My friend Austin’s distress was apparent to me before I even reached our table. His twitchy mannerisms and his mask of worry troubled me a great deal, since I knew the tragedies he’d recently endured. He was stationed in the corner, where the only light source was the dwarfish lamp on the table. This meek, fever-yellow glow made every furrow in Austin’s brow seem gorge-deep and hazed his flesh in a ghoulish pallor. I extended my hand. “Happy Christmas,” I said, hoping that my somewhat saccharine tone might lift Austin’s spirits. He gave my hand a limp shake and bade me to sit.