They Say It’s Your Birthday
by Amelia Kanan
It was his Freshman year and my Sophomore year of college in Chicago. The way I saw it, I was wise, he was naive. I was confident and he was so unsure. We shared the elevator up to the 25th floor of our apartment building 1212 S. Michigan Ave. “Aww, this is your first year?! That’s so exciting!” I said über enthusiastically, which to most would be perceived as condescending. He didn’t seem as enthusiastic which to me was a red flag. You see, since early high school, I had been a bully-in-recovery due to a certain ‘incident’ so now I felt an urgency to take people, who I felt needed it, under my wing. Long story short, the poor kid didn’t have a chance.
I made him invite into his apartment. None of his roommates had moved in so, in my head I told myself “Oh, my god. He’s all alone. He must be so scared in this big city, all by himself. He needs me.” He didn’t and in his eyes, he thought I just was really nice. For some reason, I made him try on a bunch of sunglasses in his bathroom and told him every single pair looked good on him. This was me trying to be therapist, one whom he did not seek any help from. I invited him to a party my roommate and I were having that night.
A few days later, once I let go of the idea that he was ‘depressed’, ‘alone’ and ‘scared’ we became real friends. We bonded over our obsession with the Beatles and music in general. However, he was younger than me, he liked certain punk bands that I didn’t understand and I drank wine so we did a little bit of drifting. Nothing dramatic. Just life drift.
However, we were always connected through our pack, our crew of friends. We’d see each other here and there, once in awhile a phone calls, occasional sleepovers (obviously innocent), parties, blah blah blah.
Then we moved to LA. He got there first and became a guide for me in a now unknown city. He taught me things, showed me new places and gave me a place to sleep when I needed it. This is when our bond became even stronger. As we found our bearings with our new jobs, new apartments, new people, new culture, we would have music nights. We both share a passion for new artists and finding new music while still holding strong to those classic motown roots. On these music nights I would bring 1 (maybe 2) bottles of red wine over and we would play our new finds for the other. Then, things would get nostalgic so we’d have to play old school tunes to satisfy our cravings and then (once we were well into the second bottle) there may or may not have been some solo live concerts given.
Once life was settled into LA we would still keep the music nights around for tradition sake but because our lives were blossoming with newness so did our experiences. Camping (where he witnessed me in the most compromising position of my life), dinner parties, game nights, dancing so hard we sweat, events, road trips, arguments, pep talks, breakfasts, concerts, job changes, karaoke, moves (haha), dating experiences, movie premiers, rock band, visits from friends back east, etc.
The whole point of this story is because it’s his birthday tomorrow (today) and it’s one that I’m really feeling sad to miss. Birthdays, between our friends in LA from Chicago, were a big deal. Being so far from home and our foundations, we liked to go all out for each other to make sure that person felt so loved. Not to mention, his birthday in particular became another sort of tradition. It became a joke because every year, no matter how different the venue or celebration, I usually ended up celebrating it a little harder than him (I really take the line “they say it’s your birthday, it’s my birthday to ya” to heart), getting super inappropriate and definitely making out with someone. Last year, I actually stole two hotdogs from people who were busy fighting in the middle of Hollywood Blvd. (I felt I was teaching them a lesson by doing so).
I digress. The funniest part of all, I needed him way more than he needed me. Our music nights meant so much when I first moved to LA. Not knowing many people at first, he became a piece of home, familiarity, safety and warmth. And even though he will forever be a little brother to me, he was a pillar to me and for that I can’t begin to express my gratitude.
Happy birthday to the one and only KM, I love you tons and miss you bunches.