Birthdays, sometimes we make a big deal out of it. Why? Well, it signifies our growth not just physically, no, but well everything. We mature, it signifies the stages we hit in life. We evolve. That’s why people make a big deal out of birthdays because they want to celebrate the years they’ve embarked on this world. They want to celebrate to tell the world they’ve lived.
Well mine is different. I don’t celebrate my birthdays because I want to showcase to everyone that I’ve lived. No. I celebrate it because it reminds me that there was a time in my life that was hidden from the rest of the world. The time when no one even remembered I existed.
I sigh and stare longingly at the window, I wonder when will I be able to go out of the house. Mommy forgot my birthday and they left me alone. I will not cry mommy brings me back to Dr. Frank whenever I make her worry.
I don’t like Dr. Frank, he’s a bad man and he makes me do bad things too. He pricks needle in my arms. I cringe when I remember he used to lock me in my room, it was so dark and he told me there was a monster underneath my bed. I didn’t cry because I knew it would make him mad.
I squint my eyes when I see a figure sneaking in the garden, I scoot closely to the window glass and smile when the figure turns out to be Louie. He waves frantically and I wave back shyly. He mimes a door, turns the knob and points at my back.
I turn my head around and then back to Louie giving him a quizzical look. My door is always open, mommy forbids my door to be close, and she says it’s not safe. Louie knows that.
He sighs exasperated and mimes slamming the door and mouths bang.
“Oh.” I nod, jump of the window seat, run towards the door, peek the corridor and when I see no one, I quietly shut the door. As I walk back to the window, I see Louie dragging a lawn chair, I run quickly and shake my head frantically. He can’t do that, the staff will notice, they notice everything and when they know something’s up, they’re going to tell mommy and daddy, and Dr. Frank will come and take me away again.
He just shakes me off with his boyish laughter and stands over the chair, he taps my window and I smile and slide the window open, “Happy birthday.” He grins.
My smile widens, “You remember.”
He huffs, takes off his shoes and enters my room. I watch as he runs to my bed and grabs one of the teddy bear, he lays it down my bed and covers it with the blanket. He walks back to me and offers me his hand, I take his hand and he drags me to the door.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“Shh..” he shushes me then slowly opens the door, he scans the corridor and he makes a run towards the front door with me trailing behind him. I smile once we’re outside, he opens the gate and we run out of the house.
I laugh as we run towards the playground.
When we reach the playground, I see four girls at the fountain, we walk towards them, the girl with a braided hair squeals and I hide behind Louie, “Louie.” I say cautiously.
He turns to me and squeezes my hand, “Relax, they’re my friends.” He steps aside and make introductions, “Girls, this is Mary. Mary, the girls.”
I look at the four girls, I know the girl with a cute headband, she’s always playing with Skye. “Hi.” I squeak and wave shyly.
The girl with the headband broadens her smile, “I’m Pat.” she introduces herself, “This is Lani, Elle and Cass.” She points to the other girls.
I smile at them as they smile back, I look at Louie and he just shrugs and smiles. He takes me to the swing and let me sit there.
He lets go of my hand , walks towards the bench and Lani comes over in front of me placing a headband made from the flowers on my head. Louie, then comes back with a cupcake with a single candle on top of it, “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Mary, happy birthday to you.” he sings together with the other girls. “Make a wish, Mer.”
I close my eyes and wish that Louie and I were going to be together forever. I open it and blow the candle.
We play at the playground and I have a lot of fun, we laugh and they talk and I listen to them. “Come on, I’ll teach you how to dance.” Pat says and grabs my hand.
We dance laughing and I feel great. This is the first time, I play with other kids, it’s always been just Louie.
We stop dancing and I look at mommy and daddy running towards us, I hide behind Louie, afraid they are going to take me away from Louie. I feel scared, “Louie.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t let them take you there. I promise.”
Mommy and daddy along with the other maids and guards are in front of us, the girls stand beside Louie while I hide behind, “Mary sweetie, let’s go home.” Mommy says in a sweet voice, I only hear she uses with my brother.
“We have cake in the house for you.” daddy informs me.
I peek a little and look at them warily, “You won’t take me away?” I ask.
Mommy and daddy smile and it’s the first time I see them smile at me. “No sweetie. We just want you home. Your friends can come over for the cake.” Mommy says.
“It’s your birthday.”
