January 10, 2021

I have the Greatest Friends

I celebrated my birthday last week. I received a smattering of cards and things and an ocean wave of social-media congratulations, but this particular interaction proved to be particularly special.

I have the Greatest Friends
Sometimes your friends can surprise you.

Over the holidays, my friend Robin and I were texting each other back and forth when I half-joked that the obligations of our more advanced, more domesticated age really required sending cards and written correspondence to each other. He responded that he doesn't send cards and, it was too late to make the holidays anyway. I reminded him that my birthday was on [redacted: soon after the holidays] and thus, he had plenty of time to send me a nice, heartwarming, considerate card expressing his deepest brotherly love.

His response: "Not happening."

Ice cold. Terse. Emotionless.

I was taken aback. After a few minutes, I recovered, stood back up, and dusted myself off. As cold as was his response, I would not allow myself to believe he was serious: "Yeah, I don't know" would have been more expected. Or perhaps something pithier like, "Haha! You're not going to guilt me into sending a card, Todd." But not, "Not happening." Door slam. A spear to my heart. But ever the optimist (with my friends anyway), I thought, He couldn't have possibly meant it. Right? I was crestfallen but secretly hopeful that the finality of his response was a ruse, and in short order, I would see some cheesy birthday card in the mailbox.

My birthday came and went. Still no card. Not even a birthday text!

Finally—two days later; my heart a'shambles—I get a milquetoast-text from him wishing me a belated happy birthday. Not only no card, not even an on-time text. Disappointment doesn't even begin to describe what I felt. The barrage of guilt I flung at him leading up to these half-hearted best wishes, by all appearances, left him utterly unmoved. Was this man made of stone? I considered sending him a birthday card even though it wasn't his birthday. Grr!

Well, two can play at this game. I too was unmoved. I was determined not to let Robin off the hook. With one sentence—nothing more—I responded:

"I accept late cards."

Smug, satisfying, and to the point. We exchanged no more words.

I rechecked the mail. No card. I checked again the next day. And again the next. Nothing. Zilch. At this point, I supposed the joke had run its course. I sighed. I moved on.

But wait, what was that? I didn't recall ordering anything . . .

At the bottom of our package chute, I spied a box. A package addressed to Todd Hussein Warner[1]. Well, how about that. Inside, the box contained a lovely book. A delightful book, in fact: The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay. Well, damn. But of course, Robin got the last laugh in, and at the same time, somehow, delivered a most thoughtful response . . . as only a real friend could do.


Thank you so much, Robin. You are the best.

Seeing the package addressed to Todd Hussein Warner, I warned Monica that if a puff of white power hit my face upon opening, the right-wing nutjobs had finally taken action to silence me. ↩︎

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