You’re probably gonna be in the parking lot of an Applebees. Maybe you’re leaning up against your 1993 Toyota Camry. It’s a bit douchey the way you’re leaning, but you don’t really know any better. You just turned 18, and when you’re 18 you kind of just lean against cars and don’t really know that 3 years older you is gonna hate the way you’re leaning.
Brad was supposed to have the party, but his parents ended up knowing better. Honestly, you’re relieved about that. Not that you didn’t want to get drunk and make a move on Molly, but it’s a lot less pressure this way. If there was a party, you’d have to get drunk and you’d have to make a move on Molly. Now you can just sit here in the parking lot, and watch Brad as he tries to make a move on Molly.
You don’t even have to be over there to know what they’re talking about — college orientation, the prom afterparty, there’s no difference to any of the conversations anymore. They’re all about the same thing. They’re all about being afraid of leaving. They’re all about being unsure of which friends will get upset and offended about which acts of betrayal. There’s only 30 of you, so everyone has crushes on the same people. Your best friends are your greatest enemies. Which sucks — but at least it’s made things interesting.
The last four years of high school have been this exciting game that you didn’t necessarily win (nobody wins…not even the star quarterback wins, because nobody at your school gives a shit about football), but finally figured out. You realized your place within the electromagnetic spectrum of wannabe grunge band members, dip-obsessed baseball players, and neurotic extra help attendees.
You love how you’re friends with all of them — and how by senior year, everyone is friends with all of them. It’s all the same thing, everyone realizes. It’s just about finding your thing, telling everyone else about that thing, and having the same 3 conversations in the Applebees parking lot.
You didn’t really want a birthday party. So instead of fully participating, you decide to reminisce about past birthdays:
- Your nineteenth, when you drank in the woods and had to stay there for four hours because you “forgot” that the cops were always stationed right outside the trail.
- Your 20th, when you thought it’d be a good idea to go to Molly’s aunts beach house despite her having a boyfriend at the time. (Terrible idea.)
- Your 23rd, when you didn’t respond to Molly’s text right away because things were going really well with Melanie.
And now, 25. You look around at the long restaurant table — one that apparently took a painstaking amount of leg work to secure — and can’t help but long for that parking lot. You’re flattered that all your friends are willing to spend $50+ to be your friend, but there’s this disturbing lack of connection. Everyone’s smiling, everyone’s getting kind of drunk, but that’s not the real story. You see it in the moment after they smile. Brad, reeling from his dad’s recent diagnosis. Brian, using Fireball to drown the moral qualms he has about his job. Steph, lost in thought about how the hell she’s gonna pay her rent.
You, still in a daze from receiving that “Save The Date” from Molly.
So when Billy proposes a toast, it takes a second for you to process. It takes a second for you to realize that maybe, just maybe, this could actually be a great night. Maybe this isn’t where things turn, but maybe it’s something that you’ll get to remember 8 years in the future. Actually you have no choice, because you just remembered everything that happened in all the other birthdays.
It’s only 11:30, so the night is young. Someone points that this isn’t entirely true. At this point, the night’s only kinda young.