I am writing a poem about my birthday and candles and alcohol and dead people.
And how I have a really good imagination and every time I walk by that stop sign I see the car slamming into her and spreading her across the asphalt and every time the lights flicker I imagine his brain swelling against the confines of his skull and every time I walk in the front door I am reminded that my baby brother is dead.
I am writing a poem about balloons and dead people.
It is the fourth of September and I am full of longing. I want bare knees and raw elbows, untied shoes, green grass that bites into the tender palms of my hands. I want summer to roll into autumn without numbers. I want to pick wild strawberries. I want birdsong sunsets, lowercase letters.
I want Cooper's pond at night, where there are no atomic bombs or doctor's charts and you can slip beneath its cold surface and live forever.
Tonight I am supposed to celebrate growing old by getting drunk and pretending that I am a normal human being who cares about growing old and getting drunk and being a normal human being. I won't, though. I can't. I want to sit in my room and think about those I've loved who have died.
I don't know how to tell people that I can't stand my birthday. I watch the way candlelight buries itself in the hollows of a human's face and feel gloriously alive but also guilty and anxious.
Like there is always something brilliant just out of reach.
Sometimes all I can think about is when I was small and the shadows moved so convincingly in the dark and I would feel that fear and anxiety bubbling over and spilling out the vents of my ribcage.
My mother would hold me close and rock me and say "Nothing will ever happen to you. I promise I will keep you safe. It will be okay."
But even she couldn't fix this.
Today in 476 the Roman empire fell, changing a nation forever.
I wrote this poem with capitals and used even numbers and it didn't change a thing.
"Do you think some people are just born sad?" I ask.
"No," you say. You're fiddling with the pillowcase. You look like you have a secret. Then: "I cannot be with you if you're just going to commit suicide in ten years."
"Then go," I say, weary. You just pull me closer.
(It is too much now. I cannot do this. I haven't told you that yet. I don't suppose I ever will).
I only wish for impossible things because I stopped believing in the power of birthday candles long ago.