There are steady, droning sheets of rain.
The clouds relent and ease off to a drizzle; the calendar will not wait, whatever the weather. You have a list, and you have your errands.
There are fruit tarts at the gourmet shop, but they’re pricey and you decide against.
There are bathroom rugs on sale at the discount store, so you spring for red along with Scotch tape and wrapping paper.
You drive through town on automatic, stopping where necessary and checking items off as you go. Nearing the supermarket two miles from home, you note the tell-tale tent in the parking lot.
So you pull in and glance around. A few minutes later you’re joined by a friend.
Generally you’re cheered by selecting a Christmas tree but it’s harder in the rain, harder when your mood is dark, harder when the kids aren’t with you chasing through the cypress and the cedars, criticizing the droop of the branch here and the bald spot in the back there, cutting up beside the wreaths and ribbons on a makeshift rack, asking about types of trees that you can never remember beyond the blue spruce of your New England childhood.
With their good-natured teasing it’s impossible to stay annoyed, even as they’re off again running and wrestling, prolonging this process so the three of you remain in the simulated forest, in the seasonal playground, in this pocket of intoxicating aroma – fresh firs in the cold night air.
Even in the rain, even in your dreary frame of mind, even in your fatigue – it’s exactly the right height, and skinny enough for your small space.
A man named Joe lightens the undertaking; he’s cheerful, he’s chatty, he tells you he’s a musician. His dog with her soulful eyes looks at you and sparks a smile.
There is a quick negotiation followed by trimming an impertinent four inches at the top. Then Joe hammers and locks the trunk into an old stand you’ve been hauling around, and he secures the tree to the roof of the car with white cord and careful knots.
At the register you check out the packaged mistletoe – all bright berries and satiny ribbons. You shake your head when you see the price, but Joe finds a cutting minus the berries and offers it to you for free.
You smile broadly and you kiss your friend.
The rain is no longer bothersome.
The ride home in tandem is peaceful.
You both pull into the driveway. You dash into the house and knowing the branches are soaking wet, you spread layers of towels between the door and where the tree will hold court, as your friend carries it inside just before the next downpour.
Your friend is the man who loves you and does so kindly – despite your silences and emotional evacuations, despite the hours at your keyboard when you know he would prefer conversation, despite the depletion of something you cannot name yet the precious containment of what you can.
This is a moment, a series of moments; a picture, a series of pictures; a kiss, now a series of kisses. This becomes the evening of one musician named Joe and his dog, one good man whom you love and you say so, and one very tall tree with its pungent perfume harmonic in the way of senses mixing, even as eight feet of needles drip, and cotton absorbs their inexplicable sorrows.