The bar, the other night, our regular joint, had gotten Christmas, just like a bad disease. There were lights that blinked (blunk? I like to say blunk), and garlands and a tiny little tree with tiny shiny things and as you slide off your stool and drip onto the floor, here is where the really great joke about spirits/the Christmas spirit and tinsel chunder goes. Happy holidays!
So we were admiring the decorations and the tiny trees and the blinking stuff and feeling woozy with goodwill and whiskey, and I suddenly realized, again for the third time this week despite all my attempts towards the contrary because that is what living in denial is like—a constant parade of internal stresses that are, like, totally tearing you apart—that it is only a week away, the holiday thing, and that my house is not a holiday thing. It is an anti-holiday thing. It is the black and sucking hole of despair thing. It is not that bad, but still.
Overcome with this realization and whiskey, I pointed at the tiny
little tree with the tiny shiny things and I said “Oh my god! Oh my
god, I need a tree!” I waved at the bartender. I said “You! You have a
truck! I need to borrow your truck! I need a tree!”
“But you’ve got a pink tree,” A. said. “A pink and sparkly tree!” “But
it does not smell like the holidays, I said. It is not right!” I said.
“I need a real tree!” I must have looked crazy in a pathetic kind of way,
and also because we have grown close, lo this past year, over the
consumption of alcohol and the exchanging of money for goods and
services, because the bartender shrugged and said sure. “Sure?” I said.
“Sure!” he said. “Do you have your license?” “Yes!” I said. “Can you go
tomorrow afternoon?” he asked. "No,” A. said. “You can’t skip work for a
tree.” “That is a lie!” I said, except it wasn’t.
Then I looked sad. Very, very sad. Do you know how sad I looked? Very,
very, extremely. The saddest. So sad. Sad, sad, sad. Sad! Aroo! So the
bartender said “Eh, I’ll get you one. You drop by tomorrow, I’ll have a
tree for you. How big do you want it?” “How big do you think I want
it?” I said, and wink and nudge, and as we threw our heads back and
slapped our knees and threw our arms around one another’s shoulders and
swayed to the beautiful rhythms of each other’s hearts, we were all
filled to the very brim with the holiday spirit, and I promptly forgot
about my tree, except for the thumping of panic that still drove my
blood around my body in frantic bursts.
Tonight, I got home from work, and met up with J., who decided he
wanted diner food, so we walked up past the bar. “Ha ha,” J. said. “You
have to stop and get your tree!” We stopped in, and my bartender said,
“You thought I forgot, didn’t you.” “Of course you forgot!” I said. He
held up a finger. “I might have something I can give you.” He hopped
over the bar and unlocked the storeroom.
I mean, you know how it ends, but I’m still overcome. This guy who I
know, who is my bartender, this guy who we joke with and are friendly
with and who seems to like us and who we like very much, this guy who
knows us because we come to his bar, he thought about me during the
day, and picked out a tree for me, and brought it out of the storeroom,
this perfect little four foot tree, dark green, fragrant, perfectly
shaped. He would not let me give him any money. He said “Happy
holidays,” and he smiled at me.
Now I have a tree, a beautiful gift tree for which I am grateful. It is
sitting out in my kitchen, out of the way while the branches fall, and
it is filling up the house—I can smell it here in the living room. It
is a big smell, and familiar, and kickstarting things in my head that