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Happy Birthday, I Hate You

What is it about adult birthdays?

I woke up today and decided that I was finally ready, I want to write about this.

The morning had a strange taste of bitter sweet feelings, twangy mixture that you could sometimes get a hint of in your birthday cakes loaded with too many candles as your parents attempt to make it a magical cake like it once was when you were a child. But now, you know its just a cake, and something about it both depresses you, and makes you feel loved, supported, and special all at the same time. Do we ever really realize that there is more magic in a cake made with love than that "etherial" magic that is indescribable and unknowable which you experienced as a chid? I think we all hope that, and say that in our heads, but do we really, truefully, FEEL that?

"Do you want some grapes?"
I got up to get some coffee, then sat back down.
"Where did you get that?"
"Over there." I pointed to the machine.
"You know, we have instant coffee packets, and free hot water, you should really use those."
"... I know, I just wanted something with milk in it, I'm tired of bad black coffee."
"I could have made you something, we have sugar, and I'm sure we could borrow some cream from the kitchen."
I just nodded. I didn't want to fight. It was his birthday. FUCK! I should have already said that shouldn't I? SHIT! Now it was going to be awkward when I said it. Do I say it with a smile? Do I mean it? Did I want him to have a happy birthday? Yes, of course I did. But did I particularly care if today, it if wasn't for it being his birthday, was happy? No, I really didn't give a rats ass. I was mad at him, irritated by him, and I think he feels the same way about me, but just won't allow himself to know. He is "always happy," whatever that means. I am so cynical at this point, I can't wrap my mind around anything he says. We get up and clean our bags of food.

"So... Happy Birthday?"

Joe and I walked in silence to the bus stop, and then I sat there waiting for the bus while he walked off somewhere to do Kung Fu. The exhaust from the road was bothering him, so he disappeared behind some bushes. "God Damn IT" I thought to myself as I watched bus after bus pass me by. It was 7:30am, 30 min later than I wanted to catch the bus. We were told to get to the Miyajima island around 8am to have the magic of having the whole place to ourselves for an hour or so. This was exactly what Joe has said he wanted for his birthday, a beautiful old Japanese village that acted like pre-industrial Japan. With no other tourists in the streets, it would just be us wondering throughout this old preserved town on a small island covered in beautiful mountains. Supposedly, Miyajima was one of the 3 most romantic places in Japan. 3, being the number of places always associated with something famous.

I was already irritated though, it was barely sunrise, and I already knew that this place was going to be waisted on our mood. Then the bus came. "JOE!" I had no idea how to tell the driver to wait for my friend. "Choto mate, watashi no tomodachi..." "One moment, my friend..." I pointed out of the bus to the sidewalk. Then Joe appeared in a jog. "Okay" The bus driver told me holding his first finger to his thumb, lifting the three others behind. I showed him my JR pass, and then I took a seat while Joe fumbled to get his secret pouch out, and then slowly work the pass out from that. "Okay, Okay, Okay," the bus driver said as he waved Joe not to bother getting the pass all the way out.

I sighed loudly, and Joe sat in the seat across from me. "Okay," I said, obviously hurt. "Okay what?" he asked, obviously hurt as well. "Look I know you don't want to sit with me b/c I'm annoyed, but come on! You could have done Kung Fu at least somewhere where you could see me and I could easily see you, and then you could have already had your bus pass out since you knew you were going to need it, you just make everything so..." I couldn't think of the word. Joe took that as a sign that I didn't mean what I was going to say. It was just the opposite. I meant it so much, that I couldn't even think straight. He explained to me how everything was "Okay," and how I was stressing out over nothing, and how he is just being himself, and on and on and on. I told him "Okay, Okay, Okay!" And we both let it go... or did we?

We took a train a few stops over to the ferry. The morning was beautiful.


Joe and I were both smiling once the ferry started. "Get that!" We kept saying to one another depending on who had the camera at the time. We were happy. Pain and sorrow washed away by the boat ride to this magical island. The morning breeze whisked through our hair, and the day was starting out clean of every worry or expectation. We made it, and it was great.


And getting off the ferry, we realized that we really did have the place almost entirely to ourselves.


Well, us, and the deer.


