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Birthday Man

The strangest thing happened tonight.

I was sitting peacefully, minding my own business in a small park. I was passing the time admiring the flowers (trying to avoid looking at a digital screen) while waiting for a get-together/celebration with my niece and cousins.

Out of the blue, a decently dressed, attractive man approached my table and asked, “What do you want for your birthday?”

New York has a lot of crazy people, so this guy could be just one of these random crazies. But he could also be someone sane, given his approach and his appearance. There was no malice or weirdness in his manner, but he asked it in a casual, purposeful, “Does this train stop at Grand Central?” kind of way. I was shocked, because my birthday is coming up, and what I wanted for my birthday was something I decided on distinctly during my lunch break today. Why is he asking? Was this a joke? What a coincidence for him to ask someone who’s birthday is coming up, and thought about it that very afternoon.

And so, my default mode: guarded/suspicious

“I actually don’t know. What’s this about?”

“I’m just asking. What do you want for your birthday?”

I actually knew what I wanted, and I wanted it very much. But I was embarrassed to say it.

“Look, I don’t know what I want, I haven’t really thought about it.”

A lie.

A look of Oh please/ This is a simple question/ You do know it/ Just say something (? – not sure about this last one)

“What do you want for your birthday?”

Then I gave him an answer, which was something I sort of wanted, but it wasn’t the truth. It’s not what I decided on earlier today, and I knew that it wasn’t what I deeply longed for, what I really wanted. But it was a safe, more generally accepted answer.

“Oh, okay. Thank you. Have a great night.”

Then this guy walks away, like he only passed by and walked over to get an answer, and poof! he was gone. I was still in shock. What just happened?

I still have no idea, and I’m letting this go right now. (writing helps me get over things)

I will stop wanting a do-over. What was an innocent, potentially-source-of-awesomeness question revealed that I’m not as good as I think I am. I forgive myself for lying, and for being ashamed of the truth. I forgive myself for the truth of who I am, when I’m unguarded, when I’m… myself. Because He has forgiven me. I probably sound as crazy as Birthday Man at this point, but because I know the full story, it makes sense to me, and you can trust me when I say that I am not crazy.

Birthday man, of all the people in that park, of all the people in New York city, why did you have to pick me? Are you a crazy man? Are you a sane person on a prank, or randomly making a survey of what people want for their birthday (now that sounds crazy) (are you trying to figure out what you want for your birthday? Or maybe what your girlfriend wants for her birthday, and you’re desperate, so you’re asking strangers. This is the most plausible story..?) because clearly, you were not there for small talk.

Or are you someone else?

Will our paths cross again?




Okay, I’m over it.

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1 Comment

  1. BHT says

    I constantly amazes me that strangers–the people you meet for a fleeting moment of your life–can affect you. We will never know who he really is, his state of mind and motives, but he sure does ask questions that merit some good thought. In another conversation with you, I’ll ask you the same question and hopefully you’d give the answer you really had in mind. ;-) as usual, I miss you and FT with you soon.

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