Your 19th Birthday
by Katie Stanton
So your birthday was yesterday. It was a Sunday.

You would have liked that, I think. We could have spent Saturday night at the top of our lungs, and someone would have had to hold my hair back when I relived it all a couple of hours later. We'd probably have it at someone's house somewhere, filling a basement up with people I barely know and turning up the amps when anyone picked up a guitar.

It was hot and humid and sticky outside yesterday, the kind of day where I would have thrown you a barbecue and spent most of the time lighting candles and spraying insect repellent on people. If we'd have brought the beer outside, it would have left rings of water all over the tables. Everyone would've been sweaty and trying to pretend not to be, and the weakest of us would have given up and gone back inside. You'd have been on the roof with a bebe gun, scaring the dog, or playing Ultimate Frisbee in the backyard, shirtless and shoeless, grass stains and holes in your jeans getting bigger and bigger. I would have watched primly from the porch and you'd have tried to make me play, and you'd have brushed off my excuses until I'd have had no choice but to kick off my heels.

We had a party for you Saturday; at least, we tried to make it work. It's hard to go to your house for something like that and know you're not there. I walked up from the driveway slowly, still in my work clothes, alone and knowing I had to knock on the door if I was going to get to the end of the night at all.

Before, you'd open it as I drove up and come barrelling out, squeezing the very breath from my lungs as I tried to speak. I'm used to seeing you in the middle of a crowd of people and hearing that ridiculous laugh from across the house. You'd carry everyone's energy on your shoulders all night and have people trailing you, just for a taste of it. Before, I would have wandered from group to group, having snippets of conversation and running into you every so often as you wandered too. I'd steal you away for a few minutes so we could get to know each other better, or you'd grab me in front of everybody and let them know just how close we already were.

Now, we gather in small groups, looking vaguely like lost puppies but trying to laugh. Now, I stick to the people I'm closest to and let them try to fill the void they know is in my heart. That's why I avoid your house. Everyone looks at me and knows that I, too, can hear the echoes off the walls. They see my eyes glancing after theirs, towards hallways and doors, looking for you. They saw it Saturday, even though I tried to hide it by greeting everyone warmly, returning their strained smiles and tired embraces as energetically as I could.

I've been avoiding your pictures and the songs you used to play for me, covering my eyes and ears to make it go away, but yesterday was your birthday and there's no avoiding that. I hope you partied hard in heaven on a Sunday, the Lord's Day--I hope you showed those angels how we do it here on Earth.
Posted by: Katie Stanton

Prose (August 21st, 2006)