It was day 23 in self-isolation and my birthday. I washed my face in cold water and took a good look at the mirror. Turning 44 was hard, but why did it look like I’d aged five years during the lockdown? Was it perhaps that the time that had passed was exactly as long as I felt it to be? No way we’d been stuck here just 23 days. I turned my head to the side; my white roots were showing dangerously. I couldn’t remember the last time I hadn’t had my hair done before my birthday.
Water dripped into the plastic red tub for a 17th day since the pipe underneath the sink sprang a leak. It would happen during the lockdown. The irony of this birthday was that it came on a Sunday for the first time in years. I had been planning an all-day celebration for months. I was going to invite everyone for a party in a venue with an outdoor area, starting early. I’d even chosen the venue. Those with kids would bring them along. They’d lark around with mine while the adults indulged in beer and snacks. They’d end up asleep in our arms on our laps as night started to descend. I’d get around a hundred kisses and as many hugs. My daughter would have made me a card the previous Friday with her teacher, something with love hearts roughly cut out of paper, which I’d stick to the fridge with a magnet. Instead, my goal on this birthday was not to assume for the 10th time that the slightly sore throat I’d had for most of the winter was obviously a symptom of Covid-19.
The little one spent a good part of the day making sugar paste animals at the living room table. In the fridge sat a cake that a person who loves me despite the white roots, the lockdown nerves and the pajamas had taken three days to make. I can’t complain about the presents I got after all – given the circumstances. My daughter let me sleep in until 9.30 when every other day saw her up not a minute past 7.35 a.m. She woke me singing “Happy Benthey,” which is how she says it. My best friend sent me pizza. I heard the doorbell ring, opened the door and saw a delivery man coming out of the elevator, shouting “Happy Birthday Manina,” behind his face mask. My god-daughter was the first person to call and wasn’t in a rush to hang up. Isolated at home and with time on their hands, even cousins thrice removed remembered my birthday. I don’t remember ever receiving so many good wishes. Apart from wishes, everyone also sent hugs. Instead of candles, I blew out two lighters.
Later that afternoon, we spotted a spider on my bedroom ceiling. She was the only guest at our party, and an uninvited one too, apart from Goofy, whom my daughter insists is always around. We lay down on my bed and watched it run to and fro across the plaster molding. We named her Kikitsa. We read Evgenios Trivizas’ “Who Did Pee-pee in the Mississippi” three times. We had a second round of cake. We ate paprika potato chips. We watched half an hour of “My Little Pony.” After the little one fell asleep, I read my book. It was raining cats and dogs outside – as it had all day long. I smiled. That outdoor party didn’t seem so wonderful now after all.