I decided that for my birthday I needed to get out of town, alone. I took my birthday money and decided that I would push my luck with the driving illegally in Columbia County again and went to Wisconsin Dells to play some blackjack and mindlessly play slots. After losing more than half of what I brought with my in fifteen minutes pushing buttons on the one armed bandit, I figured since I had come the whole way to play table games (blackjack, craps, things that weren’t slot machines, and the casino in Madison) so I buy into a ten dollar blackjack table and proceed to lose every hand until I am left with one green chip worth $25. With my last chip I kiss it thinking that this was the end of my dismal birthday fun attempt. Twenty minutes and tons of birthday luck later, I have $500 in front of me so I figure, best leave while I’m even again.
The thought had crossed my mind to go to the strip club while I was around the area, but I’ll be brutally honest with you - I was in one of those moods where I was totally ready to sit in a dimly lit hut full of sweat, glitter and gross men and get completely shitfaced, so I went home to Madison. My friend/roommate for the eighth or ninth time in 15 years, Ben, was home hanging out, and he had asked me what I had planned for my birthday. As we were conversing about previous birthday catastrophes we had both been a part of (I have been in detox after blacking out and asking a girl I crushed on out at work, arrested, and passed out on a park bench just to name a few in my thirties alone) when my brother from another mother, Max, messaged me asking to save him from the disasters of downtown Madison. Once again, driving while I’m not supposed to, I set off to Red Rock (think country bar with douchey fucks you’d find in Texas, but implant it in Madison, Wisconsin for some ungodly fucking reason) close to bar time, a terrible time to be on the road, to rescue Max and finally return one of many sober taxis I owe him. Once we got to his place, he delivered what must have been close to ten pounds of candy for my birthday and I went along my way, it was close to 230am at this point.
My friends usually have a local, small stakes cash poker game on Friday nights, and I was in still in that, don’t want to be alone because I am going to make regrettable choices, mood so I stopped by this game and met up with more friends and lost more money in an hour period. At this point its 4am and I know I should be in my house sleeping for my birthday but as I am leaving this house I get followed by officer friendly. Knowing I don’t need another ticket I swerve off into a driveway and take a trip around a block for a bit as to make sure I’m not starting 34 in jail.
I’ll be honest with you, its the first sober birthday I had spent in Madison in as long as I could remember, and I felt alone and it wasn’t adding up as a good thing in my head. The thought of Heather and just how many stupid decisions and crazy birthdays I had had with her made me somewhat depressed. Other than Sabrina, I haven’t really been dealing with women since the Kylie fiasco. It just hasn’t felt right to work on myself and not have my shit together and expose someone else to that again. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my alone time, and I need it a lot of the times with how fucking idiotic and drunk my friends can be. Something just struck me that I wanted to visit Heather’s grave and spend the beginning of my 34th birthday, and first sober one since my move to Madison 15 years ago, somewhere peaceful.
So I drove to northern Illinois, at 5 in the morning. No one wants to be that creepy old man, sitting in a cemetery at sunrise. Truck stop breakfast it was. The kitchen had the local pop radio on and it drove me nuts because I swear every song was associated with an ex of mine for the entire hour or so I sat there.
The graveyard was wet and foggy when I got there. There was an eerie peacefulness to the place and it was exactly what I had imagined for the setting. Luckily there was no one else around, because I was having one of those conversations with myself and a tombstone that you’d shake your head at if it was occurring in a movie or television show. There shouldn’t really be a reason why it was so cathartic but it was. I rambled about life being sober, how I still have shitty choices in women and life decisions, but most of all how I missed being able to talk to Heather like a friend and not a romantic interest. For all the fucked up relationship situations we had and romantic quarrels we got in, she was always so close in a way that I would expect someone I’d want to spend the rest of my life with. I sat in the solemnness, it was quiet other than the occasional chickadee and blackbird cawing.
Doesn’t sound like a way anyone should spend a birthday, right? Well, I needed it. The sadness made me realize that I wouldn’t be so down when I left and absolutely how far I had come in just over a year of the mess I had created in my life. There’s no reason to blame myself anymore for everything that I couldn’t control in that relationship and the rest of the relationships I’ve had in the past couple of years. I know when, where and how I fucked up each one and slowly, I’m understanding things I didn’t get when I was younger - mature relationships require a substantial amount of responsibility that I never understood.
In this 34th season of my life, episode one was a subtle flashback to the past and how I don’t use the skip intro that Netflix now abuses. Sometimes, you need the reminder to balance out yourself. Thanks to everyone that tries to remind me of this and for sticking around threw the shitty filler episodes of my life.