It’s my birthday. Tar wondered if his father would remember. Since it was already the middle of the afternoon and he’d said nothing, probably not. No cake, then. Almost as if his stomach heard him thinking about food, it gave a loud rumble. He didn’t want to go downstairs to get something to eat because one of his father’s so-called friends had arrived half an hour ago, and Tar didn’t like the way Bill Samson looked at him. Though he didn’t like the way any of his father’s visitors looked at him, as if he was a pest, or food, or tasty in some other sort of way.
Tar went over to his wardrobe and pulled out his treasure box from under his shoes. He did the slide-and-twist trick to unlock it, lifted the lid and looked through the contents until he found the last birthday card his mother had given him. Tar ran his finger around the embossed silver number 5. The picture was of a boy talking to an alien and the alien was saying ‘For your birthday, I bought you the moon.’ Inside, his mother had written Happy Birthday, Star! All our love, Mummy and Daddy xxxxx
Less than a month later, he’d seen his mother for the last time. He’d never been called Star again. For years he’d felt as if his story had come to an abrupt halt that day, his life brought to a stop because she’d gone. All the atoms and molecules of his body had been sucked out with her departure and he was still waiting for someone to put them back in place.
Pointless trying to convince himself he didn’t miss her. He did. But life was easier if you didn’t allow yourself to feel sad about things you could do nothing to change. Accept and adapt. Life is what it is. Phrases he actually detested. Why should you just accept? Why was there no point in pushing for change, for something better? An easier life wasn’t necessarily a better one. Life was what you made it. And his life was sad. Had he made it sad? If so, he didn’t know how to fix it.
Sometimes he wondered why he’d kept any of the stuff in his box: the glow-in-the-dark stars, the rigged dice, the ammonite… Why hang onto reminders of the life he’d once had, especially when it hadn’t been that great anyway? But memories hurt as much as mementos, sometimes more, and all the things he’d kept were linked to some sort of happiness even if those moments had been fleeting. And any fragments of happiness needed to be treasured because they were treasures.
Life was what you made it was fine if you were an adult, and in a position to change things, but he wasn’t. The moments of joy he could recall from his early years had dimmed and blurred as time had passed. Being held in someone’s arms, being comforted when he’d scraped his knees, making either of his parents smile… Smiling himself… His chest tightened. He shoved the card inside the box, secured the lid in place, and returned it to the wardrobe. One day he’d throw everything away.
But not today.