Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Shop Girl's Birthday Butterflies


An old boyfriend once said to me,
‘We are born with two fears: fear of falling and fear of loud noises. The rest,’ he said, ‘are all learnt.’
There are a lot of things I haven’t learnt to fear, like spiders, blisters, flying and odd socks.
There are even more things that I have learnt to fear; gum disease, wet dogs, every horror film ever made, rats, fluffy hair, getting too drunk, failing to write and my birthday.
The last one is a bit silly but I’m an anxious sort of person. I jump each time my mobile rings even when I’m calling myself to find out where it is.
And every year as my birthday creeps nearer, my tummy fills with steel butterflies.
I think I have to prove something. I think I should’ve published a book by now.
I worry I’ll talk too much, drink too much, cry, fall over, start a fight and end up throwing my jewellery down the drain in protest against something or other.
Worse perhaps, I think everyone will forget.
On Saturday afternoon, the day before my birthday I get a surprise visit to my shop from my friend, the local salsa addict. He went to see Treasure Island last week. He brings me a birthday card, a salsa CD and the ingredients to make ‘grog’.
It’s such a treat.
Rum, cinnamon, lemonade and a dash of lime – the shop counter turns into a bar with old Cuban music playing in the background. There’s always time for a dance and even though Mum and I have a lot of work before we can leave, I feel happy.

A steel butterfly goes up in smoke.
After work I go to my Auntie’s party, who is re-celebrating her birthday, along with four other friends who’ve all had important birthdays that year.
I bring the date along.
My cousin is so much fun on the dance floor. He watches her and sees what I see.
“She’s brilliant,” he says.
We dance together and I don’t tread on his feet.
It’s nearly my birthday.
He gives me a coffee machine.
He’s wrapped it up.
I love unwrapping presents almost as much as I like getting them.
Bye bye another butterfly.
My old school mate and ex-fellow shop girl, is unfailingly reliable and arrives early to save a couch in the pub where we’re having a Sunday Lunch.
It’s a magic couch.
I feel so grateful to share it with everyone.
There are a lot of things I’ve learnt to fear.
But one of them won’t be my birthday anymore.
Cheers to you all.

2 comments:

Oli said...

Worst brother ever award goes to me. Happy birthday em, keep writing these amazing tales, they keep me happy!!!

Hunt and Gather by Tina Ziegler said...

Happy Late Birthday Em!!

I was just telling oli how nervous I feel about almost being 24,, i feel the same as you, but your story has helped me feel a little bit better about life and all the pressure..

i love your writing!