My mother says she was in labour for seven days before giving birth to me. I don’t know. Guys, is this plausible? Anyway, I was the first of my mother’s three c-sections.
The year I turned seven, my sister and I had a joint birthday party. Her birthday is two days after mine. All the children except three at the party were her friends. My friends were Rama, his sister and someone else I can’t remember. Rama and I had been friends from when we had measles at six. Our mothers washed us in Stoney and we sat outside our houses naked and sniffling. Rama’s younger sister and maybe my sister got it as well. I don’t remember how I knew my other friend. I think it’s because all our fathers were in the army.
I wore a green checkered skirt and maybe coloured sandals. We had beads in our hair. We drank soda and played outside. I don’t remember any other parents there. I think my mother baked us a cake. My father came home drunk and slammed his bedroom door. My mother and I cowered. My sister cried. I don’t remember anything else afterwards. The next time I remember seeing Rama, I was nine. Rama, his sister, my sister and I were rolling down the Gilgil hills. My sister and his sister cried. Of course they did. Rama and I knew we were gonna get punished for that. I knew it was the last time I would ever see him.
For a decade or so afterwards my birthdays went unacknowledged. Maybe I got a note or two in high school.
The year I turned eighteen, a friend I made in high school called me. Everyone else forgot. I stayed home and did my chores. My mum came in the evening and yelled at me for something or the other.
When I turned nineteen, I got a few texts. My friend and I went to Thika and ate fried fish. On our way back to school, we got distracted and missed our stop. We went to town and briefly considered having a fun-ish night. We decided against it and went right back to school. It was the best birthday I’d ever had. But I was also hella depressed and I cried in my hostel’s fire escape late into the night.
For my twentieth birthday, my roommate and I went to Java for lunch. I wore long ass earrings and an incredibly tight skirt. Got a few texts. Probably cried myself to sleep. I’ve never been able to compare my nineteenth and twentieth birthdays. I spent each with one of my best friends and to compare them feels like a betrayal to those individual friendships.
My twenty first birthday is a blur. Got a few texts. Definitely cried myself to sleep.
I was so sad for my twenty second birthday. It was my last semester of university and I was so bloody anxious. I had a panic attack every day of that semester. I got a few texts. I did my laundry. I sat on an incredibly dusty floor and wailed. I wanted to quit school so bad.
Two of my friends took me to lunch for my twenty-third birthday. We ate and laughed and played games. It was a really good birthday. I wrote about it. I cried myself to sleep.
I (tried to) have cake for breakfast on my twenty-forth birthday. I had a doctor’s appointment. It was ten days after I had my maxillectomy. I had cancer. We were still waiting for the pathologist’s report to know for sure. The previous night, my aunt’s family surprised me with cake and some gifts. I tried to laugh and stick my tongue out in pictures. I got a lot of messages. I had way too much going on to cry myself to sleep.
My sister is trying to bake me cake for my twenty-fifth. She’s never done it before. I don’t like cake. I am sad and I’ve been dangling tears since I woke up. Everyone else is too caught up in a pandemic for my birthday to matter. But I’m cancer free and I want it to matter.
I am going to cry myself to sleep.