Another birthday, one I actually realized I kinda did want to go. Bugger the older people, I'd stick to the kids. After the usual rounds of heys, I considered going away to sulk in the corner. But the kids would not let me.
"Come on, Iz!" several of them called. Your brother is not here today, I'm happy for that, one less face to remind me of you.
"Run!" they all say together when Uncle Harry starts throwing waterballons all around. I walk away, knowing that none will hit me. After a few times, I am running with all the kids. I've been happier these last few months, at least I feel so.
"Grandma Marie!" half of the kids run towards their grandmother, three of them including my sister don't.
"Whatdidyougetme?" Marshall says to her. I doubt anybody understood him, myself included. He's turning seven, you would have turned twenty one at the beginning of the year.
"Here it is!" she says. "And your Uncle Joe sends this" I am still standing quite a distance away, but I can hear it perfectly. Uncle Joe… your father. He's not coming, that's a relief too. I don't know if he's awkward toward me or if it's the other way around, but still.
I greet her formally, a kiss on the cheek and keep playing with the kids. Without realizing it, I am actually having a good time, some more people arrive. Later, I brush my windblown hair to greet everybody.
"How are your studies going?" somebody asks. I smile and say that they are going well, which is as much as I want to stretch the answer.
"Any boyfriends?" I turn to whomever asked that. My godfather, great, he just knows what to ask.
"Sure, my new boyfriend Anatomy 203, but don't tell it I'm also with Microbiology 101" my own joke, everyone laughs. I still have to find what makes them laugh about it. It's just a prettier way of saying ´No one, not looking, not interested´
"Ready to sing Happy Birthday, Marshall?" my aunt comes by to ask. He nods, and they produce the candles and a lighter quickly. No body here smokes, at least that I know of. You used to smoke, I'd always beg you not to. You only conceded to not smoking in my presence, and thought I did not know any better than it was just for shows. Your mouth still tasted of that twinge of cigarette that you simply cannot make go away, no matter how much a smoker mouthwashes.
"Iz!" someone grabbed my shoulder. I payed attention, my sister and Marshall's sister are making guestures to me… They want me to help them dunk Marshall's head into the head, why am I standing behind him? Oh, fine, I'll do it. I nod imperceptible to the rest of the table.
"Hap- " I start singing, but Marshall elbows me.
"How else are we going to make everyone come?" I reason to him. "Hap-" he elbows me again. Now, it's his sister, my sister and your only female cousin asides his sister playing along…
"Wait!" he says. The good news is that everyone is here now.
"Oh, the camera!!" my aunt leaves again.
"I´m here!" she says.
"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Marshall, Happy birthday to you!" we all sang badly and out of tune.
"Uncle Dan!!" I wonder who that is referred to.. Let's see… there's my dad, Uncle Rudolph, my godfather, Uncle Ralph, there's Marshall's dad, Uncle Adrian, there's Julie's and Gabe's dad, Uncle Gabe, same name, your father, Uncle Joe… hmm your family has a tendency to repeat names, huh? You're named after you dad, Gabe is named after his dad too, and you're dad is named after his father. Could Uncle Dan mean Uncle Adrian? I had not noticed that before. That makes no sense.
I saw everybody take cake.
"A piece, Iz?" Aunt Helen asks me. I shake my head. "Oh, that's right, you can't" Ever since a couple of months ago when I was diagnosed with pre diabetes, I told them straight away so they'd help me not eat sweets. It completely backfired on me. If it were up to my Mom, she would be feeding me Splenda by the spoonful. I hate Splenda and sucralose in any shape and form. It tastes disgusting, I'd rather not indulge in sweets if it means having that stupid "sugar replacement".
Did you have a weakness for sugars as I did? I do not remember, you did always like very different things. Alcohol, MJ, many different kinds of drugs. Cigarretes, and cigars, too. I thought only grandpa and his friends smoked cigars.
"Oh, Marshall!" I suddenly remember, he looks at me from an empty plate of chocolate cake. I got the impression from his face that it was really good. Yum, chocolate cake… with vanilla ice cream. Oh, that train of thought had me indulging last week. I'd better stop. You'd help me rid me of temptation all the time, by giving in to it. This one isn't so simple.
