I have never been emotional about my birthdays, in fact, I didn’t want to celebrate it. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it because (1) I’m an introvert and I don’t want to be the center of attention; (2) I never had that kind of money to splurge; and (3) celebrations drain me out.

Last night, however, something changed. Not on the celebration part because I still don’t want to make a big fuzz out of it, but on the “emotional” part.

It was almost midnight. The Joyride (which I use going to and from work) was going fast, I think about 80 because there was less traffic at that time of night. The cool wind was seeping through my maroon hoodie and khaki chinos (which already smelt of espresso and milk tea powder).

I was looking at the road ahead. The buildings on both my peripheral visions were a blur. And then the realization that I’m turning a year older in less than an hour dawned on me.

The realization that I haven’t accomplished as much at my age, and the thought that I’m still in the situation that I was a year ago, tightened my chest.

I suddenly felt tired, like my body felt heavier than usual, and my eyes welled up.

Then images of my nephew (someone I terribly miss) suddenly flashed in my mind, and the thought of joining him on the other side became very tempting.

Would jumping from the motorcycle speeding at 80 kph be able to end it all? But what if I didn’t die and just become bed ridden? Or paralyzed? Then I would just be more of a burden to my parent and sibling.

Now I know why my nephew did what he did. He really made sure he’d pass. No chance at all of turning back.

I miss him. Terribly. We were so close, that at one point while he was growing up and his father was always out of the country, he  thought I was his dad. He mentioned that again in a video message he left for me before he decided to go.

I knew life had not been easy for him. He had all the comforts but his demons ate him. Depression wasn’t easy.

Depression is not easy.

But he was brave. Very brave to decide and act upon putting an end to his suffering.

I remember breaking down while doing a eulogy for him. Losing my favorite person stabbed me with mixed emotions of grief, guilt and anger that took the energy off me for so long now. I still cry often, especially when I open my closet where a lot of his clothes are present.

My shirts were his favorite, when we were still the same size. He would often wear my shirts (and slippers) and those that he wore, he would take home.

But then things became different when he got bigger than me. I would be the recipient of the clothes that wouldn’t fit him anymore.

Well, until depression played its saddest song on us and separated us. Nevertheless, he remained to be my favorite nephew. My favorite person.

I always wonder how he is now, how he is doing. Does he miss me, too? Would he be happy to see me when the time comes?

I’ve been trying to keep myself busy. Working 12 hours every day has been very effective in knocking me out to at least four hours of sleep every night (or morning, since work ends at 11pm).

Being busy every single day doesn’t give me time to overthink.

Overthinking feeds my demons. I don’t want my demons to take over.

My face was literally wet when I removed the helmet. I was crying while opening the gate. I had to compose myself, though, because my mother was still awake, waiting for me. Because it was my birthday in a few minutes.

She asked what I wanted, getting stuff from the ref and bringing it to me at the table. It felt odd. Like she didn’t want me to go near the ref.

And I understood the awkwardness as I saw a glimpse of a cake box inside.

The next morning, on my birthday, I already knew there was a cake waiting for me, but I didn’t know there was another one. The cake I saw the night before was from my sister, and my mother also had our helper go to the pastry shop the day before to buy me a heart-shaped chocolate cake.

I couldn’t help but cry. Despite everything that’s happening in my life, my family’s still there to cheer me up on my birthday.

And what’s a birthday without pancit? Nanay cooked half a kilo of pancit that early in the morning.

That alone was enough to make me feel extra special. My kind of celebration, really. No fancy stuff.

On that day, I wore my favorite nephew’s shirt and zipped hoodie to work. If wearing his clothes meant being together, I would wear his clothes all the time.

The day passed. No one at work knew it was my birthday, and I was thankful for that. They didn’t even question when my sister arrived with palabok and chicken for everyone.

The day passed.

I went home an hour earlier. But it was the wrong thing to do. I felt a pang of loneliness as I entered the house. I couldn’t help but stare at the smiling photo of my favorite person. I wanted to hug him.

I miss him terribly.

I’ve been trying to live one day at a time. No plans. Just acting on impulse. Sometimes, though, I find it hard to fight off the demons.

Noel Jose (January 24th, 2024)