optimism is believing it can’t get any worse

i.

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.

ii.

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.

 

iii.

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

insignificant

as every other.

 

iv.

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.

 

v.

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.

 

vi.

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.

 

vii.

you are hopeless.

for the past 17 years, you have been working

and working and working and working and now

you are so

damn

tired.

and you will work like a slave until the day you die, but you don’t know

why, all you know is that you

cannot

survive like this much longer.

 

viii.

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.

 

ix.

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

maybe then

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.

 

x.

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.

 

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