If your response to “what’s the most essential component of a birthday party?” is the person who’s actually celebrating said birthday, you’re probably a reasonable person. And wrong, because the right answer is cake. Obviously.
Thursday afternoon, the day before my friend’s birthday, I found myself scouring the streets with an oddly specific mission. The mission bore striking parallels to my harrowing beginning-of-school experience last year, except instead of checking each store one by one for white rice to resuscitate a drowned phone, I was seeking birthday cake for Birthday Friend. Specifically, the right kind of cake for him to not eat.
Context: BF turned 20 on Friday. He likes sandwiches, so three other friends and I had planned to take him out to lunch for his birthday.
Me: Let’s get sandwiches on the 8th for BF’s birthday. With or without him.
It was a joke, but then BF said he’d be heading home for the weekend and I realized I wasn’t kidding. It’d been half a year since I went too far with a dumb joke—for my ginger friend’s birthday, I’d gotten him a ginger gift basket—and I wanted to go all out with this, too. I was going to throw Birthday Friend a party without him, a party where we’d get his sandwiches and eat his cake and open his presents.
Cake wasn’t easy to find. I looked up one cake shop nearby, but even the cheapest, unadorned one went for $40, which is money I’d rather spend on, for example, a textbook for me to not use rather than a cake for BF to not enjoy. One of the residential dining halls sold personalized birthday cakes for $6.99, but they were chocolate, and BF couldn’t eat chocolate. Which, I suppose, technically didn’t matter if he wasn’t going to eat it, but the point was we wanted the right kind of cake that he could have eaten… for him to not eat. So I ended up snagging a package of birthday cake bites at 7-11.
As for party miscellany, I hit the jackpot with a CVS right off campus. In the corner, on a small stand, hung an array of birthday supplies perfect for last-minute party planning. I bought a 20-pack of balloons and a candle of the number 2. I tried to look for a lighter but at this point I was exhausted and unsure whether an open flame would be a fire hazard at the sandwich place, so I just drew a flame on paper and cut it out.
Friday, 2:30 PM – The Party
Friend 1: Oh hey, BF’s calling. Should we pick up?
Me: That seems… unnecessary.
We laughed, until I remembered we were supposed to be nice to him and relented. Friend 2 opened my presents, which included a Star Wars clock (so BF could get to class on time) and a single ear of corn (because his puns are corny.)
I taped the flame to the candle, moving it into view of Friend 1’s phone, from which BF watched, laughing and lagging alternately.
Me: Are you wondering why there’s only a 2 candle and not also a 0?
BF: Yeah, actually—
Me: Because money doesn’t grow on trees.
He watched us eat sandwiches for about a minute before we said our goodbyes. Friend 1 retrieved his phone, and I passed around the cake bites.
Friend 3: This is actually really good.
Friend 1: *munching* Good is… a strong word.
Friend 2: So I guess we’re reusing that candle for the rest of our birthdays?
I thought about whether I’d have tried as hard to celebrate people who’d actually be present, then concluded that we college students really are something else.
(To clarify, we did ask him if he was okay with it.) Please consider following this blog via email and/or liking its Facebook page, where I post occasional updates and quality excuses for the lack of said updates.
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