800 by Sean Monaghan
Today my daughter is turning 769. July 16th. It might not seem like a milestone--no easily divisible figure like 750 or 777--but it is.
For me, at least.
Mary was born when I was a couple of months shy of my 31st birthday. This coming September I will turn 800.
Her mother, Jasmine, will turn 800 a couple of months later. I hope she's not coming along tonight. It's probably too much to expect.
I hope I can afford the evening too. The gift has cost me too much, and I've got another hip replacement coming up. Money hasn't been much of a friend of late.
There is an element of strangeness to having a child so close in age. It's something my parents never experienced. They both died, respectably aged, in their eighties. In those days, life beyond eighty was considered a bonus. Beyond 120 unheard of.
I was fifty-four when Mum went. She was doddering away with a variety of maladies, but she was still bright and scathing. That I described my then beau as a 'girlfriend' rattled Mum, who told me that teenagers have girlfriends, men past middle age simply didn't. We were products of a different age. A time when there was a generation gap.
In those days it was frowned on to date someone young enough to be your daughter--not that I ever had. Now, nearly a millennium later, I've dated plenty of people younger than my daughter. The generations involved make my head spin. We are all old.
Outside the restaurant where we're celebrating Mary's birthday, I stand, holding her gift. Turkish smells of chickpeas and sizzling lamb waft over me.
Along the street a taxi blares its horn and settles down to the pavement. The door fades and Mary steps out, holding hands with a man. He lets go, leans in the window to pay the driver, who hollers something scatological at them. The man shouts back, withdraws and the taxi speeds off into the sky.
Mary by this time has seen me and she comes trotting along the sidewalk. Her knees glint, reflecting the streetlights.
"Papa!" she calls as she approaches.
I kiss her on the cheek and hold out the gift. "Don't call me that."
She grins, her teeth as straight and perfect as a row of stitches. "Mum!" she squeals. Grabbing the gift she darts by.
I turn and see Jasmine coming along the sidewalk behind me.
"You would think," Jasmine says as Mary sweeps her into a hug, "that I could be nice to you after 780 years."
"I assume you're talking to me?" I say.
"Yes and no." Jasmine sets Mary aside. "I am talking to you, but I'm not talking to you."
"Mum! Get over it."
In a way it's sweet the way that Mary reverts to almost a late-adolescent, early-adult mediator between us.
"Let's get inside." I take a step towards the door, hoping that will get us moving. The air is cool for this time of year and I'm dressed lightly.
"This is Roger." Mary steps over and takes her companion's hand again. "He's thirty-two."
"Oh," Jasmine says.
I look at Roger and can see right away that it's true. There's something in his eyes, like a candle flickering or a crowd cheering a baseball clocked out of the park. This man is practically fresh from the womb. I shake his hand.
"What do you do?" I ask as we head inside.
"Uh-huh." Behind me I hear the two women muttering. I can imagine Jasmine telling Mary what she thinks of Roger. Or more specifically, Roger's age.
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