birthday interlude

"What should we do for my birthday?" he asked, and by then it was coming up quick. He'd had time to choose his own adventure, but hadn't yet mapped anything out. 

"Do you want me to plan something?" 

"Yes."

"With your friends or just us? Because if with friends, I'm gonna need numbers."

"Just us."

And so I was deemed Birthday Director for the second year in a row, a title that holds very little pressure when the honoree is as easily pleased as him. Gratitude is his natural state. Simple gifts, simple gestures - they simply delight him. It's simply lovely. 

I chose a cabin in the mountains near a lake, because of course. He is woods and water, fish and fire: a Portland transplant. For days I teased him with photos of plank decks surrounded by towering sequoias - a green oasis above the smoke and smog of LA. Ours alone for two nights of whatever we wanted. He worked himself into a fever pitch of excitement over a one-bedroom AirBnB a mere two-hour drive away. It can be very easy to make him feel loved. Which tracks, because it is very easy to love him. 

We ended up leaving later than we'd planned (miscommunication + misunderstanding + crossed emotional wires tripped us up temporarily) - but by 2pm we were on the road.

Freeway, highway, grocery store for supplies. I filled the cart with fruit, snacks, and frozen meals while he lingered over toys and tech gadgets. 

"Look, babe. Dinner." I held up an enormous, family-size package of macaroni and cheese, knowing he'd find it as absurd and therefore essential as I did. I couldn't wait to sit awkwardly far apart from him, divided by a meal the size of my TV, high on shrooms and attempting to spoon white cheddar mac n' cheese into our hysterically laughing mouths. Meanwhile, he'd grabbed an RC car set, a pair of LED headlamps, and a weird little plastic foot massager he'd surprise me with later, rolling it over the calves he knows are my forever sore spot.

Adventure Babes, as he had verbally hash-tagged us the minute we got in the car, were armed and ready. 

The cabin was smaller than I expected, and we got briefly lost and cranky on the narrow, winding country road it hid on. These facts combined with the headache I felt coming on made it hard for me to find my bearings for a minute. Ever sensitive to the vibes between us, he unpacked quietly as I set to rearranging the space. I moved furniture, rugs, pillows and blankets to optimize the coziness of our chillout space on the front deck. 

A bottle of wine, a baggy of psilocybin, and a favorite playlist. Oxygen oozing from trees that literally grew through the house. My headache cleared off quickly, and the emptiness of my stomach cleared a path for quick onset of the shrooms. Just enough to forget I'd been tense twenty minutes prior. Just enough to put on one of the headlamps, a pair of sunglasses, some slippers, and shuffle around the house cackling at my own dumb jokes while he cooked, his own tensions melting away in a tab of lsd and a glass of moscato. I clicked through the settings of the headlamp, stabbing him with the spotlight shooting out from my forehead. He flinched; I howled with laughter. 

"You look like a jackass," he said, which is a thing we only call one another when we are high and extremely emotionally close. It is always accompanied by a suppressed smile and often followed by intense physical affection. Translated it means "I fucking love you." 

---

The thing about looking someone in the eyes and not saying a word is that you can imagine they're thinking anything. You can write any script you want to, in your head, as they move on top of you, under you, inside of you, through you. You can pretend that when they pin you down or pull you close, that you're on the same psychological plane, connecting on thoughts that perfectly puzzle together what the other wants and needs.

But the thing about looking someone in the eyes after a year and a half and still feeling your breath stolen, suspended, silently restrained in the chemistry that is somehow, mystifyingly, stronger every fucking time - is that you know you actually are.

You know.

---

We lounged. I lined an outdoor loveseat with blankets and pillows and stared for hours at the treetops swaying above. When it got dark, he surprised me with the galaxy projector aimed up at the branches, a thousand pin pricks of laser light crawling across the pines. I hadn't thought it would work, had tried myself but couldn't get the placement right. Had been seriously bummed. But he fixed it. "What's going on out on the patio?" he asked casually, coming back into the kitchen. I stepped outside and saw and screamed, clasping my hand over my mouth. It couldn't have been more beautiful.

We ate. We snacked on grapes so plump you could eat them like tiny apples. He made me bacon and pork chops, marinating steaks, and bringing me snack after snack where I lay outside, forgetting I ever had a job or any adult responsibilities at all. We'd bought a box of individual fruit gummy packs, which I started demanding as payment for doing small favors or tasks. It became a thing. Once when he gave me one, I walked into the bedroom and set it down, then came back out empty handed. "Babe. You are not going to believe this, but I just got mugged in the bedroom. They took everything. They took the gummy snack. I'm....I'm gonna need another one." Biting back a smile, he fetched another one and handed to me, avoiding eye contact. 

