Anna was dragging a helium tank to the curb when Lou arrived at her doorstep. She was an older woman, and when he got out to help her, he noticed she was also carrying signs with the words "Happy 60th Birthday" written out with a thick, dark line — and, somewhat strangely, a bag filled with deflated black balloons. "Do you know how to work this thing?" she asked Lou, as he walked up to meet her. It was 9 at night, and the two spent time in the dark figuring out the machine, then stuffed the car with the bobbing, unwieldy product.
The ride was long, giving Lou time to ask more about the mysterious birthday decorations. Sitting under a dark latex cloud, his passenger explained that they were for a new friend who'd never celebrated a birthday. The friend had told Anna that his birthday was "just another day," she said.
Lou pulled up in front of the house. A single light illuminated an upstairs window, and Anna told him to quickly cut the headlights. She wanted this to be a surprise, and she needed Lou's help.
She raced around the yard, hanging up signs and tying balloons to fence posts. He tried his best to help (fully aware they were technically trespassing!) They stopped to look at their work, and Anna put her hand on her heart. "My heart is racing," she admitted to Lou.
The first part of the surprise was set in place. The two got into the car, and Anna explained she was planning on taking a Lyft to her friend's office early the next morning to decorate there, too.
They drove away from the house in excited silence. Quietly, Anna told Lou that she was a widow of nine years. The man with the birthday was the first person she'd opened up to since her husband's death. She was in love, she told her driver.
Lou could see it. This woman had put so much energy into this surprise, had reacted so fully to the thought of this man never having celebrated a birthday — and he felt lucky, beyond belief, to have played a small part of the surprise.