Today is my 50th birthday. I don’t feel “50” per se, mentally at least. Physically there are some complaints. Minor aches last longer than they used to and recovery from everything is a process as opposed to the simple get-up-and-go it used to be. I’ve been forced to stay in somewhat good shape because of my “job” but I’m not sure where the benefit gets paid on that.
I realized when I turned 31 – my first birthday after being dragged into this situation – that I never knew yours, so I made one up for you. It was the only day I looked forward to throughout the year because it reminded me why I had to keep doing what I was doing. The first few jobs were hectic to say the least. I was literally acting and felt as though every time that envelope showed up I would go into a state of shock and become this caricature of the person I thought I needed to be to go through with task at hand. It was only after I developed a daily routine that this new life became an accepted reality and with that reality the new or different me was born. Life was no longer something filled with excitement and hope and the future, it was about surviving to the end of the day. The old me began to slowly rot away with the acceptance that I was now this anonymous monster and your well-being was the only part of me that was truly alive. This is why I created your birthday and celebrated it, because on that fictional day I was reminded that I was actually alive.
I do hope you have had some fun on your real day over the years. When I would celebrate I would try and picture what fun and ridiculous things you would be getting yourself into. Growing up, cake was always a staple for me and my family so I would make sure that I had a slice for you. Do you like cheesecake? Asking that here makes no sense because I’ll never find out the answer, but I picture you liking cheesecake and always having some variety of it at every celebration.
One year I was contracted for a job on your day and it was the first time that I considered cashing in and going to the police. I was steps away from walking wrists first into the station and confessing but I stopped because, beyond the obvious, I had no idea the ramifications of that action. Terrance had made it clear that it was them or you, but this was your day, the one day that meant anything and damned if it would be ruined. I knew he had eyes on you. He would sometimes send me pictures of you going about your life, sometimes smiling, sometimes deep in thought. Would the police be able to find you faster than he could have someone finish you? And so I walked away, did the job, and never got close again because I couldn’t take that chance.
I would like to say it broke my heart being akin to a prisoner for all these years, but that heart belonged to the old me and it rotted along with the rest of that person. The particles that are left are helping me write this and I’m surprised there are even enough of them still around to guide me.