is a flash, one of those quick pictures in your mind
that hit you from time to time and make you smile at your own childish imaginings
, and then stop smiling because you realize how true
they just might be.
I had run outside to get away from a family dinner, escaping as I had at many past birthdays and would at many future ones. I sat on the curb, thinking about how my legs hurt and I never got to win Pin the Tail on the Donkey, not even on my own birthday, and how my brother made stupid fart noises all through my dinner and now my stomach hurt from too much cake. I was very good at sulking at that age, still am.
I thought about my cake and how there was a tiny statue of a girl on top of the icing with a golden four held to her stomach. She wore a fluffy blue dress and smiled, so different from me, so much what my mother wanted from me but never got. I wanted to smile like her, but I wondered how anyone could smile on their fourth birthday, especially with that big golden four in their stomach like the girl on the cake. I pictured the number, big and sharp and pointy, embedded inside my abdominal cavity, poking me every time I moved. Three was so round and curvy, why couldn't I just go back to the way I was before? I sulked some more. I convinced myself that I would just have to get used to it. If the girl on the cake could smile while wearing a dress like that and carrying the pointy number in her stomach, I could too.
Needless to say, fourteen was a very tough year for me. When I turn fourty-four I will be waiting with a bottle of Pepto-Bismal by my bed.