We laughed. I discovered that grapes can wear raspberries like tiny wigs, brought one to him wordlessly, high and utterly fascinated. We were quiet for half a second, gazing in wonder at my creation, and then we lost it. We just fucking lost it, and we didn't recover for two days. We found hilarity in every single thing we touched, said, ate, did. A shared pot pie became the single funniest object on planet earth when we decided that unearthing the rare, seemingly hidden peas in the pastry shell was an act of pea-leontogy. We accidentally launched the rubber ball I keep on hand for goofing around with on top of a partition in the cabin, and he rigged up a broom with a plastic hanger and one of the headlamps. For most of the night, he'd intermittently stop whatever he was doing and take a crack at wrangling it back down. Finally he realized he could lift me up to the edge of the wall where I'd be able to use his contraption to snare the ball. With one hand holding my ass up and the other waiting to hand off the broom, he supported me as I grappled and then grabbed. We got it. The victory was immeasurable. We love that dumb little ball.

We adventured. When it got dark, we loaded up his backpack with water, snacks, various cameras, my inhaler, and weed, and crept out onto the pitch black road. Fully expecting to hit a dead end of nothing but private drives but doggedly determined to make it as dramatic a walk as possible, we ended up finding an a creepy, COVID-abandoned camp of some sorts, a complex of buildings that included a massive, deserted mess hall and industrial kitchen. We poked around with our flashlights, completely forgetting our headlamps, tiptoeing into a pantry still stocked with cookware and tools. I saw a wall ladder leading to an attic, and swung myself onto it before he could object. In the crawlspace above was nothing but insulation and some coils of copper wiring - but everything feels more dangerous when you're not supposed to be seeing it. Back outside on the grounds, shushing one another as we wondered at the weirdness we'd wandered into, we suddenly stopped short. Two queen-sized, carved wooden bed frames with turned legs sat outside, on a concrete clearing, at an angle from one another that didn't make any sense. What the actual fuck. The whole setup felt thoroughly cultish and eery as hell, and we decided to scoot before getting busted for trespassing. It was the perfect little adventure.

We played. With nothing but my rubber ball, a wooden crate, a linen hamper, and a stack of giant Jenga blocks, we invented game after game after game. Sometimes we'd lose the ball in the ravine below, and I'd stomp around in the dead leaves and cobwebbed bushes, high and fearless. "Leaves of three, let it be," he called in warning from the deck above. I'd return, triumphantly wielding the ball in my hand, and challenge him to mini feats of arcade-style athleticism. "I bet I can lob this ball over the ceiling beam without hitting it" or "Try and bounce it over the pillow into the crate, like a miniature golf course." Age differences don't matter when you both act like ten year-olds. 

We explored. We drove to the lakeside town where my dinosaur-obsessed boyfriend happened upon an actual dinosaur store. Some paleontologist had opened up a boutique with his wares: smooth Megalodon teeth, globes of fossilized amber in shades of rose and gold. Several million years-old toys for several hundred dollars a pop. I drooled over a stunning polished, cylindrical lamp cut from various geodes, and bought the only souvenir I could afford: a quarter-sized cluster of periwinkle grape agate. "I'm going to stack it on top of the two stones you brought me from Portland," I told him. "Like a tiny cairn." 

We connected. We dj'd our favorite music for one another. He showed me a little graphic story he'd created, and played a sunrise set he'd written. Again and again, in the emotionally-neutral space of a stranger's home, we hid no emotions. Before him, no one had ever actually touched my face, locked eyes with me, whispered how much they love me. I didn't think that was a thing that existed in the world, because I'd never known a man man enough to do it. And with him I get it over and over and over, and it has become the very drug I need to survive. It is an unbearable sweetness, this soft, quiet, affection. The gentle restraint until there is no more restraint. I'll never get over him.

---

Psychedelics dilate time, but it still went fast. Forty hours, more or less. He slept the whole way back, partied totally out.

Babe :) he texted me a few hours after I dropped him off. 

yas?

I love you

why?

Your smile, your booty, your laugh, your everything

I think, translated, that means I did a good job as Birthday Director again this year, and that I don't have to get over him just yet.