i’m supposed to call you in 26 minutes. when the clock strikes midnight. it’s what i do. i am “the first” to wish you happy birthday. it’s a silly family fake competition, with an origin no one can really remember. we all race each other to be “first.” but there are serious rules, you can’t just say the words ‘happy birthday’. you have to SING. the. whole. song. and the honoree can dole out bonus points for vibrato and enthusiasm (aka volume). as everyone calls over the course of the birthday they are naturally met with disappointment when they hear they weren’t first. because being the middle child, i am fiercely competitive… it’s how i got noticed as a child. i am the first to call you. pretty much since we started this competition. until today.
i instinctively reached for my phone like i’ve done this time year after year and it hit me that i won’t sing to you in, now, 20 minutes. your name is still there in my phone, on my favorites list. i can’t bear to delete it. i can’t erase it, and sometimes i almost call it in those fleeting moments where i forget reality. when i’m walking down the street and see something that makes me think of you and i want to share it with you. and then i am snapped back into the harsh present like a thunderclap.
the thought of your birthday has been giving me such anxiety these last few weeks. i’ve been dreading it with all my being. it’s here so soon. i am not ready for this. this day was once devoted to celebrating you, full of happiness and love and opportunity to connect… and now is replaced with a harsh reminder of the loneliness and disconnect. your birthday without you is cementing the blocks around my feet. i can’t escape this reality. we are all broken without you. i am watching us all unravel and we are powerless to stop it.
this hurts. so. much.
8 minutes now.
you are a constant in my head. i see you everywhere. the lanky girl at the coffee shop with her hair in a messy up-do carrying a giant bag. the tattooed girl in the produce aisle inspecting her fruit. and when i can’t find you in the semblance of others i am forced to channel you through the little bit of tangible memories i have left within my grasp. hidden under the blanket late at night i play your music, where no one can see the tears roll down my cheeks. i pull your plaid shirt out of the closet and run my hands over its sleeves, and breathe it in. it’s been worn so, the fibers are beyond soft under my fingertips. and then if that’s not enough self-inflicted pain i start going through the pictures. i have to. because as time goes on i fear i am forgetting things. i’m not adding any more memories to replace the ones my tired mind loses track of and i panic.
it’s here now. it’s april 13. you took your first breath 34 years ago today, it doesn’t feel that long ago. i’m certain you made mom and dad cry tears of joy with your deafening cry (setting the tone for your inability to regulate the volume of your voice). i can imagine they marveled at your big brown eyes, your chubby little body. and as you grew we all marveled at you. you were the most beautiful soul i’ve ever known. and just 2 months ago took your last breath. i remember my papí used to say when you are born you are given a book to carry. the pages in the book are the blank pages of your life, for you to fill with your stories. and at some point, your story will be finished. it was much too short, angie, the book you were given to carry. true, the pages of your life were filled with such beautiful stories, their color spilling from their edges. i was so blessed to be a character in some of those stories, allowing your color to seep into my own pages. you had this gift of brightening everyone you touched, you made us all better humans. but your book deserved to have more blank pages for you to fill. i don’t think i’ll ever be okay with this.
i miss you with everything within me. i feel as if i’m missing a part of my body, my leg or something, and i am being forced to learn how to walk without it. there are no words that explain how badly i want to hug you again. catch your warm gaze, see your smile. or whisper “horses horses horses” in your ear and send you into a laughing fit. this. is. so. hard. it’s getting harder every day. we were supposed to grow old together. there were so many things left undone. if there is any shred of peace it is having no regrets of words left unsaid. we never allowed that to happen. i knew how much you loved me and i did the same.
i love you. so very much.
today is your day, and yet it is also so much like every day of the last 2 months. today, like every day, your absence will weigh heavy on my mind. today i’ll be looking for you, like always, in the cool breeze, or the sun on my face, trying to find you and know you’re with me somehow. but today, like no other day, i wish i could sing to you like i used to. you know i would if i could… i would belt it out at the top of my lungs just to make you smile. and you best know i would be first. ❤