It was my birthday and I showered in the cold. For one reason or another, the heater didn’t seem to be working in the house. The faucet instead bled ice and each elastic band I had for a limb stretched into the water hesitantly. I tried to wash myself quickly.
The globe around me was cold and hard as I suffocated the water droplets with a fetid towel. Very little light entered through the bathroom window, making the room feel emptier than I was used to. Maybe it was because I was alone for the first time in twenty-one years; I wasn’t sure. I had come into the world with my twin brother, and I thought now that I was in it, now that I was living, breathing, kicking and screaming all on my own, I’d be doing much of the same.
I wondered how he was celebrating, if he was. I tried to look through the window to see if I could see him somehow, but the window was glazed with frost. It was probably as cold outside as it was inside. I sighed, and I’m sure my brother would remind me that us humans take everything too personally.
Despite patting myself down feverously with a towel, I barely dried myself. It was nine in the morning, so I wasn’t entirely awake yet. I guess I was giving myself an excuse: each morning was a new lifetime and each night was death and I was born somewhere in between way back when.
Still wet, I camped myself in my bed. I was still tired. My knees drew up to my chest, I placed my hands near my face in the case I drooled, the blanket tickled my belly button, and I closed my eyes. I fell asleep.
I grew up in ten minutes to the sound of an alarm. I had class. The sleep seemed to have made my exhaustion only worse. Turns out I would need a coffee to keep me going today. Life wasn’t good enough anymore. I wondered if it wasn’t, then what was.
I went to class. I listened. I nodded. I fell asleep again. I woke up again. I left. I’d do it again tomorrow. I’d do it the day after that. And so on.
I drove home under wires where forgotten shoes tapped danced on electric tightrope and amorphous clouds moved indifferent to anything below them. Nothing good was on the radio. I continued to drive, listening to the tires bumping and screeching and hurdling along. Lub-dub. Lub-dub. To the untrained ear, they sounded like a heart.
I arrived home to my grandparents and parents laughing. Happy birthday, they said with smiles painted onto their faces. I flashed one back. Why did they need to wish that my birthday was happy? This was the best day of my life.
We talked about dogs, children, and growing old. Grandpa joked that I would start forgetting things soon. For a second, I thought about how good that might be. I told him it would. He asked me to repeat what he said because he couldn’t remember.
We spoke some more. They asked me what I wanted to do when I was older. I said I was older. They said older older. I said I wasn’t sure; maybe in time, I’d be wiser too. I was still waiting for that second part. They said we all were.
Cake came out sometime in between. My family sang a song. It wasn’t as long as it used to be. Make a wish, my dad said. I did. I made a wish that if only a second, it wasn’t my birthday. As the candles went out, I thought that maybe it had happened. Everyone was silent as if they forgot why they were there. It only last a second. Then, Dig in, my dad shouted. Everyone ate.
I kissed my grandparents goodbye and my family and I went our separate ways. I began to work on assignments due tomorrow and I imagined how my life would read. It would start like this: He was born on March 20th and after twenty-one years, he had nothing to show for it. He was told that this was normal and his life would only began when he graduated, so he did. After, he was told that this was wrong and his life would really begin when he got a profession, so he became a doctor. After, he was told that this was only part of the beginning and life would blossom when he found a wife, so he did. After, he was told life would get better when he had kids, so he got three. After, he was told life was actually found in comfort, so he bought a big house. After, he was told that life was in those little moments of leisure, so he got himself a country club membership. After, he was told that he had found life, so he killed himself.
It wasn’t worth mentioning really, and the fact that his life was summed up on a tombstone proved it. Here lies Kacper, it said. He lived. It stopped there because everything that needed to be said was already contained in those two words. Life happened, and everyone knew it. The tombstone was evidence enough.
Eventually, however, the gravestone faded. His name was worn and instead of Kacper it spelt Per. A woman walking by the gravestone one day thought it was weird for some dead guy to have the name Per so she thought the name was probably Person instead. Person, she said it. The wind rustled somewhere. It was cold outside. Then, she walked away buttoning her coat.