moments like these.

they had a party for him. someone ordered a roasted pig, lichon, and there was rice a plenty, duck, clam soup, halaan, shrimp and bbq on a stick. the best bbq on a stick. there was a cake from baskin-robbins and lots of 7-up and coca-cola. he sat at the end of the table, and then someone dimmed the lights. another person lit the candles, and he stared at the cake, looked up at the smiling faces. he was supposed to make a wish, but he never knew what to wish for. should he wish for something selfish, like love or a raise, or something general and selfless, like an end to hunger or world peace? he shut his eyes just for a moment, and the camera flashes. he doesn't wish for anything. he just blows the candles out.

his niece starts plucking candles out of the cake. she plops them out of the frosting like loose flowers, and she sucks on the ends. she does this, one after the other, and he watches her sucking the sugar off each stick, each of which resembles an entire year he's lived. not every one is memorable. it's mostly a blur of birthdays and christmases and fourth of julys. there's the brown crunchy leaves of autumn, winter's fog, sun breaking through the clouds in spring, and summer's endless heat. it's one after the other, carefully being sucked away from him. his niece licks her lips.

he goes back to watching the game. he's still quite full from having eaten all day, but he takes a piece of cake anyway. there's always room for cake. it's ice cream cake, mint chocolate chip, and it's delicious. he scoops up the bread and ice cream with a white plastic spoon, and he savors each bite. the niners are playing the raiders. he wants the niners to win. two of his brothers and a brother-in-law are also watching the game. no one has placed any bets, though, so they are only mildly interested. the children are in the other room, hooting and hollering over a game of monopoly.

it's sunday, and he is dreading the end of the weekend. in the morning, he will turn off his alarm clock, and he will force himself to get up out of bed. he's still eating his cake, as he thinks this over. after the alarm wakes him, he will lie in bed for a few moments, and everything will become perfectly clear to him. he is awake. he is alive. it is monday morning. he is living in america, in california, in sacramento, in a house located on rosemont drive. he has a job. he has to sit up, put his feet on the carpeted floor, and he has to walk to the bathroom to take a shower. it will be a monday morning, and he will be in a bad mood, probably all day.

but for now, it's still sunday, and there's still sun out. it is day time, and he doesn't have to be at work, so life is beautiful, a real miracle. his family is all around him, and it is a good thing to have one's family around. the niners are ahead. the clock is ticking, and he wishes for a second that he could just stop time. just stop that stupid golden clock, and just freeze everything. the children's laughter, the sun poking through the curtains and reflecting on the carpet, his brother sipping a bud, the domestic helper clearing a table, the other washing a dish, his mother blowing her nose, his sister throwing her head back in laughter, the other on the phone. he freezes this moment, and he looks all around him. this is life happening all around him. this is what happiness is. he puts up with a full week of nonsense for moments just like this one.

of course he cannot freeze time. the niners lose. one by one, the others go home. he says goodbye to them, watches the children load themselves into the backseat, and he tells his brothers, okay, i'll see you next week. they shake hands the way gentlemen do. alright, boys, take care. have a good night. everyone takes home tupperware filled with leftovers. it's nine p.m. and it's dark out. there are only a few more months until christmas, and that will be nice. once everyone is gone, it's just him and the other relatives who live at the house.

he locks the front door, closes the garage, and then he stands at the doorway of his empty bedroom. i hope my wish comes true, he thinks.

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