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Life in the UK, Snippets of life

A Birthday Story

I’ve never been the one who likes to celebrate my own birthday. If it’s for friends, or family, bring it on. I’ll do everything to make that day special: planning a party and midnight surprise, making a video or scrapbook, running all over town to get pictures of people holding a birthday banner, you name it. But my birthday is a different story. I hate being in the spotlight, and birthday is no exception.

This year, I was ready to celebrate it as quietly as possible. The night before, Dwi asked me if I was up for a drink at Stags, so I went there. Sometime before midnight we went back to my place. I went straight to my room to put my stuff, and when I went downstairs, the light in the dining room was already off, replaced by a glow from tiny candles on a cake. Over the years, I somehow could always sniff out if there was something going on behind my back, and that included my birthday surprises. I’d never been really surprised when my friends showed up in front of my house at midnight, or appeared with a cake in the middle of lunch. I’ve mastered acting surprised as not to disappoint them. But this time, they caught me off guard. When I saw my housemate, I screamed, ‘What are you doing here?’, really didn’t expect her to be home at that time, let alone with a cake and decorations. Not the most lovely response, but that’s how surprised I was. This time, when I said ‘I didn’t expect this,’ I really meant it (kudos for being so sneaky, guys).

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Maša stayed with me that night, and we watched a movie before going to bed. Sometime before dawn, I woke up screaming in horror when I saw a face was staring at me. It wasn’t Maša’s, for sure, and I couldn’t quite figure out who it was. Maša shook me and asked in panic, ‘What happened? What happened?’ before I stopped screaming. I feel bad for freaking her out. As for that face, for the peace of my mind, I’ll just conclude that it was nothing but a nightmare.

I was supposed to catch the 10.40 coach to London with Dwi. I think it was my bad day or something, because I woke up exactly ten minutes before that. Maša tried to convince me that I’d still make it, but I knew I wouldn’t, so I called Dwi and told him not to wait for me and meet in London. I booked the next coach and arrived five minutes early, only to find that it was 45 minutes late. Once I was on the coach, I realized that I didn’t have my wallet with me. So I went to London without cash, cards, and ID. That day didn’t look promising, to be honest.

Long story short, I finally managed to meet Dwi in Victoria station and got some cash. We spent a nice afternoon walking along the banks, and enjoyed the sunset at the Tower Bridge.

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I met Katka just as the sun disappeared, and we went to Soho for dinner with Farah, having the journey longer than usual as we missed our stops a couple of times while we were busy catching up.

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We had a nice dinner and went straight home after that. I was ready to call it a day when Katka introduced me to her housemates, who apparently had quite a stash of drinks from home, Slovakia. They offered me to try, and poured it into a shot glass, suggesting me not to finish it in one go. Whoa. Let’s just say time went by so very quickly and we didn’t realize it was 6 in the morning before we stopped drinking.

We woke up at 1.30 pm with terrible headache and hangover, so terrible that we almost canceled our plan to go to Portobello Market. In the end we dragged ourselves for lunch at Portobello, before walking along the street with just enough time before the shops closed.

We took the tube to Covent Garden to meet Farah one last time before she went home for good. To be honest, the day before, when I missed my coach, I almost ditched my plan to go to London. The only thing that made me go was the thought of seeing Farah for the last time.

I gave her a farewell present before we parted ways, and we hugged for a long time. That was when I broke down, and she kept saying, ‘Don’t cry. You’re gonna make me cry and I’m gonna look like a mess.’ It was, definitely, one of the hardest farewells I’ve had. Not knowing when to meet next made it harder for both of us.

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I was still crying on my way back. We took the tube from Leicester Square, and I heard a tune of Here Comes the Sun while we were going down the escalator, played by a middle-aged street musician. His soft voice faded as I walked away into the platform.

‘It’s alright, it’s alright.’

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