Monday, February 21, 2022

Microstory 1826: Shared Birthday

It’s not my birthday today, but it’s the day that I used to use for it. My best friend, who I grew up with, was born exactly six months after me, to the hour. Obviously, we used to have our own separate celebrations, but we liked to do everything together, so we figured we might as well include birthday parties in that. We split the difference, and always observed it halfway between mine and hers. Our families didn’t really understand why we would want this, and it took them a while to recall the occasion, since the date wasn’t significant for any of them, but they eventually got on board, and it became a lovely tradition. As we got older, we did the usual thing of distancing ourselves from our families, and exerting our independence, but we never grew apart from each other, and we never stopped these middle birthdays. She died years ago, not too long after our last ever joint party. It was so sudden, but not an accident. Her heart just stopped beating. I think her parents know more about it than they wanted to tell me, but I don’t think there was anything anyone could have done to stop it. I was devastated, and depressed, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. Who was I without her? We would always go on group dates, and we took care of each other, and we had no secrets. I just sort of went on autopilot after that, letting my routines take me through life, which just made it worse, because so many of those routines involved her. I realized after that how much I loved her, and that I didn’t really need anyone else to be happy. Those dates were pointless. Rather, they weren’t, but we were really just dating each other. We were in love, at least in every sense that mattered. Sex was so unimportant to both of us. We probably would have admitted this much about ourselves, and stopped trying to find partners in others. Now we’ll never know.

A few months after it happened, her real birthday rolled around. I didn’t realize it until the end of the day. I was sitting on my couch, watching whatever happened to be on TV, when the weather came on. They showed us the date, and I realized its significance. A normal person would know exactly what day it was, but I had all but missed it. It’s like she died all over again, I cried for hours. Thin walls line my apartment, I know my neighbors heard, but everyone knew what was going on, so they didn’t say a word. The next day, my neighbor to the left invited me over for dinner, and though he still didn’t say anything, I know it was because he didn’t want me to have to be alone. It was nice. We started to do it every week, making it a new tradition. I should have seen it all along, but I didn’t notice what was really going on until my own real birthday occurred. Again, I didn’t realize right away what day it was, because the day was so meaningless. But that neighbor wanted to take me out, and do something special. The way he looked at me that night, it was the same way he always looked at me, but I was seeing it in a new light. It was love. He was in love with me, and I was in love with him. We had been dating for the last few months, and I didn’t even know it. I felt like such an idiot. How many times did I act like a bad girlfriend because I wasn’t aware that I was one. I decided to be honest with him. I’ll always remember his smile. He wasn’t the least bit surprised at how dense I was being, and he didn’t hold it against me. We just kind of started over from there, with both of us on the same page. We have been married for thirty years. And now I’m dying, and it’s not my birthday, but it’s the day that I used to use for it.

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