I think that was probably the best birthday of my life. Back in my childhood, I had never really had the opportunity to celebrate things like birthdays, especially if they were my own – so for my old schoolmate, completely without prompting, to remember and to care… that meant much more to me than I was willing to admit. The surprise party, in the end, was a complete success.
As it turned out, my housemates had loosely planned out the whole rest of the day. First they brought out some board games and similar entertainment, and the three of us played together until lunch. Then, after a short meal of some extravagant takeout Katsumi had bought in the city, the two musicians put on a mini-concert for me in the living room. I was so overwhelmed by the whole affair that the oddly moving events of the early morning were entirely swept from my mind.
Lounging on the couch, I watched and listened for almost two whole hours as they filled the house with music. The songs they played were generally loud, upbeat and festive; some of them I’d heard before, but others were entirely new to me. During a long interlude they took turns soloing against each other in what resolved into an improvisatory jam session. I took it all in with a big, stupid smile on my face, enjoying every second of it. I knew I was incredibly lucky to be sharing space with them – and I could hardly believe that my summer had turned out this way.
After the concert we went back to gaming, and in a demonstration of my newly-gained skills of a twenty-five year-old, I kept up my continuous losing streak. It didn’t bother me, though. I had never been very competitive, and spending time with my housemates in this way was just too fun. Finally, at around four, Tadashi deliberately let me win one game and then left to start prepping my birthday dinner. Katsumi chatted with me as we cleaned up and put the board games away upstairs.
“Are you having a good time?” he started.
“For sure,” I replied. “Thanks so much. Today’s been great.”
“You know what, Chas, I was mistaken about you.” He glanced over his shoulder at me, his eyes flashing.
“I always thought you weren’t a very fun person. But how you were today was nice.”
I was a bit surprised by this comment. “Really?”
He nodded. “I think you should be more genuine. You don’t say what you really mean or do what you really want or show your emotions most of the time. You spend most of the day browsing your computer doing pointless things, you dip your toes into new things like cooking and guitar but you don’t actively commit to them… you can’t even make up your mind about me. You live with me, but you don’t talk to me, and you don’t talk all that much to Tama either. We’re going to be here all summer. If you think games are fun and you want to play more, then say so. If you want to talk to me, then say so. If you want to play guitar, just walk into the studio and pick one up. You wait for us to invite you to do things, which I know is part of your consideration and natural reservation, but you also seem to wait for yourself. Honestly, you confuse me.”
I stared at him. He was right, of course – and I had no idea how to react.
“It’s just a thought,” he said, brushing a hand casually through his hair. “No big deal. I’m just saying, you never know what might happen tomorrow, so you should live today. Be genuine. Have a meaningful time. That’s how I live, me personally.”
“I’ll… I’ll think about it.”
Katsumi noticed how taken aback I was, and he loosened up a little. “Oh, nevermind, Chas. Listen, in a little while I’m gonna go help Tama in the kitchen, so you won’t be stuck with me for too long. Tell me what you did this morning.”
“Tadashi took me out kayaking,” I said.
“I figured. Did you like it?”
“Never been kayaking before today… it was good. Not really fun, I’d say. Tadashi put up quite an act.”
“He pretended like he was all depressed and stuff, like something was wrong. I thought he was really having a hard time. I guess he did that to lure me out and make sure I’d follow him – I was really relieved. I’d completely forgotten about it until you asked just now.”
“Tama’s not that good of an actor,” Katsumi remarked. Before I could process that he followed up with, “I was glad he managed to get you out before I got home.”
“How long have you guys been planning this whole thing?”
“Mmm… Tama mentioned your birthday to me early last week, I think. So we started planning around then.”
“Thank you, again. It means a lot to me.”
He shook his head. “It’s Tama you should thank.”
Dinner that night was a huge array of my favorite dishes, arranged basically buffet style. We would definitely have leftovers, I noted, but that was alright. Everything was delicious. After we finished eating, Katsumi took a big cake out of the fridge, and Tadashi lit up a full twenty-five short, colorful candles. Amid all the excitement, I forgot to make a wish. We sat together on the porch, devouring the cake while watching the sun set, each of us basking in the glow of the day-long celebration.
“I’m so tired,” Tadashi commented after a while.
“Sleep early tonight,” Katsumi replied.
“I think I will. Is that okay, Chas?”
I looked across the table at him. “‘Course. I’m exhausted, too. Thank you guys again. I haven’t had this much fun in forever, and I used to never celebrate my birthday… I’m really not used to it.”
“Birthdays are important,” Tadashi said. He smiled at me, and I smiled back.
“If you’re sleeping soon, I’m gonna go shower,” Katsumi announced, getting up from his chair.
We ended up showering one after another, and as a result we were all in bed by nine. Lacking any energy to write, I crashed into my sheets and fell asleep almost immediately. Perfect days, after all, never last. And I had no idea what the next day would bring.