On Sunday morning, Alistair's fever broke.
"Let's go get a Christmas tree!" he said.
"Not so fast, you have to get 100% better," I said. "Why don't we just order a tree?"
"No, we have to pick it out ourselves, it's part of the fun," he said.
I grew up with fake Christmas trees. Each year, on Black Friday my father would get the tree out of the storage shed. We would store it in pieces, but we knew how to put it together by heart: first we'd put a green pole in a fake tree stand, then the branches would slide into color-coded holes. It took an hour to untangle the multicolored lights and walk them around the tree, then we'd add the ornaments. My mother had an African-American angel tree-topper she bought in the early 2000s, but when I was younger we topped the tree with a lucite star. This whole "picking a tree thing" was obviously new to me.
There was a French Canadian tree seller who wrapped up a 6-foot-tall tree for us. Alistair took the back and I hugged the front, and then we slowly walked our way back to his apartment. Its a funny thing to carry a Christmas tree. Everyone stops to snicker, there's nothing more New York City than not having a car to take it home in. Halfway there we had to stop for a break. We were sweating.
"I'm having nightmares of carrying ski equipment as a child in Verbier," sighed Alistair. Then finally, we were back at his apartment. I hung white lights on the tree and we put it in the front window.
Monday was Christmas Eve. I had two objectives: drinks with Philippa and a dinner party at Alistair's. At one o'clock I found myself in a Christmas-themed reindeer lounge. Every wall on the bar covered in lights, wrapping paper or a fake fire. I ordered a hot toddy. When Philippa arrived I felt like I was bursting -- we had so many secrets and news to share among us. Some of it life-changing. She asked me how I felt after last weekend. I wrote about it in my Weekly: I'd been feeling lonely, rejected, embarrassed, among other things. I'm dealing with a stressful family situation, a stressful apartment situation. I wanted to say that I was feeling much better but I'm always vacillating between apathy and rage.
At four I left Greenpoint and headed to the grocery store. I bought a prime rib roast but the store was out of fresh rosemary. I stopped by two other stores and they were also sold out. Alistair was also grocery shopping and managed to find the last rosemary left: in dirt in the plant department.
The dinner prep was pure chaos. We host a dinner party nearly once a month but this time we were both stressed. Alistair kept saying he wanted a "grand feast" and I wanted to make a "simple supper." He planned to make a bûche de Noël from scratch. I snapped at him constantly, then in a huff said: "There are too many cooks in this kitchen and I don't want to turn into my parents!" Every holiday dinner one of them yells at the other to "get out of my kitchen." After the buche prep I tossed a dry rub on the prime rib and stuck it in the oven with butternut squash and a bit of red wine. We made a quick salad and broccoli rabe, put out salmon, lemon, and toasted bread. My prime rib was so-so, but the buche was the real treat. Alistair dusted it with confectioners sugar and placed cranberries on the plate to make it look like a snowy log in the woods. My sister and her boyfriend were our only guests and they were hilarious. We exchanged gifts and chatted till midnight.
On Christmas morning I stood by the tree, jumping up and down. "Open your gift! I'm dying for you to open your gift!" I'd bought Alistair a record player, so he could finally play the records he inherited from his father. We immediately put on a gypsy jazz album. We spent the rest of the day indoors.
Wednesday through Friday were a bust. I binged watched "Clique" and "Made in Chelsea" (I have the tv habits of a preteen English person). I felt unwell on Friday and wrote in my bed under the covers. I had to cancel my dinner plans.
On Saturday I loaded up on mandarin oranges, medicine etc. I was well enough to shower, fix up my hair and have Korean barbecue with Alistair downtown. We haven't yet made New Years Eve plans, but we might do what we always do: nothing at all.