Wrapping Paper

Family and friends visited him for dinner. They had hamburger meats and red-peppered potato salad, greens with goat-cheese and grapefruit-basil dressings, sautéed squash, marinated asparagus, cucumber-watermelon-vodka drink, red wine and rum. The backyard patio where they all ate was strung with tiny-lights in the treetops, mirth from bad jokes and laughter from good stories.  All the house’s chairs were outside and filled with relaxed figures. A table brimmed with food and people sat with loaded plates.

When the sun had set, and he had eaten his fill, he sipped from a bottle of red wine and puffed at a cigar. “I don’t know what I’ve done,” he said, and the small crowd quieted, “to have such wonderful food and company to share my birthday with… but I know I’ve done something right.”

Not long later he was replying to warm wishes online.  He had received them from work friends, long-time friends, and, one he did not know, or at least did not recall. Nothing from the mystery well-wisher’s profile jogged his memory. He explored further and saw some recently uploaded pictures. A girl who was a friend of the mystery well-wisher caught his eye.  She had a carefree smile, spunky-short blond hair, and bright eyes. He was taken away, but also saw she lived far away, enough so they would probably never meet. He continued investigating to relearn the mystery well-wisher was a barista from a local coffee shop.

They exchanged messages, and he visited later that week. They caught up between orders of lattes and micro-brewed beer.  The barista soon looked to the door and smiled.

“Oh, didn’t I tell you?” the barista said. “My cousin is visiting from out of town. She’s here now.”

There she was, the girl from the picture. The barista introduced them. He was charming, and she, charmed. They talked for a while, and then a while after that, until the shop had locked its doors.

On parting, he said: “When I woke this morning I didn’t know what today would bring. It’s like ripping the wrapping paper off a present and in that moment the gift could be anything. I’ve had everything I wanted from this day.”