“Birthdays” by Angelique Gross


Orange light from the sunset against a living room wall makes me hold my breath.
I’m reluctantly pulled back –
To when I was a child and would be left at a friend’s house
they’re about to have dinner so their parents begrudgingly invite me to eat with them.
But they don’t cook their meatloaf in ketchup,
they turn off Jeopardy while they eat,
And they don’t use enough sugar in their kool-aid.
Kindness has slowed down time and I just wanna go home.

My mom says not be rude.
Says that I should call my father on his birthday.
It’s the day before my brothers.
The brother that flashes back to the war.
The one that’s been intoxicated since.
My vulgar Seymour Glass.
Who probably won’t be around this time next fall.
I dial up the facility and ask for his room.
It’s the kind of place where everyone is too young to be there.
The nurse hesitates then connects the call.
I quickly say “Happy Birthday” and imagine black roses at his bedside.
Luckily he’s never listened hard enough to notice my lack of sincerity.
I imagine an orange light stretched eternities across his face
and wonder where evil goes when it vacates a body.
He says “love you” and as always I reply “Mmm Hmm. Talk later.”

I don’t know why I call him but I suppose it’s for the same reasons She wants me to.
She pretends he didn’t terrorize her.
I pretend that I have some sort of obligation to him because he’s sick.
I pretend that I know who he is. I pretend I haven’t only met him three times in my life.
I pretend, at least while speaking to him, that he didn’t genetically predispose my brother failure and depression.
I do it because I don’t want to be rude. Just like her.

I think about my father and am glad he wasn’t in my life, so when I say I hate men
I don’t put an asterisk next to it, like all those white people whose uncles are cops
(is every cop an uncle?)

I give myself personality quizzes depending on my mood
“Which Death Deity Are You?!”
Today I feel like Yama.
I wait for the wall to turn black so that I can breathe again.

image1Angelique is a poet and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her short films have been shown in several film festivals including, being nominated for “Best Picture” in the Los Angeles 48 Hour Film Festival.