Slowly, I leave Louie’s back and stand beside him, he takes my hand and squeezes it, nodding. I smile at him sweetly and turn to look at mommy and daddy, “They really can come and play with me?”
Daddy smiles, “Why, of course, they’re your friends. We want to see you laugh and dance too. Can you do dance with daddy today?”
I nod excitedly, daddy will dance with me? Daddy never talks to me, he always hangs out with my brother.
“Then let’s go home.”
I stare at the cupcake Lani bought. I suddenly remember my sixth birthday. It’s my first real birthday. It’s the first time, mom and dad acknowledged me. I think, they found it surprising that I was laughing and playing with other kids and also I was speaking.
Maybe if it hadn’t been that, they would have taken me back to Dr. Frank because I snuck out of the house but no, they bought me a birthday cake and celebrated my birthday with me and my friends.
I smile ruefully. I still remember that giddy feeling when mom and dad smiled at me, when dad danced with me and carried me.
How stupid of me to feel that way. Maybe it was because after six years of cold reception from them, they had finally looked at me differently.
“Bakit hindi mo sinabi sa amin Mary?” I turn and see Lani clutching her phone in her hand.
I shrug, turn my gaze back to the cupcake, “Pag Sinabi ko sayo, hindi ka papayag.”
“Sympre hindi ako papayag! Bakit ka umalis ng Germany?”
“Naalala mo pa nung una tayong magkakilala? Birthday ko yun diba? Ayun yung unang beses na ngumiti sa akin sila mom and dad. Nung na-realize ko na gusto nila akong nagsasalita at ngumingiti. Ginawa ko yun kasi akala ko pag ginawa ko yun mamahalin na nila ako.” I stare at the window, “Pero kahit anong gawin ko Lani, hinding hindi nila ako mamahalin.”
“Ano bang pinagsasabi mo Mary? Kung naglayas ka dahil gusto mo makuha yung atensyon nila, nagawa mo na.”
I look at her and smile wanly, “Umalis ako ng Germany, Lani kasi gusto ko na kung mamamatay man ako, kasama ko yung mga taong alam kong minahal ako. Kayo yun nila Cassie. I don’t want to waste my remaining days with all those liars.”
Lani comes in front of me quickly and hugs me, “What did they do now Mary?” she asks. I know she knows little about my childhood, it’s not really something the family wants to air out. She got the glimpse because of Louie. She knows they’re indifferent but she doesn’t know the whole of it, only Louie and their parents.
“She lied. Mom lied.” I break a sob. “Everything was a lie. And Lani, I can’t live on a lie anymore. I’m done so please, just please let me be.”
She pats my back soothing me, “Okay. Okay. Pero pag nappaagod ka na sabihin mo agad sa akin.”
“I miss him.”
She stills. She pulls away from me then gazes into my eyes as if she’s searching for something, “Is that why you want…” she couldn’t finish her thoughts, she starts pacing then glares at me, “Gusto mong mamatay para lang makasama si Louie?”
“Hindi ko kayang wala siya Lani. Pinipilit ko yung sarili kong maging okay pero sobrang hirap. I miss him so much it hurts. I just want the pain to go.”
“Mary. Hindi gugustuhin ni Louie na sumuko ka. Nung nalaman ni Louie na may sakit siya, hindi siya sumuko dahil ayaw ka niyang iwan.”
I give her a pitiful smile, “Pero wala na siya Lani. Wala na akong rason para mabuhay.”
“You have us!” she yells, “Nandito pa kami! Wag ka naman maging selfish! Nung namatay si Louie, sobrang hirap, sobrang sakit. Haggang ngayon nasasaktan parin ako. Pero masakit mamatayan. Alam kong nasasaktan ka pero hindi mo ba naisip na nasasaktan din kami na nagmamahal sayo?” she asks, she sinks to the couch, “Hindi ka naman nag-iisa eh. Nandito kami. Hindi lang si Louie yung nagmamamahal sayo.”
The tears fall and we stay like that, silently crying. I know I’m being selfish. I know that I’m hurting them but they don’t understand it. They don’t get me. I’m just so tired of it all and they don’t understand why.
But if you lived the life I have lived, you’d understand. For six years, I was rejected and unloved. Only when Louie came in to my life had I felt the unconditional love that I was never given.
And the following years, I’ve lived a lie. I don’t want that anymore.