Nobody I know knows how I spend the first few hours of my birthdays these past 5 years. Not even my parents. But I’ll make you an exception. Only if you promise not to tell anyone you know. It’s fine if you walk up to a total stranger and tell them my secret. But it must be a complete stranger or else you should stop reading my story altogether.
On the morning of my birthday which is February 25th, I wake up at 2.34. Mom said that was the time I let out my first cry. A cry barely audible, she recalled once. She said I sounded like a kitten gasping for his last breath as it was being strangled to death. As my alarm went off with that eerie ‘sci-fi’ tune, I imagined myself opening my eyes for the first time all over again. Shadows surrounding me claiming me as theirs. The street lamp managed to seep its flourescent orange through my bedroom curtains. A faint cry of an owl reached my ears.
I recited the adzan to myself. Something Dad taught me before I turned twelve. Before I had that ‘sweaty dream’ that left my boxers sticky in the morning. I repeated my faith and complete submission to Allah for another year of trying to be ‘near’. Making sure not to wake my younger brother sleeping in the adjacent bed.
The heater has been turned off. Again. Dad says boys should be able to withstand the cold. Easy for him to say, he gets to sleep with mom who has asthma. And every night around 1 AM when nature calls him, he drops by our room and turns off the heater. A good thing Mom has lovingly provided us with thick woolen bed covers and makes sure we hang our windbreakers near our bedposts, to face the chilly autumn and winter nights.
This year, like the previous, my birthday is covered with snow. The news says it’s due to global warming, I say otherwise. For me it’s just Mother Earth’s way of telling us she’s aging. I’ve spoken to God about her several times to clarify this. I know there is nothing we can do to stop her from behaving out of the ordinary. Just like Mom will too when she hits menopause. She will be sensitive and irritated most of the time. Her body will give out signs that make her feel less useful as a woman, a mother, a wife. But like the earth, it’s just her body’s way of saying goodbye a little by little. The cruel remarks, the sudden outbursts are merely sadness in disguise.
I am 13 years old today and I know these things. Well, I know quite a lot of things, things most people don’t. Like the future, spirits, other people’s thoughts. Mom says I’m indigo, the huge Cherry tree down the street says I’m among the chosen. My teacher at school thinks I’m autistic or might have ADD. “Fuck her.” my older sister said when I showed the ‘note’ that I was supposed to hand to Mom or Dad. She signed it on their behalf and voila! case closed. All my sister did was tell me to act normal around ‘them’. ‘Them’ meaning my peers and teachers at school, which was easy for someone who is actually 300-something years old in wisdom like me.
I love my sister. She’s the only one who makes living here ‘safe’ for me.
After praying for another year of ‘Enough’ for my family, enough shelter, enough happiness, enough wealth, enough sorrow, enough love, and so on, I put on my trench coat, a beanie, my hiking boots and grabbed the keys to my bicycle.
I walked down the apartment’s neon-lit emergency staircase, making sure not to step on any other worldly beings or chatting ghosts. Several even gave way an nodded ‘hello’, I swear I heard Weeping Willow sob a ‘happy birthday Kahfi..’ to me. Her voice is always soft and sad like an Autumn wind that sets flight to fallen leaves in the late afternoons. I cheerfully hopped from the 4th final step which startled the Lump Monster sleeping in the corner under the staircase to my right. He mumbles, changes position and falls back to sleep. I apologize sheepishly and push my way through the heavy door.
The sudden change of temperature hit my cheeks as I stepped onto a fresh layer of snow. I gave it a second thought and decided to walk to where I was going to instead.
[[[ to be continued ]]]