It was the night before my birthday and my editor took me out to dinner to celebrate. He expensed the booze and I came home in as good a mood as could be expected under the circumstances, ready to face whatever the year might bring.
The Playwright texted me. We had gotten past our first-night hiccups.
Playwright: Happy birthday to you! How was dinner?
Playwright: I’m coming over.
I fell asleep.
My buzzer rang.
Playwright: I get to be the first person to wish you a happy birthday on your birthday.
Me: Happy birthday, me.
Playwright: I don’t know what you’re worrying about. I read your Wikipedia page, and I know you’re not as old as you say you are.
Wikipedia lies about my age. I have no idea how that happened.
Me: You’ve made that joke before. I hated it the first time.
Playwright: No wait, I’m working my way up to a bit.
Me: I’m pretty sure your bit isn’t as important as my feelings.
Playwright: Listen to us! Only two writers could have this conversation. My bit isn’t as important as your feelings? Of course it is.
He was roasting me on my birthday.
Playwright: So there’s this thing called the Internet – it knows everything. I have it on reliable authority that you are not as old as you think you are because Wikipedia said so.
Drunk. Birthday. Old. Three true things. The clock beside my bed blinked an angry red 12:00 a.m. I started crying.
Me: Stop. You have to stop. You can’t make fun of my age to my face on my birthday in my own bed. You can’t make fun of everyone you know. It’s so mean.
Playwright: I don’t think you’re being fair to me.
Me: I don’t think it’s your birthday.
Playwright: I should never have come over.
Was that true? I liked that he wanted to be there. We hadn’t known each other long enough to share a night as affecting as a birthday. Not this birthday.
The morning saw us both in a better mood. There were presents and sex, and phone calls from far away friends.
Then I didn’t hear from him for a week.
Finally, I asked if we could see each other.
Me: So that was a little tender, on my birthday …
Playwright: I don’t want to talk about it. We don’t really know each other yet. We should both be on our best behaviors.
That was everything by way of explanation. And apology.
I was still warming up to him when I melted down, and his ardor cooled completely. He never scheduled another date. I never asked for one.
So the very worst part of my birthday happened first. Since then it’s been a pretty good year.