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Birthday Suit

Blow them out. But make a wish first. Then blow. Make a wish to be beautiful. Like every day.

I want to scream, “Get it away.” But don’t.  I want to vomit. But don’t.

Not now. Not here. Not in front of everyone.

And not on the cake with my name, Jean, scribbled in caramel icing across a vanilla cake; a firm 19 under the “e” and the “a.” Even though right now I see three Jean’s, crisscrossing.

Not a goddamn thing feels firm right now. I can feel the wood seat and bars of the chair penetrating my bones. Or is that my bones. Hard to tell these days.

From my vantage point, between grandpa and grandma, I can see the thermostat. Set at 70 degrees. Danny is sweating, but he always sweated. Despite having a thick wool sweater on over my Trojan Knights long-sleeve, it feels like ice was cascading under my thin layer of skin, coalescing with my bones.

Fuck, the cake would make a comforting pillow. My eyes are droopy; my head heavy on my shoulders. And Danny is pissing me off. His fucking sweating. Here at my birthday party. His sweat might get on my caramel-icing pillow.

I run my fingers through my thinning amber hair – just to grab hold of something, I guess – and pull away. Strands of hair stay on my palms. I discard the pieces under the table by Roxy before anyone can notice. She sniffs, then ignores it.

Surprised nobody worries about me blowing on the cake. With my breath. Gum helps, for a few minutes. Then it is back to the rancor from my decaying stomach sending smoke signals to the brain through my mouth.

Soon, it will be enough. At least, that’s what I told myself when it started.

“Jeez, get this girl a cheeseburger lol,” people would say on my selfies. “Need to put some meat on those bones lol.”

That’s when I knew it was working. That it was all worth it. That I was doing the right thing.

Just a few more pounds to shed. Mostly near the back of my thighs. Three-a-days at the gym, cycling, hitting the track. Water only. Should help.

And three-a-days in the bathroom. Morning, afternoon, night.

Glad Philip – dad – wasn’t here. To see me and this. But he was never here. Here to him meant trying, meant commitment, and meant seeing someone beyond his own shadow. And that was just too fucking hard.

Here was dirty and vile. Over there was exotic, alluring and his seductress. Over there wasn’t me.

I was the back then; the shouldn’t-have-happened.

“Come on, Jean, blow them out,” mamma beckons. “I promise those ain’t trick candles.”

But they were. The torch-bearers of an illusion reflecting those good thoughts and emotions that I now watched swirl down a toilet every day.

I blow, exerting effort that makes it feel like my diaphragm is gonna shove my ribs up my esophagus.

But they clap and cheer and Danny sweats.

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