Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Birthday to Meeeeee!

I look at my watch.  Then at Alex.  "I've been 29 for six minutes now."

He swings his head in my direction.  "Happy birthday," he says.  Says.  Not slurs.  This indicates to me that Alex is not nearly intoxicated enough for this to be of maximum entertainment for me.  And I could use some entertainment.  Somehow I got volunteered to be the designated driver.

Alex and Charles are puffing enormous cigars, the type that take them hours to smoke and leave my hair and clothes so saturated that I'll spend the next four days spraying down my apartment (and hair) with Febreze on a twice daily schedule.  Joe is chain-smoking cigarettes. 

"It's your birthday?" Joe asks.  "What are you doing here?!"

"I don't know!" I yell back over the din of the band.  And that, right there, seems to be my answer to everything these days...

Okay, let's back up; that's kind of a lie.  I do know why I was at the Flying Saucer on Friday night with three drunken Rhodes graduates who were treating me like one of the guys.  I was there to see Alex.  Alex and I are marking our eleventh year as friends, but I hadn't seen him face-to-face (no, Skype doesn't count) since somewhere in the vicinity of 2006.

And Alex was staying the weekend with Charles.  So when he told me to show up at Charles's house at 8:30 on Friday evening, I did.

The first words out of his mouth when I see him are:  "I'm old." 

"All of my hair is gray," I counter.

And then we hug.  And it's all normal, like I saw him last week, and not four or five years ago, before failed books and long deployments.  Before Kara died.  Before either of us had half as much gray hair as we do now.

Charles pokes his head around the corner and I get an introduction to him and his wife and off we go, "we" being the guys and me.  Joe's going to meet us there.  And just checking to make sure I know where "there" is, I ask, "Are we going to the Saucer?"

Yes.  We are going to the Saucer.  And they follow me to my car without comment and pile in as if it had been planned in advance that I would be driving... 

Three and a half hours later, it's midnight, I'm officially "old," I'm falling asleep on the couch I'm sharing with the guys, and Charles has stopped making wink-wink-nudge-nudge comments about Alex and me and is instead indulging Alex's discussion of our waitress who, like all Saucer waitresses, is wearing the type of skirt that I used to wear when I was in college and wanted some attention.  Those skirts never really got me anywhere...but from the conversation going on on either side of me, I'm pretty sure the skirt is going to get the Saucer girl a good tip.

Speaking of college, that's where the Flying Saucer tradition began, and then continued after I graduated and Alex - two years behind after joining the Marine Corps - was still in school.  We went twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays, like clockwork.  Once, I went on a Friday night with Megan, and as I walked to the bathroom, a man way too old and way too drunk to think he had a chance with me slipped me his number.

"Call me when you're single!" he rasped.  Apparently he'd asked the bartender about me and the bartender told him that I was a regular, and that I came in all the time with my boyfriend.

But Alex was not my boyfriend.  He's never been my boyfriend.  Ours is a strange, beer-tinged friendship, but it is a definite friendship nonetheless.

A friendship that, I'm now remembering whilst sitting on the couch, trying to keep my eyes open, includes a lot of discussion on his part about the Saucer girls and their barely-there outfits.

The things I'll put up with to have someone to drink with...

Not that I'm drinking right now, of course, because I'm the designated driver.  Alex just got promoted to captain, so he's buying.  Free alcohol, it's my birthday, and I'm the goddamned designated driver...


The plan was to wake up early on Saturday morning and run 12 miles, but instead I roll out of bed at 10:00, still half-sick from cigar smoke, and stumble to the shower to wash the Febreze out of my hair.  I'd gotten in around 3:00, and while that might normally be a badge of honor for a Friday night, for me it was merely a side effect of my inability to get anyone to leave the bar until they kicked us out to close for the night.

Somewhere before 1:00, about the time we were told to move from the couches into the main room, I'd checked my phone to see if anyone from the outside world had contacted me.  My surroundings and company put me squarely in Rhodes Space, which was somewhat surreal 6 1/2 years after graduating.  My phone came through for me, though; I had a text message from Eric, who is part of The Running World.  For about half a second, I contemplated the ramifications of these two spheres of my existence colliding...and then I invited him to join us.

But his non-answer was answer enough.  Too awkward, then...  So it was back to Rhodes, where Charles and Joe were swapping cell phone videos of their children and ordering more beers (more beers?!) and discussing the dark underside of children's literature.  I'd eyed Alex across the table and he knows me well enough to have gotten my message:  that I wanted to go home, that I hadn't signed on for this, that if he thought about it, he might recall a time when I freaked out over being responsible for a damned cat so God help me around videos of babies...much less babies I don't even know.  But he didn't say anything.  And I didn't say anything.  So I got home at 3:00.

Which is why I'm showering at a time when I'm usually already long up, even on a Saturday.  And I don't run.

