"And in the morning you wake up and the signs point to you
they say
'I'm so glad that you finally made it here,'
'You thought nobody cared, but I did, and I could tell,'
And 'This is your year,' and 'It always starts here,'
And oh, 'You're aging well.' "
-Dar Williams, You're Aging Well

It is my birthday and we are in a seedy bar, watching the leader of a bridal party tottering by; stiletto heels tripping her up, she is dressed in a long white tee-shirt with Life-Savers stuck to it, a veil in a bow on her head. We are wondering where we are going, singing American Pie which we have picked out on the jukebox because I want to hear it. Three of us know all the words, and we let the others all watch as we are shamelessly singing and enjoying. They chime in on the chorus, and we toast our days again and again.

The day after we are at a cabaret and I am thinking about birthdays as I dance real close with a gay man I can't stand, feeling him beside me, running fingers over his side as he slides his bony hands along my ass in a tight black skirt. We are dancing in jerky motions to Ricky Martin, laughing in glancing shots at each others' armpits, bemoaning the music, and bumping and grinding and twisting and dreaming. The girl that we are with comes over and dances sexy-close with me, and then trades and I take her fiance. We bring more friends to the floor and give up on the circles we kept in high school, and dance back to back and two by two by three, holding hands, spiraling round, singing loud but still not hearing.

(A year ago I spent my birthday in an office, watching my sometimes(/IwishIwashis)-lover IM his not-quite-ex-girlfriend, rubbing his back and feeling sad, trying to convince him that what I want for my birthday is him, and getting nothing and nothing and nothing, and still staying because I don't understand , waiting for him to leave.)

(I am remembering being sixteen and watching my first boyfriend drift away as we are sitting in his own backyard at my party, with all of our friends, me knowing more and more that he has been trying to get away from me for weeks, but has never had the strength to defy me.)

"Now when I was fifteen, oh I knew it was over
The road to enchantment was not mine to take..."

This is my first birthday I feel like I've spent at home in years and years and years. The Chambord margarita is not the point of this evening, nor the raspberry cheesecake with a great big candle. The mingling drag queens without any wigs and the sight through blurred eyes of my best girlfriend and the gay man singing their favorite songs are barely it either, but at least they are getting close.

I have no lover, and no interest, and mayhaps that has made all the difference. I look around at smiling, glimmering faces; I know that I have more and better friends than I could ever have dreamed of in times when I felt more loved because of one man. I see so many faces, so many, through lit cigarettes and clinking glasses in the night. My friend the chef bringing us more and more wonderful delights to taste and try and ooh and ah. We have stopped ordering drinks and are dividing up the check and beginning to think about starting for home, but we will still be some hours, all smiling and talking, and uninterested in letting go yet in the parking lot, we know, and so we don't start to leave just yet.

I feel like I am here for me, and so are they. But for once the beauty does not overwhelm me. Even though it would make a better ending to this story I am not almost crying, not fighting back the way that I feel because it looks better to be happy. Even though it would make a better ending, I am not willing to remove myself from this place for one second no matter how sweet the isolation of reflection might be.

Oh, no.

Instead, I am smiling too. I am so happy I almost break. I am part of it, as I always was, and always could have been, and I feel loved, so loved, so loved and so in love. I am not afraid for this night to be over, because I know it can always be the same.

" 'I'm so glad that you finally made it here
With the things you know now, that only time could tell
Looking back, seeing far, landing right where we are
And oh, you're aging, oh, I'm aging, oh, aren't we aging well?' "

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