Winning entry in the 23 years or older category.
It’s my birthday today.
I can’t remember how old I am, and there is no-one here I can ask.
I look in the mirror, and see two quizzical blue eyes looking back at me, but I am not sure they are my eyes.
Perhaps it’s not my birthday at all, but someone else’s, someone I can’t remember.
Why did I think it was my birthday at all? I don’t even know what day it is. But I do know that I am safe at home, and I am not supposed to go out. I feel strangely elated that somehow I have been given permission to put my old life on hold, and can hide indoors not feeling guilty that I don’t want to go out anywhere, that I don’t want to see people, and I don’t want to be seen. I don’t want to feel I have to act in a certain way, or meet anyone’s expectations. I feel lucky I don’t need to get up or eat at a particular time, because suddenly, overnight, all the rules have changed.
Secretly, I have felt like this for a long time, but now I’m being encouraged and praised for living my life in a way that part of me always thought was not quite acceptable. Imagine me being right all along and everyone else not realising it until now! Life is so funny. I laugh a lot these days, though sometimes that does feel a bit strange. I remember laughing used to happen with other people, with my family. I don’t think about that if I can help it, because my family are not here, I’m not sure why, but it feels like a long time since I saw them. Luckily it is hard for me to even recall who I mean by family; I knew their faces once, of course, but I don’t try to remember now, because it’s easier.
At first I watched a lot of television. I didn’t turn it off for days. All night it was a glow of light in the corner of the room that felt comforting and proved there were other people around, even if they weren’t real. I was confused about everything, and thought the TV would explain what was going on. But there was too much talking, everybody talking and talking but making less and less sense, and now the same faces keep appearing, looking tired and and shifty and cunning like cornered animals.
I was worried at first about what I would eat if I weren’t allowed to go out, but I am finding so much food in my house! There is always something to eat, and water to drink from the taps. Talk about lucky! Like today, I came across an old tin at the back of a cupboard with an empty plastic bag stuffed inside, but when I went to throw it away, I found some hardened sugar in it’s folds, so I had that mixed with a bit of warm water as part of my lunch. I can have the rest of it tomorrow, so that is another day’s meals sorted. It’s a relief not to have to think about cooking. I also have tinned food which all tastes quite similar, so I don’t have to worry about planning meals, and only need to wash up one spoon! There is a box of cereal I snack from sometimes, but to tell the truth, each day I feel less hungry, so I think it will last for ages.
The other really good thing about having been ordered to “lock up” ( I think that’s what this new way of living is called, and I like that – it makes me feel safe) is that I can sleep a lot and it doesn’t matter. Which is such good timing, because I feel more and more tired these days even though I have nothing I have to do and nowhere to go!
When I get up, I don’t even have to get dressed, so some days I float around the room naked and perfectly happy, and before I know it, another day or night has passed.
I am so full of light these days, sometimes I think I am becoming invisible. I have never felt so free.
Most days I awake startled for a moment, wondering who I am, not knowing if it’s today or tomorrow, but then I smile, remembering it doesn’t matter what time or day it is. But this morning, for some reason, was different. I woke up and automatically checked my clock, even though now it always shows the same time, thirteen minutes to eleven. At the edge of my memory I know there is something a clock and a radio have in common, which I can’t quite grasp. But it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. I used to like listening to my radio, but after the television started frightening me, I left the radio on all the time instead, until it stopped working, just like my clock. Luckily I don’t need them now. I like the silence.
Anyway, there goes my mind again, drifting from one thing to another …. I was just thinking how I knew it was morning when I woke today – proud of myself for remembering that the sun shines into my bedroom in the morning, not the afternoon. Everything else in the world might have changed, but no-one has the power to change the laws of nature, do they? So I absolutely knew it was morning when I opened my eyes and saw the sunlight, quivering on my wall as though it were alive. And like that light, my mind felt luminous, and knife-edge sharp with the absolute conviction that it is my birthday today, that there is nothing I have to do all day and every day after this, but be happy and grateful that the world is such a comfortable place. Lucky me!