Like the rattle of bones in the black sky outside, the rain pitter-pattered a drum roll against the grimy window of my room at work. I glanced outside at what looked like a particularly miserable journey home. Still, I did want to get home... I had a blog post to write.
I wasn't alone in noticing it. My client, all frizzy hair and casual clothes, let out an audible "oh!" which I had to enquire about. She was also dreading the journey home and, as I left the building half an hour later, she was still there, sheltering from the elements.
Our conversation had strayed at the onset of the rain, as if this was heaven's cue to switch from our tedious work-related subject to something a little more fun. I don't know how birthday parties entered the conversation, exactly, but she started talking about her 18th, which was about six years ago, by my reckoning. My own 18th was a whole eleven years ago. Eleven and a half. When I think about it, from here on in it's another step on the inexorable spiral towards my death.
So, with that cheerful thought... BIRTHDAYS!
My birthday's in March (the month, not the town). My 18th was a period of transition for more reasons than just turning 18. I was heading towards the end of school and trying desperately to get into university. I was forming new friendships and discovering new music. I was spending more time in the sixth form common room, and I'd decided to bring a Walkman into school so I could listen to Evita in my spare time - to which I'd recently learned all the lyrics. But then again, I knew all of Joseph by 16 - by 18, it was the natural progression.
And, of course, I had my first girlfriend.
It was during one of the Evita sessions in the common room that the subject of my impending birthday came up. Einstein, Lightsinthesky, Music Man, Warman and I were all in the circle, but it was my token black friend who popped the question.
"What are you gonna do for your birthday?" he asked, taking advantage of the fact that I was switching from Evita to The Best of James. He then took it upon himself to answer his own question, addressing the others: "...He's probably gonna go do something with Rebecca, though, casually sweeping us all aside."
Those words had an effect upon me - especially since that had been my plan. But then, I reasoned, I ought to see my friends more. I was turning 18 - I was going to need the support for the inevitable fallout.
"Oh, well, I'm going to Pizza Hut," I invented.
Three days later and I sat at a table with both my schoolfriends and the usual miscreants - Mane, Robinson et al. - munching down pizza. I'd ordered maybe a little too much, but it was my birthday, after all, and my parents had given me money with which to buy pizza, so I was going to use it. I felt slightly ill - a good way to start your adult life, perhaps. Mane and Robinson were clinking glasses; my token black friend was sexually abusing the Ice Cream Factory. Einstein wasn't saying much, but then again, he never does. I'm convinced he does advanced calculus in his head to pass the time.
The merriment ended and I was insistent that we went back to my house to record some music (which didn't happen, actually). As we emptied out onto the street, I led the charge (well, more of a waddle, which was eventually to become a meander, followed by a stagger and maybe a wheeze or two, but initially it was a charge) into the cool night air. I was suddenly seized by the urge to declare something to the world.
Arms held aloft, a Y to the sky. I opened my mouth and shouted, at the top of my voice...
It just all felt right.