Happy Birthday

by Ibrahim Oga

How long will I smile with my lips and cheeks but not with my eyes? My eyes. Windows of my soul. They say thirties are the years of clarity, but these years aren’t coming to me with maturity. They are coming to me with anxieties. These are the years of accepting who I am and my reality.
The times to forge a pragmatic future from where I stand. Dreams and fantasies mustn’t stand. There is no room for fragile and trivial things. Today is my thirty third. The future has begun and it is delicate.

To everyone with a party cone on their head, I am one of the strongest people they know. Fancy clothes, funny cones, colorful balloons, confetti, disco lights, and I imagine a cake without candles stashed somewhere, just to show me how much they care.

“You are our bedrock” Ukpo says.
“You’re the wisest of us all” Ekpo says.
“Thank you for being there for me” Amina says.

They smile with their lips, cheeks, and eyes. Their eyes shine with genuine smile. I’d sense their adoration from a mile away. Their admiration is one of the sources of my anxieties. I fear they’ll soon see the inadequacies in me. How long will they see the peace in me before they begin to see
the chaos? Should I tell them victories don’t bring me joy? Should I tell them defeats are what I feel I deserve? Should I tell them I fear I’ll die alone? I fear it is my fault that none of my relationships lasted more than three months. That it is not because the right person for me hasn’t
come alone yet. I keep my distance. I am a good friend but a terrible partner. I am all inside. I don’t let anyone in. Should I tell them I fear telling them about my anxieties because they’ll stop admiring me? Or worst, they will down play my fears and unknowingly patronize me.

They sing a merry Happy Birthday song.
Umma pushes in a pyramid of cake. A wedding cake would be envious
“Make sure there’ll be enough cake for everyone”, I imagine her telling the caterer. “Make sure it is elegant. He loves everything to be perfect”.

I should tell her I don’t love perfection, I only fear mistakes. I fear it will expose me as the fraud that I fear I am. And look how perfect everything is. How wonderful. How elegant. Look how appreciative they
are. Look at how peaceful they are. Look how much peace they’ve found with me. I know this should rightfully make me elated, but I don’t feel it. All I can think about are the Pros and Cons I am stacking in my head as I cut the cake.

Pros and Cons of the worthiness of my existence. To be or not to be. The cute things don’t get inside to where I truly reside. I see the bright and the dark future. I see features of peace and chaos. I only focus on the negatives. I shiver in the presence of strangers. I love people but their
stares make me restless. I crave company but I fear their judgement.

I am a vessel of fear. Peaceful outside, chaotic inside. Look into my windows and you will see.

©Ibrahim Oga, first published in ‘to grow in two bodies’.

Ibrahim Oga is a Nigerian creative writer. He’s the author of Sisyphean Mind Anthology. He writes for chanillo.com