Illustration: Sarah Li

 

Movies had told him that the saddest days were stormy. It wasn’t until the sky was grey, booming with thunder and pouring rain, that they’d show the most tragic scene. It rained during the funeral of the main character’s best friend. It rained as heartbroken lovers split ways. It rained when a soldier died fighting nobly. It rained in the saddest, most dramatic times because falling rain carried the angst of a million angels’ tears.

But he soon realised it was all a lie.

On rainy days, everyone is sad. And that’s just a fact. It’s harder to be happy when the skies are dark, when your feet are trapped in stiff rubber boots and you have to pick a fight with the wind over who gets your umbrella. Misery loves company, and there’s nothing like the company of dozens of raindrops falling from above.

But his saddest days are sunny. When the sky is clear, the air is crisp, the world is at peace. When he walks past the neighborhood park on his way home and he hears the children’s laughter bubbling about. When he passes by an adorable dog and it yaps at him playfully. When his best friends cook his favorite meal for lunch and plan a surprise party because it’s his birthday.

Except he walks past the park with a frown on his face because he is jealous of the kids. Can you believe that, jealous of children? Because he wishes he was still six years old and didn’t know that the world was going to toss its burdens on him. He wishes he could still laugh as freely as they did, wishes he was still innocent and carefree.

And he shrinks away from the dog because that dog is so pure, its soul unbothered, and he fears that the darkness he carries around will spread, because dogs can sense everything.

And he had dreaded the days leading up to his birthday, because it was just a reminder that he’d been here one more year. 365 days that he’d spent doing what, exactly? He accomplished nothing this year, even though he’d promised himself this was the year he’d get his act together, this was the year that things would make sense and he’d become the person he wanted to be. But he failed. He was still the same old person that he was last year.

No, he’s even worse.

And everyone crowds around him, singing “Happy Birthday” in voices that are entirely too angelic for his tainted ears. Their smiles are just as bright as the candles on the top of the cake. And he starts to cry. And he tries to pretend it’s happy tears, that he’s just so happy for the surprise, but on the inside, he’s crumbling.

He doesn’t know why everyone put in the effort to surprise him, because he’s not worth it, he’s not good enough for this. He’s not good enough for them, and they of all people should know that the most.

And then they hug him and cheer and tell him to make a wish before he blows out the candles, and he stands there and thinks, “I don’t belong here,” and then the candles are extinguished, and everyone’s got their arms around him, and he realizes that every single person around him is happy.

And his heart aches, because he hasn’t been happy in so, so long.

The tears threaten to come back once more, but he pushes them back because this is supposed to be a happy day, and he isn’t allowed to cry on happy days.

He wishes it was raining. He wishes he could run outside and get drenched in the downpour, until his tears mix with the raindrops and it didn’t matter if he was crying or if it was just the rain.

But it’s a sunny day, with cake and music and friends, and he’s standing there in the middle of it all, wondering if the numbness in his frozen heart has turned into pain.