We were taking pictures of the red shrine in the water, when another couple came up to us. "Picture?" they asked us as they held out their hand, indicating that they would take a picture of the two of us. I faltered just then. Do we take a picture together? Do we pose, holding each other as we so often did? I looked to Joe, and he shrugged his shoulders, nodded, eyebrows raised and lower lip puffed out. He handed them the camera, and then wrapped himself around me. I melted. Would we really be okay? Was that all it took? Was this all we needed?


This temple is also supposed to be in the water, but it was low tide.


You had to pay to get in, so we decided to come back to this one later when the water was a bit higher.


We aimlessly hicked up a stone path and we found this beautiful old looking temple with plane, unpainted wood. Admittance opened in 2 minutes, so we were the first, and only ones in line.


Inside the ceiling was lined with all sorts of wooden carvings and paintings.


Joe and I wondered around, heads towards the sky, pointing out all the daemons we recognized from Inuyasha, one of our favorite anime shows.


Then other people started showing up, and I felt the push to move on before the island was swarming with tourists.
"Are you ready to move on?"
"Not yet."
I explained to him that we really needed to move on b/c while we did pay to get in, I would rather get to see more of the island by ourselves than see more of this place to get "our moneys worth" b/c remember, money doesn't matter. I thought I would really get him on my side with that one, and he told me not to rush him, and he started wondering around, looking at things we've already looked at. I hate you so much! Surprise attacked my seances. I could actually see the physical signs of hatred in the furrowing of my eyebrows, the hunch of my shoulders, the balling of my fists. I hated him, I really truly, deathly hated him! Why? Why did I feel this way? I don't want this! I don't want to hate him! I don't want to hate anyone! Why do I have this inside of me! I want it out! "JOE!" He looked at me intently. I was about to cry, and he knew it, even though no tears were forming, he could see the look of pure desperation in my eyes. I told him everything that just happened in that past minute. "I don't want to hate you!" Tears should have been flowing down my cheeks at that point... by they weren't. I grabbed his arms and tucked myself into his chest, a move that I do when I can't bear to have him look at me anymore, because looking at him, looking at me, is one of the worst mirrors in the world when I am like this. I hold him like I might die if I let go, and he, if it is possible, seemed to be motionless. Not a breath taken, not a mussel moved. I pulled away from him. I know how much he hates it when I bury my head into his chest when we are fighting. Its comforting for me, but an isolating move from him, with his head and eyes free to look around the world above me and wonder "what am I doing here?"
"Thats not normal." He told me, and began walking again. I walked beside him and tried to explain myself, and tell him how I wanted to change, and how I don't really hate him, but that I just hear myself saying it under my breath a lot recently.
"You've done this before?"
The shock in his face hurt me somewhere I think may have once been my heart. I wasn't thinking, at least not about him, I was just saying how I've felt, and how that makes me feel, and how I wish... I wish... I wish I could take it all back. But, it was too late.

We left the temple in silence, neither of us able to speak. He was that angry/ upset/ shocked/ I don't know b/c he wouldn't talk to me. I started out scared, then I turned to angry. My body warmed to the though. Angry was better than afraid. "Can I have the camera?" I asked at one point, completely void of emotion. The words even sounded tired to me. Great. I moved from angry straight into exhaustion, and it wasn't even 10 am yet.


"Wait one sec." I told him as we walked by a shop with little Russian dolls. At least they seamed like Russian dolls, you know, the ones that unscrew to reveal another doll shaped container, then another, and another, etc. It was a beautiful purple, and I thought that maybe Jessica would like it. She always liked it when my parents would wrap something small in several larger boxes. I found it irritating, but she seemed to enjoy the charade. But these dolls weren't openable, they were just shaped funny. I could tell that Joe was anxious to keep walking, so I hurried up away from the store.

"Okay, never mind," but he was already about 10 paces ahead of me.
"I'll just see you this afternoon then. Lets meet at the ferry at 4?" He was so stern, it was my turn to be shocked.
"You want to go shopping, and I want to explore the rest of the island, so we should split up, you don't seem to want to hang out with me today anyways, so lets meet at the docks sometime this afternoon."

