In middle school I made some of my best friends by arguing with this girl Ashlee on AIM, which is an extremely 2005 sentence. (Meaning I was one year ahead of the game. Nice.) It was the first time we’d ever spoken and halfway through the argument, which was about her boyfriend Justin, we both realized we thoroughly enjoyed each other and started hanging out instead of fighting. We built a group of friends together and then all of us collectively fought each other every other day, because we were middle schoolers from Long Island and so that’s really all there was to do. At the very beginning the girl I fought with the most from this new group of friends was named Kate, and we mostly fought because her boyfriend (also Justin and, no, not a different one) was a straight boy and I was not a huge fan of that. But after mutually getting cursed when we watched The Grudge in her basement we started to become best friends. This was about a year after James and I stopped talking (which, James and I also had a friendship forged under the vengeful eye of an apparition. Huh.) so I was in the market for a new best friend, especially considering my birthdays up until this point had been pretty lonely and, overall, terrible.
You know how Friday the 13th is supposed to be the unluckiest day of the year? Yeah, well, surprise you superstitious dweeb, it’s actually October 2nd. I’m sure you’re gonna say my birthday always sucking has something to do with heightened expectations, but honestly I’m afraid of heights so mine are like two feet off the ground max. I mean, when I was young I never had a truly fancy birthday party like when Brian’s family took us all out to laser tag or when James took us to go see Shrek. My birthdays as a kid started off boring and gradually made themselves into full-fledged hell-fests as I grew up. Over the years I went from having no party and no cake to everyone canceling last minute, to everyone showing up and fighting with me over something stupid, to spending a cold night with flowers and a boyfriend who planned to break up with me a week later, to then being completely alone.
There was a sweet spot right after I graduated high school where my birthdays didn’t full on feel like I was ripping off a season 2 Buffy plotline. On my 20th birthday Pete bought me Stratego and planned a surprise party at the gay cul- gay youth group we’d previously gone to. We canceled last minute (the Phoebe moon in full swing) and played Stratego in his van on the side of the road until 4am, fully confusing every cop in the neighborhood that was sure we were having sex. My next birthday was just as sweet, at Gulsah’s home playing Celebrity with her, Kate, Yeliz, and Isabel while a homemade cheesecake waited for me in the other room. That night was total bliss and I could smell lilacs from the window, surrounded by a group of friends that loved me. And best of all spending it with Kate, the one girl in the world that fully understood me without judgment, 10 years of friendship without arguments. My other, far stronger half.
My last birthday hit me hard while I was reading birthday messages as they came in. It was less than the year before, which was less than the year before that, as I’d lost contact with most of my Long Island friends. Which were my only friends. I read the messages one by one, feeling a degree of loss for each. And then came Kate’s. A happy birthday message, and the last time we spoke right above it. Last year’s happy birthday message from her. Three exclamation points and a heart, but a feeling that, in my desperation to find my home in a new city, I’d lost the one person that mattered the most to me. And a question of when I’d be able to sit by the window and smell the lilacs again.
Ryan C. Robert is the writer of multiple comedy blogs, most of which are satirical and self-deprecating. He writes about his life in his personal essay series "Before Color," parodies cooking blogs in "Trish's Dishes" and posts writing prompts every single day.