I hate planning birthdays.
I just hate it. I don’t like the stress of having to plan a whole party and make sure it goes well when all I want to do is relax and have fun. I worry about if everyone has enough ice. I don’t like the fact that half the people who RSVP flake and I spend my lunch breaks revising and reversing the sushi reservation eighteen times. I don’t like getting older anymore. I’ve hit that limit.
But I have Ash. And Ash simply says things like: I’m free on Saturday, it’s your birthday. See you then.
As generous and sweet as she is ravenous and ridiculous, Ash shows up with cupcakes you didn’t order and a tiara you don’t want to wear because it’s your birthday goddamit and you will enjoy it despite yourself. Thank god for Ash, where would we be without friends like her.
Ash insists that your life is an occasion. She is glitter and the Playboy Mansion and the Oscar afterparty with Charlize Theron. She is six feet tall, blond and blue eyed, and and she is intent that I celebrate the anniversary of my own existence.
Ash is a good friend.
I have a hard time planning celebrations thanks to a long history of being let down. Sometimes it just takes a kind hand to guide you and remind you that you’re not a kid anymore, you’re more resilient than you used to be, and regardless of what anyone else does, someone will show up with a damn tiara. It’s your birthday.
It’s only been two weeks since the last time I spoke to E. Fourteen days is not a long time to grieve before having to go celebrate. I have this weird thing with redeeming objects. If I’m stuck with something that reminds me of you, I can’t get over it until I purge it. If I can’t bring myself to purge it, I have to somehow make it right. Right now I’m just thinking I have nothing to wear for this damn party. I have felt out of place in all of my clothes since I lost the ability to wear heels. My strength was in my extra 5 inches. I’ve never been quite sure who I am closer to the ground. Then, pushing apart hangers I am struck by the red dress I had picked out back in December. The one I knew he might not like but was the first thing I had found since I’d gotten sick that made me feel like I might still be beautiful. I was going to wear it just for him, but now that it’s my body, my life, I’m pulling it out.
The girls come up in a laughing, giggling swarm. We tumble and swirl around the apartment, the old familiar energy I love. The frenetic clash of curling irons and blush brushes, the leaning and bending into mirrors, the last eyelash curl before the taxis show up. The lightness and the love.
Someone tells me I look beautiful. And even in my flat shoes with my hip donut, I somehow, crazily, feel a little beautiful.
We go to sushi. I remember this place. The back alley and E pushing me up in against the car. But my new memories, stronger and searing and expanding by the second, are starting to eat the old. We reach across each other for more edamame, we curse chopsticks and shoot more sake, we swap and taste and tell stories over miso soup. I am happy.
The lights dim and suddenly everyone is singing to me. Ash has a point. No matter how many years you may do it, there is something special about people going out of their way to show you love. I put the damn tiara on while they bring out a giant boat made of fruit.
When dinner’s over we trip back to mine for sweatpants, cupcakes, and card games. I decide to make a move. I plunge into my closet and grab E’s birthday present, a sushi and sake set. He had mentioned in passing several times over the summer how he had wanted one, and after raiding everywhere from Sawtelle to little Tokyo, I determined nothing in Los Angeles was quite special enough for this man, and (way over my budget) had a set of four cups and plates handmade to my exact specifications for his apartment.
“Pour them out” I say, setting the cups on the table. Chloe, always prepared, has brought a bottle of sake. Leave it to that girl to expect me to be brave.
“I knew you had it in you.”
“Just hush and let me sip one, I didn’t take my meds today”
We laugh. We share. It was a work of art. Far too beautiful to smash into the ground (Chloe’s original idea) it has a presence all it’s own. I thought it was so precise, so exact, that it could only ever be meant for him, and what good was it otherwise? It seemed wrong to regift something so carefully measured out and planned for someone else. As it turns out, a room full of girls laughing and holding every piece seemed to soak the pain right out. Redemption, right? It all feels good.
It’s at this point, that I remember the one thing I still have to get rid of. He’s off my phone, out of my photographs, and away from my bed, but I still have these damn wine glasses. The ones he bought from the each time we tasted wine. His thing. His thing that blew it all up.
“Who wants to smash some glasses tonight?!?”
And I know it’s sounds ridiculous, but we’re doing the only thing in the world that makes sense. Trust me, it’s my birthday. We march out of the apartment, down the stairs and to the car park, armed with glasses inscribed with the names of every place I want to forget. I feel enlightened and I feel powerful and I feel – CRASH! And the first glass shatters into the dumpster. I jump, then I laugh, and as we keep going, I get lost in the giggle, the flurry, the buzz of love around me.
There is nothing else in this bedroom neighborhood but Saturday silence.
But here, in my home, there is the sound of girls with curled hair and false eyelashes, stumbling in high heels and short dresses, gasping, screaming – smashing memories into oblivion as we laugh into the night.