I was on my way to Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport on Christmas Eve, when out the car window I noticed some fuckers in shorts cavorting around a barbecue in someone's backyard. This was my first trip back to the glorious Pacific Northwest since I'd stupidly traded it for Hades, USA, and it's folks in shorts on December 24 that made the horrific 13-hour journey ahead of me imperious.

I arrived via shuttle two hours early for my flight and killed time in the cocktail lounge, vaguely attributing my throbbing headache to recycled air. By the time I was belted into my seat at 11:30 p.m., I was suffering severe chills, and my nose had begun to alternately run and plug. En route to Denver, the joker pilot began a series of annoying reports about a fat man in a sleigh jockeying for air position outside the cockpit window. At midnight, the flight attendants passed out complimentary flutes of champagne, glory be to God, because by then I could no longer deny I was rapidly coming down with the flu.

Denver airport was under construction and the only place I could find to lie down and die for the duration of my four-hour layover was near a door that kept opening and closing on what I could only imagine to be the tundra winds of the North Pole. And since I'd been living in Arizona for the last six months, my light coat wasn't doin' shit to protect me from the repeated Arctic blasts. The gate attendant said it was time to board my flight to Portland, and I painfully croaked thanks and got on the plane.

Seated next to me was a young pregnant couple. The husband asked if his wife might have my window seat, to calm her nerves. I offered a look that I hoped conveyed my desperation, but I got the stinkeye in return for not complying. Moments later, I began sneezing--covering my face conscientiously, of course--and on the third sneeze I came away with two handfuls of thick, viscous blood, much to everyone's horror and the pregnant woman's revulsion. I ran to the bathroom with crimson seeping between my fingers, worried flight attendants trailing behind me offering ice packs and blankets, which I took back to my seat. Furious that I had made his wife use the air-sickness bag, Mr. Pregnant demanded I give my ice pack to Mrs., which I did, but only out of sisterhood.

Finally having arrived at PDX, I waited another eternity before boarding a puddle-jumper bound for Eugene, my final destination. The sun had broken, and out my window I heard a trio of drunken travelers approaching, complaining about there not being any toilets on the plane as they relieved themselves on the tarmac. At this point I would've cried if I hadn't been so goddamn sick that I couldn't muster the energy. We finally landed at Mahlon Sweet Municipal, and I actually had to be helped off the plane. My parents, God bless 'em, took one look at me and drove straight to Sacred Heart Hospital, where I spent Christmas Day surrounded by nurses, physicians, and the ones I loved.