Happy Birthday

So it’s my birthday. And if there’s one word for birthdays, in my book, it’s fraught. Fraught with possibility, fraught with emotions, just fraught. I’ve happily anticipated this day for weeks, but now, in typical dichotomous Gemini fashion, I foresee all manner of disappointments. I suppose for some people a milestone like this would be an opportunity to plan the future, to look forward, perhaps with hope and happiness. But I have always been someone who looks back, who trades in nostalgia. Wistful, that’s me. 

Maybe that perspective is born partly from the fact that my birthday has always fallen during a fraught time of the year—the last week of school, when no one can pay attention to anything, when summer is tantalizingly close, when good friends say goodbye. When people leave and come back taller, or don’t come back at all.

This year on my birthday I look back to a season of change that began in January when I broke up with my boyfriend of three and a half fractured years. What followed was freedom and frivolity: morning coffee after dropping kids at school, afternoons at the river, nights on a rooftop in Oregon Hill. A time of deepening old friendships and meeting new people.

One person I met was just finishing his Ph.D. in genetics from VCU. He told me from the beginning that he was leaving in June for a post-doc at Stanford. The first night I went to his apartment, I walked down the hallway of one of those buildings on Monument that’s been turned into de facto graduate student housing. I passed someone taking his laundry to the basement; there was a whiff of beer in the air, paint peeling from the walls, and I thought, I have been here, and done this. And maybe I should go. But I didn’t go. And we spent the next month having dinner, playing Scrabble, talking. His apartment slowly disappeared around us—into boxes, sold on Craigslist. Eventually we were sitting on a mattress on the floor, his clothes piled in the corner ("Mount Washmore," I said, and he laughed).

On our last night together, he told me I was beautiful, and that I should not be with anyone who didn’t see that about me. A gift. One that I unwrap today, and may unwrap tomorrow, when he puts his few remaining belongings in a Ford pick-up and starts the 2,900-mile drive to Palo Alto. 

It’s my birthday today, so I know it’s time to say good-bye. It’s just that time of year.