She calls me the Birthday Nazi because I always expect too much of birthdays. I remember when I was seven I thought it so unfair that a girl called Courtney got made to write lines on her birthday. We should be immune from getting into trouble on our birthdays. Our spouses should have unlimited patience. Our bosses should show inexhaustible generosity. The cars on the road should slow down and let us through.
I have a tradition of seeing films on my birthday. I haven’t done it every year and nor can I remember each one. But I can remember most of them. In 1999, it was Shakespeare in Love. In 2000, American Beauty for the second time. (How appropriate, then, that this year I’m going to see Sam Mendes’ latest film.) In 2002, Iris. In 2003, perhaps it was at the Adelaide Nova Cinema, the one about the nurse who believes the comatose patient loves him and he rapes her. Two birthdays in Adelaide – 2008, I was at the Adelaide Writers’ Festival for my birthday and saw (in the absence of much choice) Valley of Elah. 2006, Capote. 2007, anomalously on video at home, Kiss or Kill.
For years now I’ve felt so old. I guess I am pessimistic about the chances of my thirties being nearly as fun as my twenties. So much responsibility. How can I embrace responsibility? What are its rewards? I thought responsibility would make me feel authentic. It does not. (And I fear responsibility is a code word for compromise with the world. Perhaps the real problem is I still have the values of a 22 year old dissident while living the life of an old married man.)
Death used to be so far away, such a remote possibility. But the last few years it’s come to live in my soul, something near, whispering its certainty all day. I cultivate it, I was checking the recent deaths page on Wikipedia every day for a while. I’ve stopped doing that. I only check it a couple of times a month now.