“Happy Birthday Conner! I see you’ve added a few pounds.”
“Glad you’ve noticed Tim,” I respond with a smirk.
“What are you doing with yourself these days?” he asks.
I was about to come up with some story when I noticed his eyes wander over to the left of me. I glance over and see a beautiful brunette in a string bikini. I have to admit; I am as distracted as Tim for a moment. She sees us, smiles, waves and starts our direction. I do not know her. I would like to think I would remember someone like that. The attractive stranger wraps her arms around Tim.
“Conner, this is my girlfriend, Debbie.”
“Debbie, a pleasure to meet you” I am surprised to find her soft arms and half dressed body suddenly wrapped around me in a bear hug.
“She’s the friendly sort, Conner. You don’t need to tense up.”
I step back and give an awkward smile. Normally a beautiful, strange woman would be no problem. Who am I kidding, I tense up when anyone touches me, especially in a case like this. Debbie starts to ask me a question when three friends from work mercifully walk up and interrupt. I’m grateful to see Tim and Debbie go wander off on their own towards the edge of the pool deck. I was just about to join in a debate my co-workers had brought with them when I heard someone yell, “Time for the Birthday Cake! Get Conner over here.”
I want to find my quiet happy place. 30 people surrounded a table with a large sheet cake in the center, on it is the words, “Happy Birthday To The Old Guy.” I walk up to everyone yelling “Make a Wish.” I hear whispers in the group of what I should wish. I smile and inhale deeply. In my mind, I wish for peace, and then somehow manage to blow out all fifty candles. Someone hands me a piece of cake, and I smile and walk towards the other end of the pool.
Nobody is in the water. I see my chance for a break. I put my cake down on the nearby table and jump into the water. Air is slowly released from my lungs until my body gently hovers near the bottom. Now I can relax. Closing my eyes, I know I have two minutes before needing to break the surface. The water holds my body in its perfect embrace. Here I feel no gravity, no pressure, just quiet and comfort.
Alone, thoughts start to creep into my mind. How did I get so many different friends? My group is so eclectic, and yet I love every single one. Why? They are a reflection of me. Each one of these friends is a part of me. All of us together make up the diversity of ourselves and each other. The pool feels nice, but the real me is on the deck above. Some of them are probably wondering why I am in here, and others have not noticed my absence yet.
I smile and slowly rise to the top of the water. My best buddy Trey is standing next to the ladder with a towel in one hand and a beer in the other. He asks me, “did you figure it out?”
“Yeah, it’s all good. I’m ready to party now.”