Ever since she was a little girl in preschool, Merry had always been of two minds about her name. The other kids were always of two kinds: the kind of heart and warm of spirit, who would laugh and fall in love with her at first meeting; all the others, who would laugh a different kind of laugh, and whose taunts would follow in the next breath. With a surname like Christmas, it was a sure bet that even with all other considerations aside, she was going to make an impression on everyone she ever met.
By age eight, Merry was an embodiment of her given name. No brighter star shone down from the heavens that could outlast Merry's smile and cheerful demeanor. Even in the grey suburbs of muddy Seattle, she left a swath of rainbows in her path everywhere she trod. To all who were blessed to know her, Merry's presence was the sunshine in their hearts and her name the song on their lips. Such a bright and outgoing third grader, she was beloved by everyone and invited to all the birthday parties. She showed no favor for the popular or pretty, and was proud to bring a handmade gift to even the weird kid's birthday, where she was one of only three children in attendance.
Merry was always fair-haired and fair of face, but by age twelve she began to grow taller and darken in complexion. Her hair turned to auburn and her freckles faded in favor of pimples. Her beaming smile devolved into an awkward grin, and her flowing rainbow graceness graduated into a gangly gait. Her shoes did not fit her feet, and for many of her childhood peers, her star seemed to lose much of its shimmer. For the first time in her life, Merry felt like stranger in her own skin. Further, deep down within her being, a strangeness was moving with a motion she had never known. She realized, in the back of her mind, that nothing would ever be the same again.
At sixteen, Merry was a party girl. For satellite kids around Seattle in this era, this meant rebellion in the form of drugs and petty crimes. Only, Merry would always take it to the next level. For her crew, it was enough to rob a random house in the 'burbs and be happy with the haul of small consumer electronics, cash and jewelry. Merry was the one who set fire to the place, or at least took a piss in the bathtub of the master bathroom. She always had something to prove, or so it seemed, even though she was never sure exactly what that was. Bouncing around from school to school and generally one step ahead of the law, Merry was content to flirt for free cigarettes and spend her robbery earnings on black tar heroin, shot up with the homeless junkies under overpass bridges.
Two abortions, three overdose scares and one suicide attempt later, Merry found herself in San Francisco on her twentieth birthday. The bizarre mashup of different people and cultures from all over the world that were represented here made Merry feel like she was among kindred spirits. Lost lovers of the faded light, twirling toward freedom... or at least some fucked up idea of it. She was boarding in a house on Fulton Street with her boyfriend du jour, and living the gypsy lifestyle every night along Ashbury Street. Working sometimes in a head shop near Clayton and Haight, and other times rolling stoners in row houses for spending money, Merry liked to get loaded and hang out on Strawberry Hill in Golden Gate Park as often as she could. The look in her eyes most days was far away, burned out and bleak beyond words.
Life moves more and more quickly the older you get, and Merry came to this realization on the last day of her twenty-fourth year out in the Black Rock desert of Nevada during Burning Man. She and her daughter, three year old Nichole in pigtails and little else, were tagging along with a band of acid-eating yuppie scum in Winnebagoes. Sun, heat, fire, darkness. Repeat. On the way back to the Bay Area, everyone and everything was covered in white chalky dust, on both the outside and inside. Darkness and light were in opposition as always, but for Merry this moment marked a turning point. The voices from within the fire that had held her captive mind for most of the weekend were winning. None of the others would notice, but her daughter could see something different in her eyes.
Merry felt a weight lift off of her shoulders on the morning in December when she finally made the decision. Nikki was in school, a star of her second grade class at Golden Gate Elementary. She was now legally in shared custody of Merry and her grandparents, so everything would be taken care of. Nobody was there with Merry when she shot up the last bump and called the cab. Putting on her heavy coat, she looked at herself in the mirror. It was a simple plan, easy and clean. Everything would be better.
At the curb of Lincoln Boulevard in the Presidio, Merry paid the fare and got out of the cab. She walked up to Doyle Drive and northward toward the Golden Gate Bridge. She stepped quickly in the cold wind, confidently moving toward her goal. As the traffic sped past on the bridge deck, she closed her eyes and kept walking when she neared the blue signs warning "The consequences of jumping from this bridge are fatal and tragic." Upon reaching the first tower, Merry stopped and gazed out across the bay eastward toward the city.
She stood there for some time, not moving. The icy wind howled and whipped her hair into her face. As her eyes welled up with tears, she hopped up and threw one leg over the balustrade, pulling her self across and planting her feet on the narrow ledge between the balusters. She turned around again to face the city, let out three choking sobs, and smiled. Raising her arms out, Merry Christmas leapt forward and embraced the sky.