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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Birth Right

Leaves on trees give sound to sighing winds that move in and out of my living room window. Peering through the glass are pieces of sunlight that illuminate dancing patterns of dust. They hardly seem worried about settling anywhere on this lazy Sunday afternoon. Although I had not invited anyone over, the room is full of friends. My house often seems to gather company much in the same way that it gathers the dust I watch float towards no particular direction.
They sit on the couch, chairs, and futon arranged around each other and discuss their days. I chew on a toothpick and space out, my legs kicking off the end of a loveseat I am draped over. Preoccupied with thought, I am not engaged in the room’s chatter. With another birthday around the corner, I find myself contemplating the meaning of my finite existence, a task that hushes my voice among the outgoing assembly of students whose minds are still fresh from class, work, and life outside this room and my thoughts.
The conversation is silly and light-hearted. I only half listen until my ears perk up at my name.
“Wait, Rica, isn’t your birthday this week?” my roommate Nora asks, momentarily tearing herself away from a crippling Reddit addiction. Her Persian skin and dark features make her a shadow in the unlit corner of the kitchen.
I roll my eyes. “Yeah, I guess it’s on Friday.”
I silently pray that this answer will end the discussion. On the twenty-seventh day of the first month of each year, catastrophe ensues in the form of a botched party or failed plans or an empty bank account all in the name of my birth. My resentment of this day is only half-serious, but still I hold dear this cynicism because, frankly, I can. Leslie Gore got it right- It’s my party, I can cry if I want to.
“Oh my God,” Sean squeals, sprawled out on a futon covering a good chunk of the living room floor. His blue eyes are wide with anticipation. “What are we gonna do for it?”
More aggressively than I intend, I answer, “I don’t know, why do I have to do something?” After a brief pause, I collect myself and recover the answer. “I mean, I don’t know. I hate birthdays… they never work out.”
Life for you began exactly so many years ago, some floating voice says. Then it rips me away from an age I had just gotten comfortable with in order to don some new identity. This year, I am forced to forsake the all-too infamous age of 21 for a much murkier hue of 22, casting me to a fate known as being in my 20s. Gross.
Sean tries hard to rally. “Com’ on… it’s supposed to be a fun way to remind you that you were born!” I sit unconvinced as others chime in on possible party ideas. What purpose does this reminder serve? I have heard that the highest percentage of suicides occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a time where people are dragged into days meant to fill some void in us. How many are instead reminded of what left the holes there in the first place? Is this true of birthdays too? I wonder if anyone felt so poetically inclined as to end his life many years later on the same date it began.
What will this pile of celebrations become when I crush under the pressure of age and expire? What compels me to find comfort in only the most perverse views of this personal holiday? Dripping wax crawling down candles look like teardrops; wrapping paper seems a superfluous decoration stuffed in a trash bag.
And yet, I still want to believe in some sort of renewal or awakening that we all seek on this day. Will this year be important? Will some profound life event make seeing this day next year more significant? Finding meaning in it feels like reading palms with no knowledge of the lines’ symbolism.
Still combating the rebuttal from a crowd eager to have to a party to look forward to over the weekend, I concede to the notion of raging while still reserving my right not to.
“OK, OK, I get it. Look, just be on-call, all of you… we might go out, or I might just make you sit with me and commiserate all day. Either way, I expect full attendance and no complaining. “
And maybe that’s it. Maybe we all need one day to be allowed to act in ways we are deprived of the rest of the year. Birthdays are the only days of the year where people are truly excused for being loud, unreasonable, irrational, miserable, wasted, annoying, or passed out in the corner of a bar. If nothing else, I am allowed to revert back to the state of mind I had when I was in fact born, knowing the self-indulgence can be excused simply with the presence of a birthday hat or pin or shot.
This is the one day where age and its meaning should not weigh on my mind. I have the whole year to do that. Perhaps someone a long time ago decided that if one should be so lucky to live to see another birthday, it is her birth right to be distinguished as someone who has made it another year in this realm. Certainly that someone deserves a day of free shots, good wishes, and permission to act badly. We all deserve happy birthdays; some of us just find happiness in negativity. And that is my right, one day a year.

Your weekend warrior,


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