The doorbell rang insistently.
It was seven in the morning, time when I wasn’t usually up, and he always slept up to two or three in the afternoon. So it could only be a dream…
The ringing stressed.
I rolled out of bed and stumbled slowly down the hallway.
He was standing at the front door, tall, thin as a late teenager, with his cap over his eyes and calmly sticking his finger to the doorbell.
I suddenly snapped out of my trance of sleep and opened the door.
He had his arms full of tulips. I loved them and was even more astonished because he has never brought me flowers before. I think he may have bought all the flowers in the shop. His face radiated with happiness.
He took me in his arms and enveloped me in its tenderness; love seemed so sweet in the morning that I forgot about the flowers and the question which remained suspended somewhere between dreams and the greed of love.
We had fallen in love in America; only I could travel across the ocean and fall in love with someone who lived two streets from my flat!
At first I regarded him with suspicion, I found it hard to believe that I could ever find a decent person.
It all flowed naturally in America where nothing seemed real, not the skyscrapers, not the drug addicts in railway stations. It was the most natural place to be with someone, especially someone who did not comply with any rule.
I was like Alice in Wonderland; anything could happen to me there. And one of the things that have happened to me was to fall in love exactly when I was sure that I didn’t need love.
We smiled at the same things and had lots of laughs, said the same things at the same time, made the same ironic hints, understood each other’s looks and were not bound by any rule.
I had no idea what we’d do once we came back, but Wonderland was OK.
He was 36 years old, 1.80 meters tall, and was one of the most talented filmmakers of his generation. As a mutual friend said, "he had pedigree".
His parents were renown writers, he grew up in the most exclusive district of Bucharest, had a live-in babysitter, attended the most expensive schools, he could afford to despise both the old and new rich people and state that his whole life he just wanted to be an ordinary man and live in a flat.
He had never lived in a flat, but in my tiny apartment acted like a king in his palace.
We lived separately, which meant that we each spent several hours in our own home alone without the other, until we were to decide whether or not things would work out and if we were to remain together.
This provisory state of the relationship had already stretched for many years.
The dozens of bouquets of red tulips now stood in vases, cups, jars and any other containers that could hold water.
- What are the flowers for?
- Isn’t it your birthday? I dreamt that today was your birthday; I woke up scared that I hadn’t gotten you anything and that you’d get angry, so I ran and bought all the flowers I could find.
It wasn’t my birthday. It had passed.
He never said "Happy Birthday", never got me flowers or gifts.
He simply ignored it, and for a long time that saddened me. He said that holidays with a fixed date annoyed him, that he didn’t like to get happy on schedule, at a certain time.
Same went for Christmas and New Years, but that is another story… I didn’t say anything to him.
With time, I got used to it.
I gave up on many things, but I felt good, spoiled and protected, envied and loved.
I thought of it this way: my birthday was only one day of the year, it didn’t last forever.
I even stopped counting the years as I felt as young as the day we fell in love.
So his question took me by surprise.
- No, it’s not.
Suddenly, his face saddened.
- But you know what? What does it matter when it is exactly? It’s the thought that matters. It could as well be today.
-Are you sure? But when is your birthday?
And so, my birthday had strayed.
Every spring after that came with a flower or just a smile, an uttered "Happy Birthday", but none on the exact date.
I got used to this custom so much that one year, when spring was nearly over, and he gave no sign that my day would come anymore, I said:
-You know, it’s my birthday.
And I made it be. He asked what I wanted to do.
- Exactly what we were going to do – I told him – but now it will be a present for my birthday.
Walking down the boulevard, on old streets and going to a restaurant that we had never been to, that was the plan for the day.
Sometimes we liked feeling like tourists in our own city…
In time, after some twelve years, we separated.
He fell in love with a woman who celebrates her birthday on her actual birth date; at a restaurant, with many guests, musicians and no one is allowed not to bring her flowers and candy.
My birthday continues to be sometime in the spring, on a sunny day when I feel like hearing someone say "Happy Birthday".