My birthday and I drove myself to the city wearing red on red. A shoulderless, backless red silk shirt from my 30th and red pants from Portland. Brown open toe heels. Purple purse. Pink and purple shawl. It was no time for subtlety.
After wandering around shops and streets a few hours, I started happy hour at 3:30, a couple at the opposite end. It was raw oyster Monday and at first I said no. Ordered The Last Word with chili flakes and a salted rim and what wasn't sipped with the rum and Chartreuse I licked from the glass. With each sip I became less delicate, that's how it works. The cocktail, my birthday, the passing of time.
I texted a friend to join me. Ordered tiny toasts with smoked salmon, chives, and horseradish cream with a drizzle of oil, and even that I took up with my fork. I ordered soppressata, cured dried sausage thinly sliced and fluted like a flower with a dollop of chevre in the center. I drank my water. I drank my cocktail. I met the couple next to me. He talked, she didn't, and then arrived the soft slippery flesh of ten half-shells on ice, sliced lemon, cocktail sauce, shallot vinegar, a tiny three-pronged fork and a plate. He ate them all. By then four more people showed up and everyone was gulping oysters and stacking shells and ordering more.
I got three at first. Leaned over the big plate, loosened the muscle from the shell, added shallot vinegar and lemon, some of which I squirt on my neighbor's tie, and sucked it whole and fast. Then I got five more and a Pinot Grigio. My friend showed up and the couple next to me left. People started replacing each other and somehow when I got up from my bar stool, four hours had passed and another friend had arrived. Then another restaurant, a burger with cheese and pickle and a free slice of Happy Birthday brown sugar pie with whipped topping. The waitress apologized; they were out of candles.
At home late, satisfied, happy and full, I found out Robin Williams was dead. They told too much, and I obsessively read all of it, enough that the wind went out of me. Enough that I tried to guess where I was earlier in the day before happy hour when he took his life. I was on a sidewalk feeling a bit lonely, feeling a bit bright for a Monday. The place I wanted to eat brunch was closed, the sign said they'd gone celebrating and there was a birthday hat on the sign board. They'd forgotten mine, I chuckled.
I wandered down to the book store hoping to find something to make me feel better. I picked up a small book by Neil Gaiman, a graduation speech he gave on art and life, and I read it standing at the stacks, cover-to-cover. I read about not giving up. Most of all, about enjoying the ride, living right inside of each moment's joy. I took a picture of the best quote with my phone:
I woke up the next morning sick as hell, just like the last time I ate oysters, but good. Very good and ready for the day.