I pay. Is a man’s predictability worthy of pity or praise? I grip the holiday cup and Starbucks spins. Each past December is projected on the wall, mocking my current existence. A montage of smiling moments contrasting with this protagonist who sits at the coffee bar drowning his blandness in sweetened tea. One second I’m 7 and unwrapping an oversized plastic baseball bat. Then I’m 16 and it’s car keys. Neither of this happened, and this kid is someone else. Because I love punishment and don’t want to see myself happy at any age. Because I left and there’s an unhung stocking stuffed in the box, glittered with my name. My daughter will wake up early on Christmas morning with an eager smile and an absent dad. I’ll sleep in and be greeted to a few dirty dishes and a naked, plastic tree. She will wrap herself in a blanket and unwrap her gifts as the sun rises. I will drape blinking lights across my entire body to remember and rekindle any sort of warmth and illumination.

About the Author: Daniel Romo is the author of When Kerosene’s Involved (Mojave River Press, 2014) and Romancing Gravity (Silver Birch Press, 2013). His poetry and photography can be found in The Los Angeles Review, Gargoyle, The Good Man Project, Yemassee, and elsewhere. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte, and he is an Associate Poetry Editor at Backbone Press. He lives in Long Beach, CA and loves football, but he bleeds Dodger Blue… a lot… More and

Artwork: Sean McCollum