Friends who show up with birthday cake

by Kat

birthday cakeOn Friday, a friend of mine showed up at my apartment holding a plate of cake. We had planned to meet that afternoon, but the cake was a surprise. Apparently during one of our previous conversations, I’d mentioned my upcoming birthday and thwarted search for cake after Olive’s (my first and only car — the one I’ve driven since I left home for undergrad) demise following a poorly executed left turn. I’d planned to visit my family that weekend, but since that trip was no longer possible, I figured I’d settle for riding the bus to get myself a piece of birthday cake at the local cafe. The people there were familiar, and I knew the cake was delicious. Even so, this plan did seem a bit lonely, even if I was unwilling to acknowledge that.

I suppose that somewhere in my twenties, I stopped expecting people in my everyday life to notice as I grew a year older. That week had been especially busy with the start of a new school year and part-time job, along with the complications of being newly carless (learning curve on the latter consisting of navigating the bus system and sharing rides). So I reached the end of the week, grateful that my friend was coming over after I’d mentioned in passing that my birthday was that day.

As we sat at my plastic kitchen table, eating velvety chocolate cake, I remember feeling self-conscious about the sink full of dishes and stacks of homework surrounding the space. My apartment feels like it’s constantly in project mode — papers and books waiting for me to return to them. It’s not really a space for company, although I enjoy having friends over sometimes. I’ve come to appreciate people who respect that grad student life is ongoing; things just shift around depending on the day. That  afternoon it was nice to pause for a bit  and chat with a thoughtful friend.