Half-birthdays

Betty didn’t throw parties. Didn’t know as soon as Megan did about the other identities, which were honest, which was your birthright, and when your actual birthday was or is because you’re not dead and even when you are it’ll still get celebrated, accidentally by secretaries, children, ex-lovers you told everything to in place of telling wives, friends if the people you work with are really that – friends – and not interested in talents, only, but also mistakes, scars, details, style, your politics if you share that. Some people don’t.

This is a trick you’ll play forever, updating, and the latest you will lose interest in her. She’ll leave work and your new secretary, women at parties (not yours, you’re not having more), in bars, at business meetings, in restaurants, friends’ wives, will want what you are although you’re not defined and you’re not a sellable truth, a containable story, a tellable joke, easy-to-understand, historically accurate, a plottable film or an edible meal. You’re an appetiser. Some people prefer those. Some people don’t order mains or desserts, they just want to pick and, if so, you’re perfect for that.

You leave when you want – work or family gatherings. You drink in the mornings. You sleep better than you did a decade ago. The people who knew you, closest, are dead now. You weren’t quick enough or self-less enough to save them. Your suits are cut to your frame which is almost the same as it was in the fifties, sixties. You’re an inch more maybe, and observers think that’s just an illusion, that actually, you’re not filling out as expectations would have you. You’re levelling off, millimetres from the perfect, so close to the ideal. But everything degenerates, even this, and you’re sitting in the moment it starts, trying to prolong it, not ready to take yourself out of the oven, because every cake you were ever a part of sunk in the centre.

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