It’s A Good Birthday

It’s A Good Birthday

It’s a good birthday, even though his colleagues misspelled his name on the birthday card, the one with primary color balloons on the front and dirty fingerprints inside, but still he smiled and nodded, bit his tongue, choked on his words, like he did when he first came to this country and realized his voice was a curse. It’s a good birthday, even though he trips on the dog bowl when he gets home, the one that’s been empty for two years, aluminum gleaming like a grimace from childhood, and, ignoring the stabbing in his toe, he swallows his curse down with a glass of red wine, letting the tannins stain his throat and constrict his vocal cords because restraint was never his strong suit. It’s a good birthday, even though he looks at his silent phone and thinks this must be the day his daughter will finally call, it must be, because even though I always knew his voice was a curse he still hopes and hopes, and hasn’t he done enough, hasn’t he changed, isn’t he better now, can’t I see how good his life is, his birthday. It’s such a good birthday, even though he keeps the ringer on when he puts the phone on his bedside table, right next to the alarm clock and its glowing numbers like flickering flames on candles that count up (that count down), and he tries his best to ignore the empty space beside him, the chasm of white mattress a mouthful of teeth grinning at him as he sleeps, and he dreams about my voice, and his own voice, and how tomorrow will be even better than today, while I fall asleep on the couch watching a movie with my mother, who whispers happy birthday to nobody.


About the Author

Elena Zhang is a freelance writer and mother living in Chicago. Her work can be found in HAD, JAKE, Bending Genres, Exposition Review, and Your Impossible Voice, among others. Find her on Twitter @ezhang77


Photo by Ylanite Koppens: