A day after Alex’s thirteenth birthday, he woke up expecting gifts and a party, only to find that the cake was half-eaten, the party had already taken place, and the gifts had already been opened. At first, he thought it was a joke.
“What the hell? Where’s the cake? The presents?” Alex asked.
“Shut up,” she’d groaned, glaring at him from her plate of pancakes. June had never been a morning person.
“Haha, very funny,” he told June. “I know for sure my birthday hasn’t happened yet. The half-eaten cake and opened gifts aren’t tricking me.”
June had narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re very funny. Your birthday was yesterday, so eat your pancakes and stop messing around with me. I’ve got a big test coming up next week, and if your shenanigans cause me to fail…”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! My birthday is today!”
Two weeks and five doctor visits later, they were given a diagnosis.
“Short-term memory loss,” the doctor had told Ellen. “It currently seems arbitrary. If it happens again, it's short-term memory loss. If it’s just this once, he might have just been hit in the head.”
For the next month, Alex’s family watched him closely, looking for signs of forgetfulness or a repeat offense. But the next attack didn’t happen until they’d long since stopped looking for signs.
Alex’s 14th birthday landed on a Saturday, so he’d taken full advantage of it. He’d planned a party with all his friends, got his mom to rent out a bowling alley, and set up a huge tent in the backyard so he and his friends could have a sleepover outside. So, imagine the pain he felt, waking up on the day he thought was his birthday, sleeping on hard, packed dirt, sharing a wide sleeping bag with Liam. He’d initially panicked; why were his friends here? How did they get here? He wondered if it was another prank, or if he actually had short-term memory loss until his curiosity drove him back inside the house to talk with his parents.
Over the past year, they’d decided that it was best to separate, but the divorce hadn’t been finalized yet. So he found his parents yelling at each other in the kitchen, with June trying to force them apart. They didn’t even notice when he’d first come in.
“Mom?” he’d asked. His voice wasn’t strong and steady, like usual, but scared and unsure. Ellen had turned towards him immediately. “What day is it?”
June was the first to realize that the two attacks had happened on Alex’s birthday.
Almost nine years later, Alex was accustomed to the attacks. He no longer celebrates his birthday on March 27, but on the 28th, so he’d be able to remember everything. He’d gotten through high school, received a bachelor's degree in government, and was studying at NYU Law. It had all seemed perfect.
On the night before what they thought was Alex’s 23rd birthday, Alex’s friends took him out to a new nightclub down in Brooklyn. This is where Alex fucked up; where he fucked up bad. Not telling your friends that you can't remember a certain day each year is fine because the day seems arbitrary to everyone else, but when you accidentally fall in love on that exact night, it’s a bit troubling. Not to mention stupid.
On the morning after Alex’s actual 23rd birthday, he wakes up in someone else's apartment, someone else’s bed. The man sleeping next to him has the body and face of a god, that’s the only way Alex could describe it. Sculpted arms, a lean torso, muscled legs and thighs, all topped off with good looks you only see on television. Dark eyebrows, a perfect nose, thick, tawny hair that's all mussed up on the pillow.
The thought of being in a man's bed used to scare Alex, but he realized while at Georgetown that whatever he did with Liam in high school was gay as fuck, and that he was attracted to men. He’d come out as bisexual to his family and friends after his sophomore year of college.
But this man is ethereal. Alex has never seen anyone… no, anything, as beautiful, as soft and as radiant as this man in his life. And it really tears him apart that he doesn’t remember anything about him, except that they apparently slept together, because they’re both naked. He doesn’t want to wake this boy, thinking that he is probably just another drunk hookup, so he untangles their limbs and goes to find his clothes.
As he pulls up his pants, he hears the unmistakable sound of crumpling paper in his pocket and takes it out. It’s a note.
This is Henry. He’s British, he’s beautiful, and he’s the greatest man you’ll ever meet, and that's only what I’ve gathered from tonight.
So if shit hits the fan and you do forget him, tell him what happened. He’ll understand.
Alex flips the note in his hand. There’s also some writing on the back, but it’s so small he might’ve missed it if he’d looked too fast.
You love him.
Normally, Alex wouldn’t care. He’s fallen in love before, once with a girl in high school and another with a man who used to be his best friend at Georgetown, but neither had ended well. He’d always fantasized over some of the better looking people he’d managed to hook up with, but something about this note seemed… odd. It was creased, and there were what looked like tear stains on the paper.
So Alex listens to his gut and stays. He takes his clothes back off and gets back into bed and tells Henry what had really happened. And Henry believes him; not only believes him, but also doesn’t think he’s insane, and asks Alex out to dinner. Alex leaves content, blissed out and holding a sticky note with Henry’s phone number on it.
Staying was the best decision Alex had ever made.
A year later, minus one day, Alex climbs into bed, knowing that he’ll forget the day, but that the next one will be even better because he gets to spend it with his boyfriend.