Again, so stern, so out right bold, I couldn't breath. I didn't know what to say. I started walking over to a bench past the sidewalk near the water, and I just collapsed. He wanted to split up? That would be okay on any other day, strange for us b/c we seem to have this sick need to spend every waking and not waking moment together this trip, but okay. But today was his birthday, and I had all these little things planned. We were going to actually go to a restaurant together, and I already knew how to ask the waitress to put a candle in green tea ice-cream for his birthday, and it was going to be great b/c he wouldn't be able to understand a word I said to her. These were the things floating around in my head. I couldn't even think about what he had said. I just kept thinking about the rest of the day I had planned, and how it was never going to happen, not even if we decided to stick together.

"Let me get this straight," I decided to say.
"You want to spend your birthday alone b/c I took a few seconds to look in a shop for a souvenir for my sister?" I was getting pissed again, bully for me.
"No, thats not what I said..." and he continued a long riddle of reasons that he would rather spend his birthday alone than spend it with me. Ouch. Ouch in so many ways. And then, the big one.

"I don't think we should be together anymore. I'm not saying I want to break up now, b/c now isn't the right time, but we don't fit anymore, and I think that we should break up in the future."

Now, finally, after hours of building, the tears finally came. I broke down in a huge mess of sobbing. I can't remember what I said, or what he said, or what color the sky is or what food tastes like. Lost, lost was all I could describe the next 30 minutes of my life. Questions thrown from both sides about what does this mean, what does that mean, how could you do this after all we have been through, how can you keep treating me like this after all we've been through, can we really keep going through all of this, are we right for each other, have we ever been right for each other, was this trip a huge mistake, I love you, but I can't stand to be with you, I love you so much, I can't take being around you anymore, why can't we just start over, how many tries do we get, why can't I stop crying, why don't you care, gasp gasp gasp, then a sigh from a breath that was only recently discovered as being held. People were beginning to trickle past us on the side walk. I wonder how much of it they understood, or if they even needed to understand english to know what we were talking about, if talking is what you could describe our actions as.

"I don't want you to go."
"... then walk with me."

And simple as that, we got up, and started walking.


Then we passed a shop making Takoyaki, and we were very tempted to come back here and buy some when they opened. (We needed a sweet breakfast treat.)



We stumbled upon the most beautiful and our favorite temple of the trip. I think that you may have had to pay to get in, but Joe and I had been wondering through the forests for so long and far, that I think we just appeared onto the temple from a place that nobody would think tourists would come, so we just entered and walked around.


Inside this temple they were holding a ceremony, similar to the one we went to in Hawaii. It was some form of Shinto Zen, as they were changing each syllable of the prayer to the beet of the drum. I did not want to go in at first, so I agreed to wait outside while Joe sat in on the ceremony. Then after about 5 minutes, I sat down in back on a square pillow and joined in on the bowing as well.


Here we ran into the Australian girls who were taking up all the info desks time yesterday when we needed to book a place to stay as well. We made nice with them for a minute, and then moved on.


As we were hiking up the river next to the temple, Joe brought up one of the reasons he had been moody with me lately. "I was hurt when you told Eelke that she was your spiritual guru."
"What? Why?"
"Because when she tells you the same things that I've told you,"
"She didn't"
"You treat her like she is something amazing, and you treat me like everything I say is bull shit."
"You know thats not true,"
"It is True!"
<arguing ensues>
"But my point is, that I don't feel bad about it anymore b/c I figured out that she is simply just what you needed."
"I do need a guru, and it can't be you, you can't always be my teacher,"
"I know that now, and I know why too. You need someone you can respect, and Eelke is older than you, and I am younger, so that makes sense, and she is also a woman, and you can connect with her better and take her advice more b/c its not a man telling you, which is fine, and I am not upset."
"You aren't upset?!?! You have basically boiled down what was probably one of the most spiritually important moments of my life into, 'Its because she is older than you and a woman' and you have the nerve to reassure me that you aren't upset? As if I could give a shit?!"

