True story. I once had a birthday where I had the sneaking suspicion one of my friends was trying to organize a surprise party for me. It was the furtive looks, the suddenly hushed conversations: a lot of little things.
Then, the day of, the friend I thought was putting the thing together slipped this gem into conversation, right at the moment when I thought she was about to spring the surprise: “Hey Jen, I was going to have a surprise party for you, but you know, no one could come.” Instead, she took me to dinner—only to leave me to pay when she realized she forgot her wallet.
The next day, she took me out to make up for the previous day—and realized she’d forgotten her wallet again.
This story is NOT based on that! Well, not entirely.
Three weeks to departure. I get a call.
“Hey, baby. Just wanted to let you know – a couple of us wanted to put together a surprise party for you, but I’m not sure it’s going to get off the ground. I mean, we’re all kind of busy and all. So if it doesn’t happen, we tried, right?”
You called me to tell me you aren’t going to plan a surprise party. Great.
Two weeks. My mom calls. “Hey, do you remember the Millers?”
Can’t say I do, so I say I don’t.
“Well, they remember you. I have this cute little picture of you on Agnes’s lap.”
Okay, nothing’s coming back to me still, but now at least I know why.
“There’s an anniversary party for them on the 20th, and they’d love if you’d stop by.”
I say yes. After all, it’s not like I have a party of my own to go to.
If no one is going to throw me a going-away party, I guess I’ll just have to do it for myself.
I call up Tonya and invite her to a little drop-in on the 27th.
“Sunday, right?” she says before I have a chance to give her the date. “In the church hall.”
No, I say, at my place. What’s she talking about?
The penny drops as she fades away into silence on the other end of the phone, that frantic stillness that seems to scream, oops, I think I blew it.
Uh, I ask, I think I’m supposed to be going to some anniversary thing with my parents that day.
“Right,” she said, and I can almost hear the finger alongside her nose. Yeah, an anniversary party.
Why was I not even suspicious before? Tonya? I ask. Pretend we never had this conversation. And if I don’t see you on the 20th, you’re still invited over on the 27th.
“And if you do see me on the 20th?”
I tell her that, in that case, I don’t need to have a party.
I see Buddy on the street.
“Hey, girl,” he says.
Bud, I ask him, you hear anything about a party?
He smirks slyly. I giggle. They’ve really done it! So much for my useless friends. They’ve actually done it.
“Heard a rumour through the grapevine,” he says, “but you didn’t hear it from me.”
I smile, feeling nice and warm, and walk on.
Paranoia sets in a few blocks later. I have already cancelled my own party, or at least I’ve stopped calling people to invite them, but what if there is no surprise party in the church basement Sunday afternoon? What if it’s really an anniversary party for a couple of people I don’t remember?
I mean, Buddy’s the kind of guy who may just pretend to be in the loop to be cool. And while Tonya’s information is always above suspicion, she really didn’t tell me anything, not for certain.
I start planning my party again. Then I stop. Then I start wondering if my head actually looks like it’s tied in a big knot, or if it only feels that way.
Mid-afternoon the day before, I start to practice for my big moment, the response. I picture myself tearing up. You guys, I’ll say, you – oh my God, I can’t believe you pulled this off.
I start to second guess myself. Tears might say the wrong thing, or worse, I might do it badly and give away the whole charade.
“She’s not really crying!” someone will shout. “She’s faking it!”
I’m not sleeping well.
I can hardly keep down any food. The anxiety is killing me.
Really, it might just be best to cancel the whole trip.
Today’s image is from a super-cool German blog featuring “Crazy Cakes.”
Read about UNDEAD REDHEAD by Jen Frankel, a charming horror-comedy about a nutritionally-challenged Vegan zombie!