It was my birthday today. I was expecting a party when I rushed down the stairs, hoping that someone had noticed. But nobody was there, not even my little brother.
I sat in silence, eating my breakfast until the rest of the family was woken by their alarms.
"Hey, mom," I said when she - still in a bathrobe - stumbled sleepily down the stairs. Yawning, she continued to go down the stairs, and when she reached the bottom, her eyes filled with tears.
"Oh," she whispered abruptly, "It's that time of year already. "
Finally! Someone had noticed that it was my special occasion!
But instead of breaking out the decorations or whipping together a last-minute cake, she just sat down, alone, at the table and turned on the coffee pot.
She buried her face in her hands and started sobbing.
"Mom, I'm not going to college yet," I joked. She didn't even bother to look up at me.
The hot-water started boiling, and she unplugged the machine lethargically and walked to the table behind the couch.
It was a table of our family memories, from kindergarten going through as recently as a few weeks ago.
But she just stared for moments, waiting for some magic fairy to grant her unsaid wish. It never came. Tears streaked down her face as she shakily picked up the newest photo of me.
"Oh, why did he have to leave us!" she cried.
"Mom? I'm right here." I walked up to her, trying to soothe her. But when I went to rub her shuddering shoulders, my hand passed right through her body.