today you are seventeen, and at one time 17 seemed so old
but you feel like sixteen still –
still a baby, a child, no bigger than you were the day you were born
and 18 is what seems so old now.
you wonder what “Happy Birthday” really means.
is it a wish? a mandate?
you whisper, “happy birthday” to yourself when you wake up
but for some reason you doubt that it will be true.
what makes a birthday special? the world rotates at the same speed
the sun rises with the same brightness
rain falls with the same sound, plink plink plink, to remind you that today is just as
as every other.
your parents forget.
your mother forgets that 17 years ago today, she opened up and
split into two, and blood gave forth to blood, and flesh to flesh,
and they cut you away and measured your feet and all the time you were
crying, crying, crying
because it was painful just to be alive.
your friends give you gifts and you try to smile
and why not?
because you don’t even know what you want anyway
except maybe a heart that isn’t falling to pieces, except a cure to this disease called sadness,
but those can’t be wrapped up in tissue paper.
you eat pizza and frozen yogurt
and cookies and chocolate and birthday cake
and when food goes into your mouth you think about the scale
and the size of your thighs when you look at yourself in the bathroom mirror
and you wonder how a simple number
can produce so much self-loathing.
you are hopeless.
for the past 17 years, you have been working
and working and working and working and now
you are so
and you will work like a slave until the day you die, but you don’t know
why, all you know is that you
survive like this much longer.
it is almost midnight and you want to fall asleep
and never wake up. it is hard to be sad when everyone is wishing you happiness
but somehow you have done it.
tomorrow the world will spin again
and again and again and again. doesn’t it ever get tired? no one thanks the world
for spinning. it gives us sun and sky and life
while we pour out garbage and smoke and acid
yet it never falters or slows or stops.
the clock has struck twelve and you are relieved because you have survived yet another day
you think about the maybes in life and all the unanswerable questions and figure that you’ll never solve
the great mysteries
if you’re dead. you’ll never know what makes the world spin on
if you’re interred deep within it.
you’re seventeen and a day now, and eighteen is far but
you will feel old enough
and you will have found the cure for the sadness in your soul
and you will know the secret force that pushes a planet on a tilted axis, and be able to borrow its strength
for the bad days.
the clock strikes two.
a part of your heart wakes up, pushes aside the blanket of sorrow for just a second, and whispers to you,
if you’ve made it a day, you can make it a year.
you believe it.