somebody ‘dedicated’ this piece to me as a birthday gift.
it’s a wonderful text, and it makes me think of sunflowers and bubbles, spun wheels and wishing feathers.
thank you for this.
Happy Birthday to You
By Etgar Keret
The bus stops, the driver smiles at you, the windows are gleaming, and you’ve got plenty of small change. In the row of single seats on the left, the last one is vacant, as if it has your name on it, your favorite one. The bus turns out, the lights turn green as it approaches, and the guy cracking sunflower seeds gathers up the shells in a brown paper bag.
The elderly inspector doesn’t ask to see your ticket, just tips his hat and, in a very pleasant voice, wishes you a nice day.
And it will be a nice day. Because it’s your birthday. You’re bright, you’re pretty, and you have your whole life ahead of you. Four more stops and you’ll pull the cord, and the driver will stop, just for you.
You’ll get out of the bus, no one will jostle you, and the door won’t close till you’ve stepped down. And the bus will leave, the passengers will be happy for you, and the guy with the flower seeds will keep waving goodbye, for no reason at all, till he’s out of sight.
Who needs a reason, it’s a birthday, and on birthdays nice things happen. And the puppy running toward you now will wag its tail when you pet it. When it’s a really special date, even dogs can tell.
In your apartment, people will be waiting in the dark , behind the beautiful furniture the two of you chose yourselves. When you open the door, they’ll jump out and shout, “Surprise!” And you’ll be perfectly surprised.
They’ll all be there, the people you’ve loved. Those closest to you, and the ones who meant the most. And they’ll bring presents that they bought or dreamed up themselves. Inspired presents, and useful things too.
The funny ones will entertain, the smart ones will edify, even the melancholy ones will smile and mean it. The food will be amazing, then they’ll serve strawberries and top it off will vanilla milkshakes from the best ice-cream parlor in town.
They’ll play a Keith Jarrett disc and everyone will listen, they’ll play a record and nobody will feel sad. And the ones who are on their own won’t feel alone tonight, and nobody will ask “Milk or cream?” because by now they’ll all know one another.
In the end they’ll leave, and the ones you wanted to kiss you will kiss you, and the ones you didn’t will just shake your hand. And he’ll be the only one that will stay behind, the man you live with, kinder and gentler than ever.
If you want to, you’ll make love or he’ll massage your body in oil, something he picked out just for you in an old Bedouin shop. He’ll dim the halogen light–all you have to do is ask–and you’ll sit there enfolded in his arms, waiting for dawn.
And on that magical night, I’ll be there too, drinking my vanilla milkshake and smiling a genuine smile. And before I go, if you want I’ll kiss you. And if not, I’ll just shake your hand.