Three alarms. THREE. And he still overslept.
He sat up and threw his legs over the side of the bed, the rough carpet scratching against the soles of his feet. He and his wife agreed that they would replace the carpet when they bought the house but never got around to it. Just like they never got around to painting the kid’s rooms.
There was a lot that needed to be done to the place, only they didn’t know when they’d ever get around to it. It was as if they were unsure of how long they’d be there, so they didn’t put too much work into it just yet.
He heard the kids yelling up the stairs for their mother, her heavy footsteps alerting him to her approach.
“Here we go,” he thought.
He lifted his big, meaty hands to his face and wiped the sleep from his eyes. Without realizing it, he sat there squeezing his eyes shut, as if he could stop time and freeze her in the hallway. Anything to keep her from coming near him. He just wanted a second alone.
She rushed into their bedroom just as he opened his eyes—forcing him back to reality.
“You’re up. Happy Birthday,” she said unenthusiastically, not looking at him as she grabbed her purse and keys from the dresser. She may as well have not even said anything, but it’s good that she did because he almost forgot.
“Damnit,” he said.
She stopped and looked at him.
“What?” She asked.
“Nothing…thanks. How long have you been up? You didn’t wake me?” He asked as he stood up and peered at himself in the mirror on the wall.
“Maybe an hour or so. I thought you wanted to sleep in,” she said, looking at him oddly.
“Jesus, I look like shit,” he said.
This is how they talk to one another—never looking at each other at the same time, never giving their full attention to the other person. If anything, their attention was always divided, much like their marriage had become.
He knew it. She did too. Things hadn’t felt quite right for some time–at least a few years. They’d both turned into passive aggressive assholes…roommates who hated each other but pretended not to so the kids wouldn’t grow up screwed up in the head.
“Next time, wake me up?” he asked, still looking at himself in disgust.
“Sure,” she said, turning around to leave. “You’ll drop them off today, right?”
“Yeah, I’ve got them,” he said, never looking in her direction.
She left and he stood there, staring at himself, seething at her memory.
Of course she didn’t wake him up. She doesn’t do anything unless it’s going to benefit herself in some way. And God forbid she take the kids to school. It is his birthday, after all, not that he cared about turning another year older.
It felt like any other day. He woke up irritable and tired. No matter how early he tried to get to bed, he always woke up feeling as if he’d slept for 30 minutes.
He had convinced himself long ago that he didn’t care about birthdays anymore—at least not his own. No one else seemed to care. Still, there was a tiny part of him that would’ve liked to have gotten more than a quick “Happy Birthday” before dashing out the door.
No card. No cake. Nothing.
He was used to it though. Used to disappointment. Used to not getting what he wanted. Used to not having his needs met.
He figured he’d lived long enough and seen so much that it was time for him to put someone else first. So he worked, he took care of his three kids, and he sleepwalked through each day. His only solace was getting actual sleep. That’s the only time the kids and his wife gave him time to himself. But lately, not even that was enough.
He stared into the mirror, his blue eyes engulfed in a sea of red—irritated from exhaustion and his early-morning attempts to escape the day’s responsibilities.
“So this is what 49 looks like,” he thought.