Past the green gate four people stand in an entryway. The doorbell rings, sound bellowing
throughout the house. The small window on the door opens and an eye peers out.
“Ah, you’re here.” says a voice from inside.
Electronic beeping from indoors sound as an alarm is turned off.
The oak door is swung wide open and a long hello is said from a short thin elderly women who ushers the guest inside.
“Come in quick."
A tall balding man with a gut loudly greets, “Hello” and saunters into the next room. A teenage boy, tubby, follows suit. A woman, thin, in a skin tight dress follows, the afro on her head bobbing, making her seem like a palm tree, fronds waving in the wind.
Lastly a young pre teen girl with long wet curls, steps through the door, hands clutched to her book, one long sock falling down her leg.
The elderly woman walks into the next room while loudly saying, “Looks like the birthday girl has arrived”, her short heels clacking with every step.
The young girl follows and sits on the end of the long table in a seat that dwarfs her. A girl next to her whispers something in her ears and they giggle. She whispers back “I’m starving."
The meal begins with rituals of blessings, with solemn attention to detail. They break bread and the women retreat to the kitchen to serve the food.
The table is loud and the bald man dominates most of the conversation. He speaks with only dry humor and hatred, tales of bars and women he’s met. About his incompetent employees and clients who he hates. His arm is draped around the palm tree woman. She doesn’t speak.
The conversation turns to politics and the debate becomes heated even though they all agree with one another.
“They don't see what's really happening.”
“I just don’t trust them.”
“Why do they ignore every problem we suffer from?”
“It’s like they are blind.”
“Its obvious they just doesn't care about us.”
As the meal comes to a close they bring out a chocolate cake to the girl with the long black curls sitting at the head of the table.
They sing her a halfhearted happy birthday.
As they quiet down she whispers “I don't like chocolate cake.”
A woman with short black hair says, “Who doesn't like chocolate cake? Are you crazy everyone likes chocolate cake.”
The young girl starts to cry.
The children start calling her a crybaby.
The adults laugh at their taunts.
She cries harder and they laugh at the irony of her crying over her being a crybaby.
She runs out of the room and down the hall to a bathroom the size of a closet.
She is sobbing now.
Minutes later the bald man walks in and says,
“Why are you crying.”
“Nothing has happened.”
“You are so sensitive."
She looks up with red rimmed eyes.
“I already said, I don't like chocolate cake.”
He scoffs, “Grow the f*** up.”
She sits on the cold floor trying to calm down.
“I’m trying.” She says.
In her mind she thinks, I am now 12 years old, and it's been the same way for 12 years.
Later, with the TV on, the bald man sits down next to her, drink in hand.
They watch TV till midnight then the man goes to bed, stumbling.
She watches him and calls out “Good night dad.”
He says nothing.
She puts on her shoes and swipes the man's keys out of the pair of jeans lying on his bedroom floor. Neither him or the lump next to him stirs. She walks down to the seven eleven and buys a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting and walks out of the store.
She sits there and sings happy birthday to herself, the cupcake sticking to the back of her throat.