creative projects · Fiction · The Hollow Times

Happy Birthday, Hero

By Hero Takeyama

On January 1st, 2017, Hero Takeyama finished his 20th revolution around the sun. It was an average day for him filled with work, debt and the obligations of working life. The only thing the occasion brought him was a heavy dose of existential dread which prompted questions. Dark questions. Questions that ranged from why he was slaving away for a degree that may not mean anything in the long run to why his parents decided that Hero would be an appropriate name for a small weak human. Whether it was out of a sense of humor or legitimate aspirations for greatness they refuse to say.


On Monday morning, I was asked by my colleague, Regina Carlisle, to write a reflection piece on growing older as a birthday gift. I was dutifully downing my third cup of coffee in the break room, pondering the ways I could drag out the backlog of work that stacked up during the holiday. Of course, as an intern, this really only required making copies of miscellaneous documents, making note of the difference in coffee tastes of the editorial staff, and feeding the gremlins who worked the printing presses in the basement.

Regina got the okay from September to schedule a couple of pop pieces for the paper. He hasn’t completely recovered from his holiday bender. Out of the myriad of ideas her brain concocted, she thought it would be fun to give each of her co-workers an assignment for their birthdays.

It’s funny. I’ve been around for twenty years but I can barely recall half of them. Most of my early childhood are vague images of intense emotions. I remember breaking my arm when I was five, waging war with the trolls in Daelmond Park at the age of eight, and being afraid of the voices in my wall during those first few nights I was forced to sleep in my own room for the first time. Nostalgia makes everything seem more intense where the present is just this big collection of gray images that replay day after day.

After a certain age, there’s nothing special about growing older. Years pass onto other years, the vibrant trappings of childhood wonder and anticipation fade to the cold realism that life dishes out in heaping doses. But we choose to ignore this loss, instead reveling in celebrations that count down the time to our destruction. There’s nothing special about twenty. It’s just another year.  I’m still the virtually broke college student that I was when I was nineteen. Perhaps even more so since I still haven’t paid off my Fall semester.

I was told by a few relatives that twenty represented true adulthood. They downplay the age where you can legally inhale deadly smoke and vote for the people who ruin your life in the way you deem most appropriate as technically teenagehood. No one takes you seriously unless you get a different tenth digit in front of your age. But even that’s debatable since I’m still taking coffee orders in a job that pays just below minimum wage by day while servicing the voices that haunt my apartment by night. I’m still expected to keep the detailed records of painfully dry minutiae while also balancing pop pieces. I can’t go to Deadman’s Market to buy alcohol without getting disparaging remarks from the pirate behind the counter about how I’m poisoning my body even when I explain that it’s for strictly business purposes.


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