28 / 365 – Empty Birthday

SARAH

Tomorrow is my birthday. Leah is with Erik, so I’ll probably spend it by myself. I thought about saying that I wanted to switch days so that we could be together for my birthday, at least have that. Erik never said anything. I couldn’t tell whether he doesn’t remember — it would be like him to not remember — or whether he’s just not saying anything because he would like knowing that it’s my birthday and I won’t see Leah all day. That would be like him, too — he often forgot the things that were important — but he would remember something when he wanted to make it hurt. So I thought about asking to have her, and then I realized that if I brought it up it would just end up being an ugly struggle, for one ugly reason or another.

So I’ll spend it alone. I don’t know that it matters any more anyway. I’m not sure what I’m celebrating. Another ring on the old tree, but one gets to be just like the others. An anniversary or a birthday is like a marker, development in a story, but now that I’m no longer part of a family, there’s no story there. I used to feel like I was on a road that went somewhere. Even though Erik and I struggled with things for years, it still felt like we were heading toward something, it felt like we were building a family. Building a history. Now … I feel like I’m randomly writing things on a wall and who cares. There’s Leah, I’m still her mom, she’s growing up, she’s really becoming her own person. There are these amazing times we have, sometimes, things we’ve done together or been through together. But she’s getting older, becoming more independent, moving away from me. If she weren’t so lost in this nowhere town, I’d probably see her even less than I do. When she was younger, there were the other parents, moms mostly, who you’d get to know, waiting for the kids at dance, waiting for them at the pool. It was a little like a circle of friends, a community. When Erik and I were first having trouble, back in Boston, when he’d disappear, people would invite us out for dinner on a Friday night, or maybe to a picnic or a weekend trip out to the Cape. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so isolated here, or maybe because I’m such an obvious outsider. He’s the local boy here, not me, and everybody knows that. But I can see these little threads of community falling away as Leah gets older. I don’t get to know the other moms. When Leah gets invited to a friend’s house on Friday night, she’s just off by herself. So more and more I have no idea what my place will be. I mean, it’s not like I’ll ever get married again. People say, “Well, you’ll meet someone,” as if going on a date (it makes me gag thinking about it) would magically clean up all these torn threads. Not that I even am interested. Thinking of myself as a sexual person — I mean, it’s unthinkable. I’m coming up on fifty now. That’s definitely gone.

Maybe that’s why I started this silly cafe. Because it would be a place where threads would come back together. Looking at it now I realize how stupid it was. I didn’t have money to do this. I mean, I was lucky enough to start it with next to no money, but keeping it going, especially now that we’re in this stupid competition with the other restaurant in town. Maybe it was a good idea. I don’t even know that it was even a thought-out idea so much as it seemed like something positive to do, to set down some roots, make the best of this, of coming here. Now it just seems like one more thing I start doing that is impractical and crazy and goes nowhere.

 

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