Happy Birthday Song

It’s his birthday today.

Fifteen years ago today, for the first time, I bought him a birthday card. It was yellow. Bright yellow, with a blue bird on front, eyes wide and beak open, peacock proud but with the plumage of a jay. I imagined that little blue bird could sing the melody that filled my heart. It was his birthday and I wanted to shout from the little restaurant that swung in circles atop One World Trade.

Except that nine days before his birthday, that little restaurant had toppled over on the ground, crumbling like a piñata. I lost so much that day. Maybe that’s why I had gathered all I could feel and stuffed it in my chest, my heart full of all I’d experienced, taking all the emotions that bubbled over in me, choking them down, pressing them until they hardened. Then, like sheets of wallpaper, I covered him with all that it became. Everything I could express I gave to him. All the people who were no longer in this world, I reincarnated in him. I transferred what I would have felt for them, to him. I loved him. More than I thought possible. More than it actually is possible to love another. Especially when the only thing you can conjure up for yourself is revolt. Loathing. Disgust. Disappointment. Hate. So maybe not the only thing. But certainly not the best thing either.

Fifteen years ago on his birthday, I plucked that yellow and blue card from a shelf that rotated when you pushed it, eager in its attempts to offer everything it had. Here, pick one; this or that, no matter. So that little metallic stand seemed to beg of me. And I accepted it’s offering, transferring all my expressions into that one card, finding its words inadequate and adding sonnets of my own to supplement.

I wrote everything I felt, which was clearly too much. I cried at my own words. Words I was sure would soften his heart, melt his resolve to not love me back.

He refused to read it while I stood there. Wouldn’t offer an explanation other than, Later. I’ll do it when you’re gone.

I didn’t know what that meant. That he was just flashing forward to when I was gone. For good. Already, he was making plans for his life after me.

No, it wasn’t the last time I saw him. It took years of cycling through my feelings, giving more than I had, cultivating more of myself because I thought that’s what he wanted. That that’s what it would take for him to be satisfied. For him to be happy. For him to feel it for me too.

I felt too much. I spent too much of my time convincing myself it was love. It wasn’t.

It’s his birthday today but I am the one being reborn.

I remember what it was like to give my song to a proud bluebird and let it sing for me. Lost in translation, my sentiment fell like surplus birdseed from its open beak, crashing against jagged rocks below. Silenced.

I gave my song to someone else to sing but how could they sing for me? Today, the words gush from my lips and I sing my own melody. Hoarse, tear-streaked, the song is mine alone to sing. So Happy Birthday to me too.

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright © 2016, Karen Wright

 

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