What I Want For My Birthday
I struggle to open my eyes. The first feeling I register is how dry my throat is.
It’s still dark and I’m a little disoriented. I could swear I heard someone call my name just now. I was dreaming and it woke me up.
I’m slowly getting more aware of my body. There’s something pawing at my left butt cheek. What the hell…
I turn around.
Nuf Nuf is on the bed next to me, staring right at me, or at least I think he is. It’s hard to tell considering that he has small stitched black patches for eyes. Oh, yeah, by the way: Nuf Nuf is my pig plush toy.
“Hey”, I say back at him, trying to play it cool while my brain is going in overdrive and my heart is trying to burst out of my chest.
“So, it’s your birthday this week”
He didn’t say that in a cheerful way. He sounds pretty serious. He could have been my doctor saying “So, I got your results back from the lab”.
Leaving aside the toy-come-alive shock I’m a little surprised by his voice. He has a strangely deep voice for a stuffed toy pig. But what do I know…
“Yes. Yes, it is my birthday this week.” I think I’m still doing a pretty good job keeping it cool. I wonder what he’d do if he could sense fear. I’ve treated him well overall but who knows? I did banish him from my bed a few months ago when I suspected he was infested with bed bugs. I even put him in the freezer for a few days to kill the bugs. Would that be enough for him to seek vengeance? Holy crap. Okay, let’s try not to think about that. There’s so much going on in my head right now.
“What do you want for your birthday?”
“You can have anything. What do you want?”
Is this a trap? I speak the next words carefully.
“You mean, like a wish? Are you a genie or something?”
Nuf Nuf doesn’t have eyebrows but he’s definitely frowning.
“Do I look like a f**king genie to you? Ugh… But yeah, like a wish, if that’s what you want to call it. Anything you want. Come on.”
I take a few seconds to think
“Well, okay, if you’re really asking… I guess I’d like a new guitar. Electric. Fender American perhaps? I haven’t really looked into it, so I’m not sure what’s best, you know…Hey!”
Nuf Nuf has jumped off the bed. He’s shaking its disproportionately big head and, I can’t make out the actual words, but I think he’s swearing under his breath. He’s heading towards the door.
“Where are you going?!”
“F**cking hell…” This pig is rude. Did he learn that from me?
“I tell you you can have anything you want and you ask me for an expensive guitar? Is that all your heart desires? Gosh!”
I’m confused. Was I supposed to ask for more? Am I being cheap? Unimaginative? To be fair, its 3 AM and I’m talking to a stuffed toy I might have mistreated in the past: there have been better conditions to foster creativity…
Nuf Nuf has somehow managed to climb onto my desk and get his little paws on the door handle.
“Wait wait wait!”
He turns around. I suspect it’s not because of my interjection. He just can’t open the door on his own. I keep talking anyway.
“You’re dropping a big question on my laps, Nuf Nuf… In the middle of the night. And for my 31st birthday. Not exactly a remarkable occasion! Sorry I don’t have a list of desires ready in case a stuffed pig decides to come alive and grant me a wish!” I realise I’ve raised my voice and Nuf Nuf is frowning again, a bit too aggressively for my taste. I take a breath to calm down.
“I guess there’s a load of stuff I’d like. Some material and superficial, some not so much… I wish I could choose the clothes I put on in the morning directly from fashion magazines and return them at the end of the day, free of charge. I wish I could travel everywhere in my own train carriage or plane cabin. I wish I could eat ALL THE FOOD without putting on weight. I wish I had the time and money for as many hobbies and passions as I have or want to try. I wish I was excellent at my job and could find a way to put it at use for a greater purpose. I could go on if I thought about it a little longer…”
Nuf Nuf suddenly looks like he’s smiling. Again, hard to tell without a mouth to look at. He’s jumped back on the bed, now standing on his tiny rear legs. It would be cute if he didn’t sound like a Bostonian thug.
“Ah, that sounds better! Which one of these things would you prefer?”
“I don’t think I want any of these things. I mean, some of them could be cool for a little while, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t appreciate them for a very long time…
“For instance, eating any food I crave without consequence sounds awesome at first, but I kinda like the fact that I have to eat in moderation and exercise. If I didn’t have to do any effort to stay fit and healthy, I wouldn’t have the same respect for my body. It’s an amazing machine that deserves my care, I don’t ever want to take it for granted.”
I’m starting to sound like a righteous smart-ass, but I push on.
“The things I love the most are the ones I’ve worked hard to get. Any clothes I like? First-class trips? Sure, I’d like that, but I’d rather earn them. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate gifts and free stuff from time to time, but as long as they’re exceptional.
“Likewise, if I wish to be better at what I do, at work and outside, and have a greater impact around me, it’s up to me to put in the hard work, learn, improve and look for opportunities to use my skills for good. Right?
“Also, I think that having limited time and resources at your disposal is a blessing in disguise. Not being able to have everything means you have to make meaningful choices, take a unique path. It’s hard to be grateful for that but it’s what makes life special, interesting. Gives it a stake, you know? You only have one life, what are you going to do with it?”
I nod, hesitantly.
“So you’re saying you don’t want any of these things.” It’s not a question. “Right. Well, I’m going back to sleep, then”
“Okay.” Nuf Nuf turns in a circle a couple of times before lying down on my bed cover.
“Ehm… Nuf Nuf?”
“Would you mind sleeping on the chair? I’d rather not take the risk… You know, with the bed bugs and all…”
He sighs heavily before jumping on my desk chair.
The silence settles in. What a night! I wonder how I’m ever going to get back to sleep. I replay what I’ve just told Nuf Nuf in my head and I smile to myself in the dark. Attagirl! And then I think about something…
“Can I still get the guitar?”