When I turned five, I had a party. My mother set up a whole bunch of games. I only remember one. There was a pot with a prize beneath it. I was blindfolded and given a spoon. Down on my knees, I shuffled around, swinging.


When I turned seven, I was in love with a girl named Rachael. For some reason, days before my birthday, I found myself crying, crossing her name off the list of invitees. I don’t remember why, but I remember I couldn’t figure out how to spell her name.


When I turned Nine, my father hid notes around the house. Many of them. One of them said “Hippo Birdies.” To this day, when someone says “Happy Birthday,” I think, “Hippo Birdies.”


When I turned fifteen I went to Seven-Eleven. I went to the man at the counter. He had a hat and a chin strap. “It’s my birthday! can I have a free slushy?” I asked, giggling. He looked at me, slack-eyed. “A small one,” he said.


When I turned eighteen, it was midnight. I went to the store to buy a cigar.

“I.D.” the man said. He was older, wore glasses. I gave him my I.D.

“What time were you born?” he asked.

I frowned. “Uh, I don’t know,” I told him.

He shrugged, a powerful shrug. “Oh well,” he said, putting the cigar back.


When I turned twenty-one, I gave a speech at the top of some stairs. Someone hit me with a cake. I jumped off the stairs. My friend D caught me.


When I turned twenty-two-three-four, I drank. Yet on each of them, I woke up the next day to a voice-mail. My mother, and whoever was close at hand, sang, utterly tuneless.


When I was turned twenty five, I told my students my birthday was a convenience store. They thought, hard, guessed a while. Eventually, I told them, Seven-Eleven! I laughed, they didn’t. They were learning British English.


When I turned twenty-six I was on a lot of drugs. I woke up the next day. A woman stood over me.

“I’m leaving,” she said.

“What are you doing here?” I asked her.

She looked down at me, slack-eyed.

“Nice,” she said.


When I turned twenty seven, I was in Boston, I was taking a course, staying on the floor of my brother’s dorm. I was up at seven-a.m. On my way into the subway, I stopped to check that my bag was closed. I turned. A girl was walking towards me. She was wearing green sunglasses.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” she said, passing.

I caught up.

“I held the door for you the other day,” I told her.

“Oh?” she said, before running to the other side of the street. I watched her go along the same direction I was. I didn’t want to run after her, like a psycho. So, I walked, fast. I watched her go, she walked fast, too. My legs were longer. I made it to the end. The crosswalk was green. I passed and found myself in front of her.

I slowed down, casual. She came up beside me. She frowned up at me.

“I could have sworn my way was faster?” she said, more to herself.

I looked back. I shrugged, out of breath.

“Guess not.”

She was taking the subway in the same direction as me. She spoke German, liked math–a lot. We laughed. I told her it was my birthday. She asked how old I was.

“Twenty-seven,” I told her.

“Wow, you’re almost thirty!” she told me.

I wanted to be offended, but she said it with a smile. And, even at thirty, I could walk much faster than her. So, there, I thought.

She got off. I didn’t get her number.

That night, I had one beer down the road. I was in-air-mattress by ten.


Today, I am twenty-eight. Now that, certainly, is almost thirty. I feel heavier. But, at least, no one gives a damn what time I was born.

A Writer and an artist living in Russia

29 Comment on “28 Hippos and 28 Birdies

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