Now we have a huge, large, enormous fight where neither one of us raises our voice, and in fact, we have to ask each other what the other said sometimes because the tones we were speaking in were so hushed and erie I can hardly think about it without getting goosebumps. And this was the moment I knew, I was not going to fight for us. We were not the people we were at the beginning of this relationship. The Joe I fell in love with is not this same person. We have been holding onto a dream. I cannot be in love with this person any more. I will not fight for us. It is all up to him now. Fate will decide. If he fights for us, if he changes his mind, then we may work this out yet, but if he doesn't, then we are over, finished, broken up. I cannot love this person anymore, and yet I will love him for the rest of my life. I knew, right then, that maybe he felt the same, and so for the next how every many days or weeks it would take for it to be the "right time" for us to break up, we would wait for the other one to make a move. We would hold our battle formation at the ready, and the fight for our relationship would never begin. How long can we wait on this battlefield before these opposing forces get tired of waiting, and need to go home? Where is home for my forces? Home has been defined for so long as the place where Joe and I were... that now I don't know if I have a home to go to... now, am I truly homeless?

These questions were tiring, but we move on and up the stairs along the river of boulders to the waterfall near the top.


Up this path we hopped the fence and crossed over the boulders to this immensely powerful waterfall. It was narrow, like a large shower, but it came from quite high, so the crash seemed to be from a much larger waterfall. There was also a section of it that fanned out over a large flat stone that created this curtain of water at about head height. Joe climbed up on top of one of the boulders near the top of the waterfall, and I climbed down into the base of the waterfall and dunked my feet into the river. We were both exhausted from getting up at 6:30 this morning after getting in so late the night before, and from the emotional baggage we had just been through again, that we both fell asleep for almost 2 hours.

Afterwards, it was time to get some food. But first, I had to get out from the base of these boulders, and my rock climbing skills are much better on the way down then they are on the way up. I slipped, and rocks crumbled from beneath my hands and my feet, the higher I climbed, the further from the other side of the boulders I would get. I needed to get onto this one, long, steep angled smooth rock, but every time I'd get near it I would slide in some way. Joe eventually helped navigate me towards it, and when I almost had my body on it, I started to slip. "Get the weight of your whole body on it!" He called to me, but that would mean I would have to talk my leg off the side of the rock where I had an almost decent foot hold... but then that broke, and I began to slide. "Nooo!" I pulled my leg onto the rock beside my other leg, just to act as weight so friction could keep me from sliding off. Joe eventually made his way over and by pressuring beside and below me, I was able to stabilize and get down from the rocks and across the river. You would think this experience would bring us closer, the clinging and holding of each other would light some sexual feelings, but it didn't. I was going to be okay with or without getting down safely. Just one way involved getting wet and possibly some bruises and scrapes I could live without. And Joe was just doing his thing, that he would do with any friend, he was helping them with athletics. He was a rock climbing instructor. Platonic, friendly, and that was that. Acceptance.

Now, time for food. We walked to a restaurant that had plastic representations of their food outside, and we ordered Chicken Katsu curry with rice and a large crushed ice green tea and red bean desert.


So much yum.


BTW, this next picture is posed b/c we kept making this face as we would take a scoop and and avalanche would fall onto the table.


Then we went around and looked at some of the neat shops they had.


Joe particularly liked this wood carving shop.


Then we went hiking some more on our way back to the main temple by the red shrine in the water.



It was getting late, and if we were in a romantic mood, I would have pushed to stay until night fall b/c this place supposedly lights up like some Italian villages at night, but we weren't so we caught the next ferry into town, and then took the train back into Hiroshima where we searched for a place to get dinner... and Joe found what he absolutely had to have for his 25th birthday...


I don't know if you can tell, but there are 10 beef patties on that thing! I helped out by eating one and a half of them, and yes, I did get yelled at for that half b/c I ate more than one, and I ate it with bread. "I need that bread! I have 5 more patties to go and thats all the bread I have left!" He ate it open faced four patties on one side and four and a half on the other. I bought him some spinach at the grocery store that was next to the restaurant as well as some juice to drink that sucker down with. It took him a while to eat the monstrosity, but he did it, and now he had all the energy in the world to convert all of that "protean" into mussel as we waited for the bus back to the hostel.

Posted by - Rain 18:06

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i am crying for you as i read this, vanessa. my heart is broken.

by georgi r

That was a hard story to tell, but you convey the situation and how painful it is for both of you really well. It's terribly ironic that you'll always have such memories of that beautiful place. But I think your writing shows that you're coming through the pain of loss and mourning with some hard-won wisdom about how two people can love each other but come to the point where they're not able to be together.

by Sheryl S

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