30th Birthday

Darren woke up from his slumber and his shoes were missing.  The park was filled with people that afternoon. Now the sun was dropping out of the sky.  The bur oak tree had shaded his body from the sun most of the day.  He took off his shoes because he was hot.  He was uncomfortable.

It was his 30th birthday and no one remembered.  Not one phone call or text message from his parents or friends.  Sure he had a beer or maybe three before he arrived to the park.  The night before was fuzzy.  There were a few scattered images floating in his head: a woman with a butterfly tattoo in the middle of her back, a mole on her neck, long brown hair, and tan skin.  The brown hair had fallen in his face as she slept next to him and it smelled of peaches.  His Mom made homemade peach cobbler for every birthday.

Who would take a pair of blue Nike shoes that had been worn at least a dozen times and hadn’t been washed?

Darren searched his pockets for a phone number or any messages.  He did have a Post-it with a phone number on it.  He could barely read the name: it could be Sophina or Stephanie.  He pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number.  It went straight to voicemail the first two times.  The third time a raspy voice answered in a whisper.  “Darren . . .I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.”

“Is your name Stephanie?  What’s your name?  I couldn’t read it on the note.”

“Darren, it’s me.  I fell asleep over your place last night.  I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have come over. I left as early as I could this morning.”

“Wait. . . but what’s your name?  Seriously I don’t remember.  I guess I’m still hungover.  Why would you leave me alone on my thirtieth birthday?”

“Yes, this is Stephanie your ex-girlfriend.  I came over because I hadn’t seen you since last year.  I wanted to leave my new number with you because I felt sorry for you. Nothing happened last night.  We talked and fell asleep.  I was hoping you were doing better.”

“Stephanie, someone stole my sneakers.  I’m at the park and someone took them while I was sleeping.”

“You can always get another pair of sneakers, Darren.”

“I know, but it’s just the principle.  It isn’t right to just take things away. I liked those sneakers and they cost me $250.  I only had them two months.”

“You are still drunk aren’t you?  How did you get to the park?”

“I know I don’t have a car anymore so I guess I walked several blocks.  Can you believe no one called me today?  A thirtieth birthday is a call for a celebration, right?” he questioned.

“What are you talking about, Darren?  Today’s not your birthday it was two days ago and you turned thirty last year.  I guess you don’t remember the accident either.  You were driving and your parents were with you.  You ran a red light and they both died. The three of you were on the way to a movie that night.  Apparently you had been drinking all that afternoon.  They died Darren.  You care more about sneakers than you do about your parents that you killed on your thirtieth birthday.”

Darren threw his cell phone down on the ground.  He walked around the tree again hoping to find a clue to his missing sneakers.  He walked as far down the stretch of the park as he could and didn’t find anything.  The sun was hanging on for just a few more minutes before the dark would invade the sky.  He walked and walked until he forgot again that it wasn’t his thirtieth birthday – with only peach cobbler on his mind.

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