I think I need a hit man. Or, not a hit man exactly, but one of those weasely guys who fix "problems," like Harvey Keitel's character in Pulp Fiction. See, I've got a cadaver in my house that needs taking care of.
It's been dead for about a month. I tried to give it water, but its leg had recently been amputated and I think it bled out. I tried to dress it up with some candy canes and plastic balls, but there's only so much you can do with a corpse. At least it still smells nice.
That's right, I'm talking about my Christmas tree. I got it December 5. My husband and I decorated it while listening to a live recording of David Sedaris reading "The Santaland Diaries," drinking wine and feeling flush with the spirit of giving. Now, just over three weeks later, I'd burn my apartment to the ground just to avoid dealing with it.
You know the drill: When you put your tree up it is fresh and flexible and smells like heaven, assuming that your idea of heaven smells like Phyllis' perfume from The Office ("Bob Vance bought this perfume for me in Metropolitan Orlando. It's made from real pine.") You decorate it with strings of lights and gaze at it and pour yourself a drink, feeling wistful for your youth.
Fast-forward to a few days after New Year's. Your tree has been up for over three weeks, and you've remembered to water it exactly twice. You start to remove the ornaments to discover that rigor mortis has set in so powerfully that your tree could probably star in Cialis ads.
The ornaments come off without much of a fight, maybe a few broken branches, but then you must ask yourself the age-old question: Is preserving a string of $3 lights worth wrestling 50 pounds of dead-weight Fraser fir to the ground? Assuming your answer is no, you can focus your energies on to the real struggle: getting it out of your house.
True story: In early 2004, my then-roommate Ellaree and I attempted to throw our Christmas tree out of our third-floor window to avoid dragging it down the stairs (and the subsequent vacuuming that would be required). First we covered it in garbage bags, forming a sort of Hefty tree condom that we hoped would let it slide through the window more easily. We had opened the window and started to lift it when we remembered that our landlord lived on the floor below us, and that we could hear her watching TV in her living room at that very moment.
The major issue with tree removal is that, much like the foam packaging that comes with electronic equipment, pine seems to slowly and imperceptibly expand over time, so that by the time you are ready to take the tree down it is roughly 1.5 times its former size (despite your not having watered it, like, at all). It is also missing that handy control-top stocking that the tree-sellers so helpfully wrap it in when you make your purchase. The result is a rigid, brittle skeleton covered in needles so dry that they will either scratch your cuticles off or drop to the floor immediately if you so much as look at them.
This is where manslaughter and tree disposal most overlap, at least if you have a hacksaw.
Regardless of whether you choose to amputate or simply to shove your surprisingly heavy Ghost of Christmas Past forcefully down the stairs and out the door, you are looking at a pretty major trail of blood needles. They will be everywhere: on your floor, embedded in the fibers of your rug, covering the stairs as if the faun god Pan has made a Tooth Fairy-like pilgrimage to your house, leaving a carpet of forest in his wake. This would all be well and good if vacuums could actually pick up pine needles; sadly in my experience they are Kryptonite to all but the strongest models. My vacuum -- no slouch, at $100 -- vomits back approximately 50% of the needles it manages to digest, forcing me to resort to my broom and dustpan, sagging with age and neglect, which serve only to grind the needles farther into the carpet fibers. If future civilizations ever study my apartment, they will be able to carbon-date the exact years of my residence based on the pine needles wedged in the cracks of my floor boards.
Somehow it always feels wrong to leave your tree, pale and naked but for the string of lights you were unable or unwilling to remove, on the curb. It feels especially wrong if you've removed all of its limbs. I don't know about you, but my garbage men usually leave it out there for days before they finally take pity on it and pick it up. Every morning as I leave for work, I avert my eyes guiltily as I pass the carnage, mindlessly rubbing my fingers over the palms of my hands, feeling for unwashed traces of tree sap like a modern-day Lady Macbeth.
Every year I ask myself if it's really worth all the hassle. Then again, the baby Jesus really seems to like dead trees for his birthday. And who I am I to deny Jesus?
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