Sweet Sixteen and never been missed
First birthday without your first
First birthday I was totally pissed
First birthday with no damn friction
First birthday with a brand new addiction
Happy Birthday M.S 1990
Did you notice how easily I was able to skim over my sixteenth birthday, well the same thing happened in real life. Birthdays up to my fifteenth birthday were always a shared affair, as a twin it’s something you get used to, your birthday is never your own. I presume for happy households and happy twins such shared days are a day of joy for all concerned, a day where each twin is celebrated equally, but as you know nothing was equal in the house I grew up in.
Despite the efforts Herod went to include me, went to make sure the birthdays were not just about him, there was always the feeling that we were only celebrating a single birthday in that house. It got so that I just started to accept that my birthday meant so very little to those I was around. I guess that feeling didn’t really stay put in the house when I left because although I’d had a great few weeks with Steve and his friends accepting me and even Andrea becoming close enough for her to call me her boyfriend I still didn’t feel the need to share too many personal details.
That’s not to say that my new found friends wouldn’t have thrown me a good party, Steve’s place seemed to be one long party, but I just didn’t feel like celebrating. I felt freer than I ever had. I felt happier than I ever had. I also felt happier than I had ever felt. Celebrating, as opposed to what happened every other day, just seemed like I was pushing things too far. Maybe I should have been happy that I was out and that any birthday would be mine to celebrate in ways I had never celebrated before. But also, just maybe, celebrating like there was no tomorrow might have broken whatever good luck charm I thought I’d suddenly found.
That didn’t mean that I didn’t quietly celebrate the day that was, during the morning hours of February 13, 1986 I raised a drink to Herod, three times actually. It was a quiet salute while no one was looking sometime before I crawled into bed with Andrea. We had worked the night of the twelfth and we were working the night of the thirteenth, so I knew before time that if I was to have a quiet moment of reflection it had to be on the morning of the thirteenth after work.
That reflection happened when I was able to steal a few moments away from Andrea, who seemed particularly clinging that morning, almost as if she knew something was up. I made the excuse that I was going out the back for a piss, grabbed my smokes, grabbed the bottle of Jack Daniels I was slugging down and in the broad daylight of suburban Adelaide I went out into the back yard to find somewhere quiet. It wasn’t that easy at Steve place but unlike Andrea who seemed to want to cling to me, those strewn around the backyard seemed happy to leave me be.
The corner behind Steve garden shed never seemed to attract much action so that is where I ended up, sitting on an upside down milk crate, lit smoke in one hand, bottle in the other and both raised to the sun. I said happy birthday to my brother three times before dropping my head and looking at the ground. Whether the tears that formed in the corner of my eyes were from the cigarette smoke or true tears of sadness I would never try to answer, but one thing I didn’t realise at the time was that I might have risen a drink to my dead and dearest brother, but I never raised a drink to myself.
Although I didn’t tell anyone it was my birthday I did get a belated present, it arrived in the early hours of Friday morning. My official birthday, if there is such a thing, was the night before at two minutes to midnight but the present waited until closer to 4am to arrive.
Although we’d worked it was an early morning for us, the gig was only ten minutes from the warehouse and the club we were at had a 1am curfew due to constant noise level breeches, something that would be the bane of the live music industry for many years to come. However for us that night/morning it meant we got home early.
When I walked into my bedroom Andrea was there sitting on my bed gaping at me as if she was a rabbit caught in the spot lights of a speeding car. Now I must say that while we had fallen into the relationship thing quite comfortably we’d hadn’t grown to the telling each other what to do stage. We were both free and neither of us worried ourselves with what the other was doing when we weren’t together. Maybe that was the reason why I wasn’t surprised by the sight of my girlfriend sitting on the bed we shared with leather belt pulled around her arm and a needle pushed into an exposed vein.
I’d seen drug use at Steve’s house, I’d even had myself a few joints over the weeks I was there. The first one was a mistake after picking up the wrong cigarette in a communal ashtray, the subsequent ones not so much. Perhaps had I not been so tired I might have recognised that gaping look in Andrea’s eyes for what it was. But instead I grabbed one of the bottles of Jack Daniels that I’d left sitting in the bookshelf, my own private stash, opened it, slugged down three hefty mouthfuls, then sat down next to Andrea and placed my arm on her leg.
“Are you sure?” She asked me.
I said nothing, took another swig of JD and just waved my bare forearm at her. Before the sun had risen on the start of my sixteenth year I had received both the very best and the very worst birthday present a sixteen year old could ask for.