At twelve there is someone who says happy birthday, someone who gives you a small white card with neatly etched words, and another who buys you a cake.

On this day you sleep for twenty hours in a hotel room you've checked in with someone else's name. The rest of those hours half linger inside the brown valise where it doesn't make a sound. Check list, incomplete: one—a birthday that you'll not celebrate again, two—a number your fingers aren't enough for, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen or twenty, and three—your own voice laughing like a child that drops midway at the shorelines, your ticklish feet rubbing against each other, red ears, another memory, the sea, the sea.

You had been here three years ago and it was your lips that blew the flame off the candles on the cake and your feet that stepped on the bedspreads and fell in. Clumsy, clumsily, caressed in a room smelling of melted wax, and you know, you know, she must have kissed you here although you don't remember it that well now, and you must have kissed her back too, your palms sweating coldly, holding her but always letting go, come with me as I leave, you say, stay with me but go.