"How is Pearl?" Pearl is the new dog in the house, offspring of the two Pomeranians they already have. Going to see the dog gives me a perfect excuse to not be present and do whatever I want for a short while. Marshall and Tommy (my cousin, not yours) lead me to the dogs. Pearl is the cutest thing yet, not nearly as hairy as his parents, but a puff of cotton with small black eyes looking curiously into the worlds. She's beautiful. I take her and go out.
Huh, this is not what I meant to do. Instantly, everybody is around me, asking about the dog, touching it, petting it.
"I'm just the carrier, I have no idea about anything regarding it," I say, they ask me things about Pearl that I simple have no idea. Will her hair grow more, aw, what happened to her brother, all these questions that I could care less about.
"Can I pet it?" comes a voice from below. I nod and allow Lucy to pet her. Gabe joins in quickly.
"Gimme, I can take it back to its pen," our cousin asks. I nod.
"Do you live here?" Gabe asks me. I don't get it.
"Is this your house?" What is this kid saying?
"Oh, no, I live somewhere else!" I exclaim to him. I love kids, but he looks so much like you… it distracts me.
"Uncle Dan!" Julie calls. I turn my head. She is definitely addressing Uncle Adrian, you know, your uncle and my uncle. The guy that introduced us the first time.
Julie calls Gabe over too, I wondered inside. Uncle Gabe was inside, getting coffee. My aunt (your aunt, too, politically) was pouring coffee for him.
"Oh, could I get some coffee, too?" I ask. I began taking coffee a few months after starting college, yes, a few months after…
I turn around and take an empanada, one of the few sugarless (yes, sugarless, not sugarfree) on the table. It had spinach and cheese. You'd like it, you and your muscles.
"Where does Uncle Dan come from?" I ask. Uncle Gabe and Uncle Adrian are in the kitchen. I notice that there are not coffee cups left. At least not with coffee.
"Oh, that goes way back" Uncle Gabe says.
"Yes, ever since Little Joey" Uncle Adrian fills in. Shit, what did I just do?
"I figured as much, what I meant is how it evolved from Adrian to Dan" Oh, shit, did I just snap at them? I hope it does not sound like it. "I mean," what do I mean? "I thought it had something to do with Dan, as in the Spanish. You know, Dan as in the action of giving." Adrian is an important part of many charities that he helps, and others he created himself.
"Oh, no" Adrian replies. I walk away. A bit quickly, possibly, but I don't care.
Why did I want to ask? What the fuck compelled me to ask when I already knew the fucking answer? I hate you, I hate the fact that they are just as uncomfortable talking about you. That they don't know. I hate that I can't talk to you. I hate all of this.
I need to leave. Shit, I didn't drive, I came with my parents.
"Stupid" I say to myself once I am a safe distance away from everything and everybody. I take a few deep breaths. I go to the bathroom. Nothing, my reflection does not help as it stands there insulting me. Insulting my incapacity to move forward.
"SSDD" I say to myself. Our inside joke. "Same Shit, Different Day" oh, shit, I miss you so much. How come it's been more than two years now? I do not cry when I think of you, even if I think of you a bit too much. IF? I know I think of you too much, I know.
You know, I think this guy at school has a crush on me. Like a real crush, because I'm going to crush him when I tell him the truth. That I love talking to him, and find him a very interesting person, but I am just not ready for someone new. I hope that you won't feel sorry for me over all this. I don't regret your death, I regret all the if's that cloud my thoughts more often than not.
"Different Day" I can do this. I just have to go outside, and keep pretending with the adults, to go outside and plaster a smile, say the minimum and please everybody by being everything that you seemed not to be. But I know you were, that and more.
Or go outside and play with the little kids, feel thirteen or eight again, when I had not only no responsibilities, but I could play. Carefree. I can do that, I can keep my head in myself and allow for my body, my actions to reflex who I used to be. I do it all the time. It's the best way to escape my reality. To not think of you is impossible, but in this way, it's much more than just bearable.
So, same shit different day. Gabe is quite fond of me, he's a great kid. Too bad you never met him. He would have looked up to you, just as the rest of your cousins did, because you were the eldest, just as I am on the other side. And I looked at, not for guidance, but for acceptance, which you so willing gave me. Acceptance and, dare I say it?, the closest thing i ever had to unfraternal love.
Oh, mae, That was such a weight off my shoulders. This birthday really was trying, and sinking twice did not help. Hope y'all like and review.