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Birthday Part 1

Updated: Mar 16

The day before my birthday it rains and rains and rains. The entire morning is shrouded by a blackish-grey ocean-fueled storm that pours angry sheets of rain over every inch of the island, pelting palm fronds and slicking the coral dust on the roads until they shimmer with liquid.

As I drive to the post office, I see the expected and regrettable toll of the tropical storm - two of Guam's stray 'boonie' dogs and a very young kitten, all struck by speeding cars unable to stop - or maybe unable to see - in the downpour. Now they are bloated and stiff-legged on the road. My emotion bubble is already too full, so I decide to look past the bodies into the grey haze in front of me, punctuated by the frantic sweep of windshield wipers. I can't fix the problem but if I focus, maybe I won't contribute to it, right? Plus, I'm on a time crunch, anxious to get to the post office before they close at 11. What sort of post office closes for the day at 11am on a Saturday? Guam post offices running on island time, I suppose.

I would complain about it to my husband to try and release a little space in my nearly-bursting bubble - but he is off island for an indefinite period of time. Neither of us has an inkling of when he will be back, but he has faithfully video chatted me from his temporary housing somewhere on a base thousands of miles away whenever he had a moment to spare. He's given me a lot of his time. I feel guilty. He is supposed to be supporting his team, recovering from jet lag, and working on his studies. I feel like I can't take any more of his time, and certainly shouldn't fill the moments we share with something as petty as Post Office closing times. Maybe I'll just send him a snapchat to tell him how frustrating things are instead. He will probably send me a sad face emoji and say "I'm sorry love".

No, no. Maybe I won't send it. I already know what he will say. Besides, I don't want it clogging the chatbox. I have to leave space for the message notification that will read "Happy Birthday!"

I don't want anything negative visible near that notification. Nothing bad next to my birthday greeting because it's probably the only one I'll get that carries the weight of importance. Maybe I shouldn't think that. After all, I'll probably get a phone call from my adoptive parents, but maybe I don't want a phone call and - My eyes well with tears.

What a lot of thinking for such a simple thing.

Military life is hard on spouses.

Birthdays are hard on adoptees.

Damn it.

I pull up to the gate for my ID check with tears stinging my eyes. Stupid time to be crying.

The gate guard doesn't notice.

Once on base, I make my way to the post office. I swallow the bubble of emotion back. No time for it to burst. There is a lull in the rain, so I gun it down the main drive and find my turn. I pull into the Post Office parking lot just minutes too late. The door is closed, the customer service windows shuttered. Lights out. The sky clears a bit, but the rain drips tauntingly on my windshield in slow lazy drops. Anger explodes across my temple. For a moment I unleash my frustration on my steering wheel, smacking the edges and exploding with profanities. NOT today. I'm too tired. I already drove back and forth once to go home for the key. The key that I can't find. Why can't I keep track of things? I just wanted to pick up my birthday gift...the books I ordered. Those packages weren't supposed to go to the post office anyways! If Guam's road records simply recognized our street address, I'd never have had to make the trip. But somewhere in the muddled island infrastructure, our address was lost - lost to Amazon orders and lost to the Post Office delivery person who marked our items undeliverable, even as we saw his square truck trundle through the neighborhood yards away from our own hopefully posted mailbox. Overlooked. Forgotten? "Address does not exist" - lost.

Just like I was lost in the child welfare system, huh?

Wow. I impressed myself with how deep that one was lodged in my subconscious, finding a way to come tumbling out like that.



These books are my gift to me, and I can make an effort, right? I'm healing. I'm capable. I'm not going to give up yet.

I climb the steps to the Post Office doors and knock tentatively. Maybe there is still someone there. My brain feels fuzzy. Too many emotions, probably. I stand numbly, on the stoop, just under the soffit of the building. The rain picks up again. I listen to it splatter more and more aggressively behind me, and my brain goes blank. I am startled when a young employee props the door open and looks at me expectantly. I yank myself back into the present moment enough to splutter something about not having my P.O. box key, but a package was delivered, and -. The clerk gently cuts me off to get my box number.

I fumble for the saved screenshot in my phone and start to repeat it to him. He stops me after just a few digits and disappears in the back to retrieve a large stack of packages and letters, which he lays in my arms hurriedly, anxious to lock up. I struggle to keep the stack piled, thanking him just before the door clangs shut again. I wasn't expecting so many.

As I adjust the tower of mail and boxes, I note that some of them belong to my husband and I, but some of them belong to strangers who had the P.O box long before we did - random military members who have forgotten to forward the address of their next base. I wonder where they are now as I tuck their letters and coupon magazines behind letters bearing my name.

I wonder where my birth mom is now. I wish I had her address. I glance over the pile of mis-sent mail. Look at all these messages from banks and retailers - they'll never reach the recipient. My birth mom left me a message the other day, trying to reach me. The message wasn't totally coherent, but the words were warm and meaningful. I wish I had gotten her call. She wished me a happy birthday on the wrong day. Did she know that? Or maybe she was just confused about the time zone...or maybe back when I was born she was so drugged up she didn't remember the date, and maybe- no, I stopped myself. I don't have time for the bubble to burst.

I turn to face the downpour with my cumbersome collection of boxes and mail. Let's focus on one thing at a time: getting my packages secured in my trunk.

The rain isn't showing any sign of stopping, so I resolve that I will simply have to get wet.

I balance the pile against a trash can, push my glasses up on the bridge of my nose, shove a manilla package back on the stack, grasp the corners a little tighter, and then hoist the stack against my chest and dart down the steps into the storm.

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