"Friendship is precious, not only in the shade but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a loving God. Of all things, the greater part of life is sunshine."Liv, the Look Back Girl,
in the first card I receive this birthday
I don't always believe in God and I don't always believe in miracles. Of course, even if miracles do happen, it's almost always attributable to a roll of chance. The gods of the scientific and unimaginative is a pair of giant dice. Concrete, indisputable miracles like the parting of the Red Sea, or tete-a-tetes with flaming bushes have but ceased completely to occur in our day and time. More the pity.
The only thing that sets miracles apart from chance is choice.
God, I choose to believe, had sent me a little miracle.
Over the course of an SMS conversation in the evening of the day I murdered suaveness, Liv mentioned right out of the blue that she might not even enjoy her 'big day' because of her demanding schedule in the coming week. I pounced on that at once, asking her what she meant by 'big day'. Could it be? I dared not even hope.
I am a believer of 'moments', and that there are perfect moments when doing something just feels right. They are moments when an imaginary blimp with Carpe Diem painted on it bobs across my eyes. They are moments when a voice whispers "Now" at the back of my head.
In that moment she told me that it is her birthday, I chose to reveal to her that the reason I asked her out was because it is my birthday as well, on Saturday.
I asked her out again, suggesting a small, brief celebration - just us two birthday people - over lunch.
This time, she said yes.
My birthday is usually the most selfish day of the year for me. It'd be the day I would count the cards and presents I get, the online messages my friends send me, and how many people would actually remember that I was born nearly 200 years later after the start of the French Revolution on le quatorze juillet.
This year's birthday is special - more special than the previous 20. I couldn't care less if no one remembered at all. On the eve of it, I nearly forgot it myself.
Liv had kept her birthday, her first here in India, a secret because she was petrified that they'd spring the tiresome spontaneous-whole-batch-singing-the-birthday-song routine on her in class (it's an MMMC thing apparently). I cannot imagine anything more tacky and insincere than that, I am sorry to say. And embarassing. Everyone knows that it's a pathetic attempt (and a half-hearted one to boot) to make the birthday
I was touched that she went out of her way to make a stranger's birthday a little less lonely.
So I promised myself that I would go as far as I can to make hers special.
I spent a good bit of Thursday shopping for papers and pens. The thing is, whenever I set out to handcraft something, I have absolutely no idea what I am going to actually make. I would buy whatever I suspect I might need, and then sprawl them all on the floor around me - kinda like what those stereotypical, princessey teenage girls do when they try to decide what to wear. It'll usually take me a few good hours before an idea hits me. As soon as one makes a landing, I'll dive in to work like I'm on Speed.
That's why I posted a DNDUPOD1 notice in my weblog on Thursday morning. My room would be in a terrible paper-plastered turmoil. Plus, I can never bear anyone spotting anything I have not finished. It's an artist thing. You wouldn't understand. No, really.
The objective this time is a birthday card with a small bit that would pop-up when it's opened. I have totally no idea how to make anything pop-up from a card - I have never done it before. This promised to be a fun project.
I finished it in the wee early morning hours of Saturday, possibly around 3 am or later. Of course, considering what you can see in the picture, it shouldn't take that long at all. It's just the way I work (i.e. very, very slowly). I sort of planned every step of the way as I went along.
I don't like the idea of giving store-bought cards to people with nothing in it but a mass-produced one-liner and my ugly signature.
Next on the list was a present for the birthday girl, which immediately posed to be a difficult problem to remedy. How do you shop for a present for someone you don't even know?
For two days in a row, I took walks around town hoping for some inspiration to fall on my lap. Then a breakthrough - I spotted this plush bugger sitting on the top shelf of the tiny Hallmarks store;
For the longest time, the only stuff the gift store carried was teddy bears which look like toy dogs and toy dogs which look like my face when my nuts got kicked. The frog in the picture is one of those bean-bag affairs with smooth, stretchy 'skin'. I liked the feel of it - much more than any of the other taxidermist nightmares which leered lecherously at me from the display shelf. I guessed it was as good as I could get in this middle-of-nowhere town.
There was also a dolphin made out of the same stuff too and was shaped like a bolster. It was about as cute as... err... a blue sausage? Easiest choice I ever made, that.
Two hours before I was suppose to pick her up I scampered around like a chicken with its head cut off to prep everything up. I picked up the cake from Coffee Day2 and brought it, along with the present, to our agreed restaurant to arrange something with the maitre d'. It took me less than a minute to explain to him that when I raise my hand the first time after our meal, one of the waiters was to bring the cake to the table - and when I raise it the second time, the plush frog should make an appearance. Of course, the 20 rupees tip I gave him made him understand what I wanted in record time.
That was a slight unforeseeable inconvenience concerning the festive paper bag I bought to put the frog in; I found a piece of chewing gum stuck on its bottom (on the outside, thank goodness!) and I had to bring it back to the Hallmark store to get it exchanged.
After that, I dashed home to see if I can find a decent birthday song midi file on the net to play during the time-honoured ritual of puffing the daylight out of the candle on the cake (one candle; it's a small cake). The original plan was for me to find the score for the birthday song and key it into my handphone - which seems like a sweeter gesture in my opinion - but I was thwarted by the discovery that my handphone lacked that most elementary of functions. One can argue that singing it myself would be the best solution, but it seemed inappropriate (and cruel) to put the girl through such a ghastly ordeal in no less a day than the day we celebrate her birthday.
So after I showered (for the second time in less than 3 hours) and left my house with my laptop in tow (to play the birthday ditty). I arrived at her place a quarter of an hour early, where I was slated to pick her up.
For the first time ever, everything went according to plan.
Actually, this was the first ever I actually had a plan for anything instead of ad libbing everything like I usually did. I realised that I'm not cut for the lovable, bumbling boy part anymore now that I'm 21, and that I should assume a more orderly-minded adult role.
Liv was the most gracious lunch guest I ever had. She's not a dullard and had opinions on every subject we cared to talk about. She responded splendidly to everything in a way which made me feel that my feeblest attempts in making her day memorable worthwhile. I am not at liberty to share the details of our conversation but I'll tell you this; there are things about Liv which took me completely by surprise. I really like what I learnt about her. Honest. As true as truth.
Liv gave me a card filled with beautiful sentiments of friendship and it touched me that she would consider me, someone she barely knew, as a friend. Against all reason, she agreed to accompany a lonely stranger on his birthday and made his day that much brighter in spite of the preliminary forecasts of bad weather most foul. I said hello, on Saturday, on the 14th of July, to a girl whose name I could not spell - and I said goodbye to someone more.
I was told many times that gifts don't always come in boxes or tied with ribbons or playfully wrapped in a dozen layers of colourful wrapping paper.
This time, I recognized it.
Happy Birthday, Liv.
End of Part 2 of 2
P.S. It felt awesome to celebrate someone else's birthday on my own - to try to make someone else happy for a change.
k0k s3n w4i
1 Do Not Disturb, Under Pain of Death (or Disembowelment or Decapitation or Dismemberment or any other 'D' word that sounds equally painful and bloody)
2 India's answer (and middle finger) to Starbucks and Coffee Bean.