“So what I’m trying to say is you should text me back.
Because there’s a precedent. Because there’s an urgency.
Because there’s a bedtime.
Because when the world ends I might not have my phone charged and
If you don’t respond soon,
I won’t know if you’d wanna leave your shadow next to mine.”
Don’t ask me what I want for my birthday, or what I need from you in the first place. Or ask me, but know that I won’t have a real answer. I’ll make some banter-y joke, shrug and answer something that seems default. It’s not, though. All I want from you is to show up.
It’s hard to tell you how to love me. I’ve become so wary of being high-maintenance, a burden, too much. I’ve developed a fear that my longings are too cumbersome for your arms. But once you’re asking anyway, I might consider letting you in. I might preface my requests with caveats and qualifications, assurances that none of this really matters, that I’m zoremet (“go-with-the-flow”), that I’m “down for whatever” (minus the connotations). But once I get past the prologue, I might share with you these demands:
Do not throw me a surprise party. Really. Unless you are prepared to stay with me and not say a word while I anxiously acclimate to the social scene of ambushing well-wishers, and you are equipped with benzodiazepines to boot, give me some warning before you celebrate my existence please.
Do not tell me not to “freak out”. Or tell me, but expect more tears and a Barnard-inspired diatribe on the gendered expectations of emotional release.
Tell me I’m strong. Tell me that yes, I am “chill,” that evasive status that, for whatever reason, means the world to me. Tell me you see that I’m trying. Tell me I’m ridiculous in a way only I can be, in a way that’s infectious and inviting. Text me just to say I’m f%$&*#g awesome so I can wake up to a happy non-sequitur.
I just might be the only college student I know who still gets snail mail on the regular. My mom sends me greeting cards when it’s not even my birthday. She sends them on their own usually, but sometimes with the People Magazine crossword puzzle or a clipped article from the Detroit Jewish News tucked in the pastel envelope. Sometimes, they arrive alongside a concert t-shirt I demanded she send me for that band’s concert a few days later. She buys me a greeting card every year for Mother’s Day, as though the occasion is primarily about me.
She just might have a secret undercover life at Hallmark, because somehow the cursive words read as though my mom wrote them herself, with me in mind. They say the things she needs to say, the things I need to hear, the almost-but-not-quite-trite phrases provoking joyful tears in both of us. She speaks to me through American Greetings; she shows up without fail.
Sometimes, I give my mom flack for the time she told me I could pick out my own American Girl Doll for my tenth birthday but neither of us got around to making it happen, so I never actually got the doll. This does not disturb my sleep at night. I did not even want the eerily lifelike, historically-based doll that badly in the first place. But there is a piece of me that still feels a twinge of disappointment at the unfulfilled wish. But otherwise, I cannot readily recall coveting an object as much as I desired for you to Show Up.
If you love me, Show Up. It’s 90% of the matter.
Show Up in every sense you can. Sit next to me, even if I’m writing cover letters for internships (shameless plug- I’m still looking…) and even if I type at an aggressive volume. Send me emojis just stam (randomly). Actually listen to the song I sent you the other day.
The moments that touch me, the gifts I would ask for in response to your question, amount to your presence. And when we boil it down,
what is love if not presence?
Here’s what I want from you, my friends, on my birthday and pretty much always: Just Show Up. And that’s what I want to thank you for.
This is for the stuffed bunny named Lizzy Loo, and more so for the fact that you delivered it when you knew I couldn’t leave my room.
This is for calling me at 9:53 to make sure I was awake for my 10:10 class.
This is for your willingness to #helpagirlout.
This is about the personalized note, tucked into the Amazon book you ordered me, that would have been more than enough on its own.
This is me trying my hardest to reassure you of the truth in my slurred words, “I swear I would say this even sober- I love you I love you I love you and I’m beyond blessed to have your friendship.” You nod and smile in response, humoring me. You let me hug you for drunkenly long and remind me to stay hydrated. You need to believe me because I’m saying it now. Thank you and thank you.
I love you I love you I love you and I am unironically #blessed
For being who you are, and for being with me as I am.