I'm meeting Marissa for lunch and she, too, is part of the Rhodes World.  Like Alex, she doesn't live here anymore, but also like Alex, she happens to be in town for the weekend.  She and her finace, Jack, buy me lunch, a meal which includes a margarita and a free tequila shot, courtesy of our waiter on account of my it being my birthday.  I don't know what kind of tequila it is, but it goes down a hell of a lot smoother than the $15-a-bottle crap I buy at Buster's whenever the margarita mix goes on sale at the grocery store.  We get caught up and I fill them in on running and life and my night out with Alex and in a way I feel like I'm being selfish and talking too much about myself.  And in a way I don't care, because a margarita at Molly's and a free tequila shot will do that to me.

And yes, I am good after that shot and it doesn't take anything to convince me to come with them to the Stax Museum after we're done eating.  Marissa even buys my ticket, and I muse out loud how I'm having a Memphis-themed birthday since my parents had taken me to Graceland on Wednesday as an early present.  Graceland was fantastic.  So is Stax.  So is my whole afternoon with Marissa and Jack.

I come home and wonder what other adventures I'll have that day...

But the tequila's leaving my system now and if I'm going to be honest with myself (which I always am, damn me anyway), no one is going to call me with plans.  I contemplate texting Virginia - Virginia's always up for trouble - even if she thinks I'm a liar because during every one of the handful of times we've hung out, I've at some point uttered the words, "I don't have any friends!"  I don't mean it; I have some of the best friends a person could ever ask for.  It's just that none of them are here, and so on my birthday, there isn't a single person in the city of Memphis anymore who would call me up and say, "Hey, let's go celebrate."

And sure enough, no one does.  So I text Virginia (she's Running World, by the way).  And when she calls me back, she says she's hanging out with a friend that night but they're going to be partying later.  She'll let me know when there's a destination for me to meet them.

But she doesn't let me know before I go to bed.

And that was the twenty-four hours of my birthday.

Strange, huh?  Not definitively up or down and lacking a easily-identified point.  And that's actually a pretty damned good description of where my life is at 29.

(P.S.  This entry has absolutely nothing to do with the general tone of this blog or length of its entries.  EFFWHYEYE.)


  1. I need to comment on the most important part of this blog- gray hair??!! Firstly i find it wierd that u spell it gray, we spell it grey. But secondly, really??? No on a serious note Alex should have drove AND paid for drinks!! But also congrats to him on the new rank!! Well other than that I hope u had a nice birthday and your hair doesn't smell too much.....

  2. So...perhaps now is a good time to tell you that I'm planning on asking you for a professional consultation in Orlando! :D Yeah, I'm a good 20-25% gray already!!! Thank you, genetics...

    And I can finally smell my hair and not want to gag, so we're getting closer. I'm actually getting it cut tomorrow, so if nothing else, hopefully getting rid of some of it will help the problem! :)

  3. Really?! 25% is alot Becky!!! I think my consult will consist of me telling you its not even 10%... but yes, ok, ill consult! lol..

    Maybe give your hair another wash before you hit the salon... ;) dont want them to think you are some bar rat or worse you smoke cigars yourself haha.

  4. that alex - and I mean it with all niceness - needs a course in gentleman-ship o_O

    Just today I managed to read this - I'm wayyy beyond my normal reading scale ...

    25%???? I guess you are exagerating wayyyy to much here... ;) #fishingforcompliments

    much love Sasha

  5. Aw, I wish I could go drinking with you (it'd do me some good me too!!) I wouldn't comment on barely-there outfits at all. Promise! And, if I could drive, I totally would :-)

    And what's up with those grey hairs?! Seriously. It's depressing. I remove them with tweezers, but it's hurting my scalp. I blame my daughter, she's in a "no"-phase. I see a direct correlation: every "no" equals one grey hair.
    Cause it's not that we're old. We're not! ...right?

  6. I was starting to think that maybe I was overestimating on the gray...but then my new hairdresser today asked me, "Were you a natural redhead?" WERE?! PAST TENSE???! Dear. God. It's bad.

    Aw, I wish you could go drinking with me, too, Linna!!! :( (And no! We're not old!) And Sasha, you're a saint (along with everyone else who got through this) for reading this whole thing. :)

    Quite frankly, I'm looking forward to the day when Alex realizes I've written about him. That should be a good time. :D

  7. Haha I was wondering if he is a reader!!!

  8. I feel so lame that I totally missed commenting here the other day. I laughed out loud & felt bad for you at the same time while reading it. Doesn't matter that this entry has nothing to do with the general tone of this new blog, I thought it was great. You go, PG.

    & I'm with Linna, if I could have been there, I would have been a great drinking bud & driven for you too so you could get stinking drunk if you wanted to! >;-) (fuck those gray/grey hairs, dammit!)

  9. Thank you, Vanessa!! :D I'm glad you enjoyed it...and if we ever meet up, I'm taking you up on the offer to get me drunk! HA!!