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Eric awoke from a deep sleep with surprising ease. Unlike his usual routine of being startled into consciousness by his alarm, scrambling half-awake to turn it off, and sitting on the edge of his bed for five minute until he could convince himself to walk to the shower, today he simply woke up. The silence confused him. So did the fact that he was alert, energetic, and refreshed. As he sat up in bed, his alarm began going off.
“Damn, I woke up before my alarm?” He thought to himself as he grabbed his phone off his nightstand. “Why do I feel so good?” Almost immediately, he got his answer. As he silenced his alarm, his eye was drawn to the date on his lock screen, and it all came rushing back. He knew why he was in such a good mood. Today wasn’t just any day, it was his birthday.
Eric had always enjoyed celebrating his birthday, and this year was no different. He had dinner plans with his mom later in the week, a lake trip with the boys this weekend, and another dinner with his dad on Sunday. Sure, 25 wasn’t an exciting or important year (unless you count the fact that he could rent a car), but nonetheless, Eric was looking forward to it. The only thing he didn’t have planned was today. His actual birthday.
For the first time in his life, he didn’t have any plans on his birthday. He had lucked out and had the day of his birth land on a weekend in the two years since he had graduated, and this was the first year he would be subjected to a true grownup birthday – one where nothing special happens. “Oh well,” he said to himself, “I can still enjoy it. I have family and friends who care about me, and I’m sure – oh seriously? No one’s texted me happy birthday yet? I know it’s early, but come on. Last year I got three texts at midnight, and this year I get nothing? This blows.”
Eric was still habitually glancing at his phone with more and more annoyance by the time he walked into work and was pulled into a meeting. As he sat there, listening to one of the directors ramble on about workplace productivity and how they were shifting to a different chat system, his thoughts began to wander.
“This new chat system sounds super big-brother-y. ‘Designed to help streamline communication by filtering out key words?’ Fuck that. I’m just going to keep using the Slack app installed on my phone. Can’t have the higher-ups reading my conversations about how hungover I am and what the plan is for happy hour. Speaking of happy hour, maybe that’s what I should do for my birthday today. Or even better, happy lunch hour. Hell yes. Let me just check Tom and Will’s schedules and see if they’re free…what the fuck? Back to back meetings all day? Oh shit, am I in these too? Goddamn it, I just wanted some lunch beers for my birthday. Is that too much to ask? This time last year I was shitfaced, macking on girls on a party bus. Being a grownup blows.”
Realizing he was visibly spaced out, Eric pulled himself together and made firm eye contact with the presenter, who clearly didn’t even care about what she, herself, was saying. As the meeting adjourned, Eric returned to his desk to check his phone he had left there, facedown. To his delight, he had three text messages notifications waiting for him.
Mom [9:15am]: Happy birthday honey! Can’t wait for dinner! Joel recommended a great new steakhouse for us all!
“Fuuuuck,” Eric groaned audibly. “Joel is gonna be there tonight? Why is my mom acting like a teenager with her first boyfriend? You can spend an evening apart, it won’t kill you. Whatever, let’s see who else remembered my birthday.”
Jack [10:11am]: Happy birthday bitch. Remember a year ago when you got curved by that girl on the party bus in front of everyone? I might post that video to Instagram as your happy birthday post. Shit was hilarious. Is that new nurse girl finally going to let you get it in as a birthday present tonight or what?”
Eric grinned mirthlessly. Jack was such an asshole. But now that he mentioned it, he made a good point. He and Alyssa had been on four dates so far, and although they had all gone amazingly, the physical aspect of their budding relationship was still, well, lacking. Despite Eric inviting her over after their last two dates, she had been playing it slow. Still, the last thing he wanted to do was pressure her, and since he truly enjoyed spending time with her, he had no problem with the lack of. Or at least that’s what he had convinced himself of, until Jack just brought it up.
“Whatever. The build-up will make it even better when it happens,” he thought, not even believing himself. “I really like this girl, but at what point do I have to ask when we’ll finally hook up? I know that’s not a classy move, but after date five, I think it’s fair to ask what her timeline is, right? Or will that just make her think that all I want is sex? But how could she think that when I’ve gone on five dates with her? If a guy goes on more than a couple dates with you, he’s not just in it for the sex. She has to know that. She isn’t super religious, so I know it’s not that. What if it’s because she tested positive for an STD and she’s just slow playing me to buy herself time to get it medicated? What if she’s hooking up with other dudes and hasn’t figured out how to fit me in the rotation. Or maybe she’s just using me for free meals while banging someone else? What if-“
Eric’s slow descent into madness was cut short as he scrolled to the third unread text message.
Alyssa Tom Friend [10:14am]: Happy birthday Eric! If you don’t have any plans for tonight you should come over to my place. I have a present for you 😉
Eric’s smile threatened to cut his face in half as he stared at his phone, all previous thoughts erased by three simple sentences. “Never doubted it for a second. I knew she wanted this.”.