I found a boy in a green apron that looked like he might be an employee. I held up my wallet and said, "Trees?" He pointed. I followed. Behind a small shack at the far end of the lot, I found three anemic-looking trees. Three.
The boy smiled. I gave him a look that caused him to flee, slipping only once on the ice between myself and safety. My hopes for a dramatic display of December defiance began to fade. Still, I was resolute. I had ventured out on a snowy winter evening to buy a Christmas tree, and by the deity, I was determined to buy one. So I did. I chose the largest and healthiest-looking tree and a handful of wreaths - for padding.
An hour later, I was home, the tree was set up, the wreaths were strategically attached and I was hanging fuzzy sheep while Phil Spector's Christmas album forced a wall of sound out of my stereo speakers. I was also drinking. It was a sad spectacle, but it was my life, and I was living it.
By 3:00 a.m., my dazzling display of December derangedness was assembled in the living room, and I was incredibly drunk. I sat down on the couch to admire the fruits of my labors and promptly passed out.
At around 11:00 a.m. I awoke to the startling sensation of being unable to breathe. My throat had closed up, my eyes were on fire, my chest was full of sputum and my nose had turned into a faucet. Something was clearly amiss. My experience with allergies told me that I was having a reaction to something. Common sense told me that it was the tree.
An hour later I was on my second-story balcony, in my underwear, dragging the arboreal allergy aggravator over the railing. By the time it hit the ground, scattering sheep as far as the neighbor's lawn, I was exhausted, freezing and wheezing like a tuberculosis patient. I crawled back inside and went to bed. I had just turned 30, and I felt like I was dying.
An old friend of mine has a theory. Like many of his theories, this one was born in a bar, sired by whiskey. Naturally, it involves alcohol. The theory, which he claims is supported by actual medical doctors, is that the surest method of curing an illness is to drink heavily. This apparently convinces the invading illness that one's body is not a safe haven, and that it should take its business elsewhere. The genius of this plan is that even if it doesn't work, one is typically far too drunk to care.
When I first heard this theory, I thought it was crazy. On my 30th birthday, I decided it might just be crazy enough to work. Over the next few days, I nursed myself slowly back to something nearing health with a steady regimen of Maker's Mark, chocolate chip cookies and KOTOR. I have no idea if this regimen had any effect on the progress of the illness or not, but like my friend had predicted, I was far too drunk to care.
By the time I sobered up, another new year had dawned, my tree-borne illness had faded, and I was 30 years old and a twice-defeated veteran of the Pine Wars. Each year, to commemorate the monumental struggle, I buy a fern.