Saturday, 20 June 2009 - 5:49 pm


The more I think about this whole birthday idea, the more I’m not sure if it’s a good idea. It doesn’t feel right to make a fuss of one person when there’s so much else going on. I don’t know how many birthdays we’ve missed.

I don’t know how many of us will live to celebrate our next birthday.

Normally, I would talk to Matt about this kind of thing. But it’s his birthday that has brought all of this up, and I’d still like it to be a surprise for him. It sounds silly when it’s stated so plainly but I want to hold onto every little thing that might make this special for him, and for everyone else too. I still believe that we need a celebration right now.

I went to Sally to talk about it again and told her about my concerns. I want this to be right, I want it to work. I want it to make everyone feel lighter. She smiled at me and made such a simple suggestion.

“So make it about everyone.”

It took me a moment to think through what she was suggesting. It was the perfect idea, though. There’s no reason that Matt should be the only one to get presents, why his life is the only one to be celebrated.

Sally and I spent some time working out what we’d do, what we needed and what we have. I think it’s the most that the two of us have talked in a single stretch, probably more than we’ve said to each other in a whole week before. It was nice. I had forgotten how good it was to talk to a girl, to have someone I might call a girl friend.

I’ve never set out to do something like this before; our traditions have happened by accident or on spur-of-the-moment decisions. It’s stressful business – what if I screw something up? What if I forget something vital? What if it all goes horribly wrong?

“Will I have to make a speech?” I asked at one point, my stomach slithering down towards my feet.

Sally laughed at the look on my face, shaking her head. “Someone will have to.”

“Oh, shit.”

She patted my hand. “You’ll do fine. You always do.”

Do I? I have no idea; most of the time I just make stuff up as I go, my mind galloping in the background to try to prepare my mouth for what’s about to fall out of it. All of a sudden I had a craving for notecards and colour-coded ink.

To pull my head away from all of that, I looked at the girl sitting next to me, swathed in her layers of clothing. We’re all like that, bundled up against the cold, three pairs of socks and four shirts. It was impossible to know what shape she was under all of that, though I was sure she must be showing by now. She must have that one soft bulge on her skinny frame.

“It would be a good opportunity to tell everyone,” I told her cautiously. “Use one birthday to announce another.”

Her hands went to her belly, then shifted off as if she knew that the gesture gave her away. “You wouldn’t….”

“Oh, no, no. You should, but I won’t.” I won’t tell her secret, but I think the group should know. I don’t think she should have to carry it alone.

It made her uncomfortable. “Maybe,” was all she would say.

I changed the subject and we made some plans. We only have a couple of days left before Matt’s birthday and there seems like so much to do. We did rule out cake, though – any cake that hasn’t decomposed by now is too scary to think about eating.

Luckily, we have plenty of candles. Enough for one each.