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Too Much Birthday
I'm about to turn 32. Over the last couple of years, I've been alerted to my birthday being around the corner by my mom's question, "When are you getting married and settling down? You are getting old ". This year I did not need that. I know I am getting old cause my neck has been hurting for the last few days. All from sleeping awkwardly for one night. Now I've to carry my head around like it's a delicate vase. Stretch. Take care of my diet. I can no longer eat Oreos and then go do a PR at the gym. I have to sleep for seven hours, drink a lot of water and go to the restroom twice during a movie.
Last year a good friend threw me a birthday party. That was probably the first time in around 20 years that I celebrated my birthday with more than one person. My parents celebrated my birthday occasionally till I was 10. They didn't seem too happy about it. This is understandable. I think they were conflicted between the joy of being able to do something for their kid and being envious of what they were able to provide. I don't think anyone ever remembered my father's birthday. Even if anyone did I think he didn't know how to process that incident. One time I gifted him a book, and he left it on the counter where all the purposeless things in the house go. I got the message then. The one story I remember about my mom's father was that he used to buy a handful of sweets on his way back home from work. My mom would come to know of this when she heard him loudly crunch on them in the patio while she did her school homework. He never shared. That man was definitely not throwing birthday parties.
No one who came to those curmudgeonly birthday parties of mine seemed to enjoy it either. I was not one of the cool kids, and I'm sure the tense atmosphere that prevailed in the house did not help. It was also in the middle of the monsoon in Kerala. It rained every single day, permeating the air with uncertainty about whether the show will go on as planned. So I wished for birthdays in the summer. I perhaps manifested this wish too hard cause now I live in Texas where its 100-degree days all of June. Permeating the air with death instead of uncertainty. I'd like to go on a long walk on my birthday but chances are that I will melt and become part of the sidewalk. Then maybe finally, I'd be one with the built environment just as I always wished.
Now when someone remembers my birthday I do the same thing that my father did. I batch it along with purposeless memories that should not be processed at any cost. I should stop doing that. I fear it may be too late. These days I'm caught between the exhilaration of having friends who remember details such as these and the despondency of not knowing how to respond. I've got better at it. The trick is to forget that it's my birthday and be pleasantly surprised when someone remembers. It's like finding a dollar in my shirt pocket.
Conveniently, this also marks my anniversary of moving to the United States. Six years of the American Dream. It's good to be in something from the ground floor. And I came too late for that, I know. But lately, I'm getting the feeling that I came in at the end. Tony Soprano said that. This is perhaps why I subconsciously timed my Sopranos rewatch to coincide with my birthday.
In In the Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust is reminded of his childhood by the taste of madeleines dunked in milk. Proust's Madeleine, as this triggering of involuntary memory has come to be known. Birthdays are like Proust's Madeleines for everyone, connecting discontinuous memories vertically in the depth of time, not revealing any clear narratives. If you asked me a year ago I'd have said the narrative is some version of "every year I'm growing and improving", but that's not true. I've got better at writing every week but worse at running two miles. I've got better at maintaining friendships, and worse at forming new ones. So, I wish for little things this birthday, such as for my neck to not hurt.
P.S: Thanks to all my lovely friends who made it out to King Bee on short notice on Friday. Shout out to Tim for baking a cheesecake that was the talk of the night, and Shreeda for blessing the local dive with probably the first slice of Brie cheese and impeccable charcuterie board it has ever seen.
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