Ah, the stories we have from growing up. A lanky, flat-chested, pimple-faced girl of 12, I would sit on my front porch (the back patio at that point was yet to be built) reading magazines, books, whathaveyou. Always reading. And George, an older boy who I’d known seemingly forever in this neighbourhood, would happen by sometimes and ask what I was reading. Often I was reading things I planned for him to ask me about. He was good looking. Tall, skinny-ish, dark hair… the rare, showered-rock-star type.
While I was comparing the compatibility of star signs one day, George came outside and asked what I was reading. “Astrology…” I mumbled, hoping I appeared more interested in the book than in him. He asked me to guess what he was, and I thought to myself, Be a Leo… be a Leo. I gave up, without even guessing. “I’m a Leo,” George said. That’s it, we were going to get married. And for some reason, I really thought he said his birthday was the 24th of July. So every year, since I remembered even the birthdays of people I hadn’t known since kindergarden, I would think to myself “Happy birthday, George!” on July 24th.
I watched his life fall apart in the coming years. He almost got married to a girl, then he didn’t. He drank and drove a few times, lost his license, had to bike to work. Married another girl he met somewhere on one of his bike voyages, had a kid. He was gone for about a year, and then he was back. No wife in sight. He stopped working at all. Drank beers with his dad in the garage at 6 in the morning until dinner and, I imagine, had one or two bottles on the nightstand just in case. He became fatter. His wife came back. Then left him again. Suddenly he was shaving his head bald. I imagine it was because he naturally lost the topmost part of his hair and hoped to disguise it.
I moved out, and came over one night to ensure my sister wasn’t throwing the party of the century while my parents were away. Upon completing my stealth assignment, I heard a voice in the shadows asking “Nikki, is that you??” I said it was. “Wow. You’re all grown up,” said George, from the darkness. He was about 5 feet away from me, but for the duration of our talk, all I could see was a shadow. This had the potential to be the heart-to-heart I’d always wanted to have with him when I was younger, but now I was just interested to find out what was new with him, and bottle in hand, he was willing enough to tell me. We talked for a few minutes before I realized time had sort of ruined him.
“Don’t ever get a wife,” he warned.
“I… I’m going to try not to,” I promised. I realized the date. July 24th. “Oh hey, happy birthday, George.”
“Thanks, but my birthday was the 22nd.”
I said goodbye and left, feeling sad for him. Goodbye, George. My only solace was that he had always thought he was a Leo when in fact he was a Cancer; it would probably not have worked out for us.
Looking back, everyone on that street had their own peculiarities. Then again, if you spend a lot of time around any given people, you will learn that no one is ‘normal’. Or rather that everyone is normal, and the reality of ‘normal’ is that it is very, very strange.
So whether your birthday is the 22nd, the 24th, the 23rd, or the 18th, happy birthday George.