My freshman year in college was the first time that I would not be home for my birthday.
On October 8th a package arrived. On October 9th, Mom called to see if I'd received it. "I don't know if it traveled well," she said. "You might want to open it. Carefully."
I asked my roommate for a knife. He suggested scissors, but that's not how we open packages in this family. I lay the package down on the floor. It was surprisingly heavy. Dead weight. Gripping the steak-knife like a scapel I made the first incision directly down the center. Once the flesh of tape was sliced, I slid four fingers from each hand into the package's chest. A few passerbys stopped in the open door.
"Boone's got a package."
I pulled hard suddenly with my right hand. The adhesive ribs pulled from the carboard chest cavity with a squeal and a pop. I held the subject down with my right, pulled up with my left to a similar effect and I opened the box.
"Holy shit! Boone's got a cake. Boone's mom sent him a cake."
The homemade yellow cake was raised out of the box gently. It was thick and moist, tall and proud, still in its perfect rectangular shape. It sat on the desk for a minute and we marvelled that such a thing could be mailed.
I knew there must be frosting. Sure enough, in the box there was frosting, a knife, plates, napkins, and balloons. As I carefully applied the chocolate frosting, word of my mystical package spread through the dorm.
"I didn't know it was Boone's birthday."
Everybody ate cake. Then we started in on the balloons. First we inflated them and batted them around the dorm room. When we discovered that they could be filled to the size of a basketball, we headed to the bathroom.
Shawn stood with an obese blob of orange latex and luke warm water between his steady hands, three stories up on the catwalk over the courtyard. The balloon had to be held carefully. It could barely support its own weight.
"You sure about this, Boone? This thing is fuckin' epic."
"Gotta do something epic," I said, taking a sturdy stance. "What's the worst that could happen? It's my birthday."
Camera ready. Braced for impact. Gravity does all the work.