You turn eighteen, and nineteen, and twenty, and it doesn’t matter if you indulge in frosted cake and birthday candles or not, the clock strikes and it sounds like a childhood’s sad song preached by no one in particular through an empty cathedral and it happens anyway. The universe will grant you a cotton lipped wish in apology, so, go ahead, buy the candles. You’re eighteen and you drink for the first time since the one incident mid-spring that made school unbearable and ruined the entire summer before you turned seventeen, and you end up crouched in between two couches crying out soft, broken nonsense. You’re eighteen and you’re half in love with your Literature teacher and you never admit to it because the action of it is fucked up enough, right, and you are not something even half lovable anyway. You see California that summer and the disease you carry everywhere of homesickness does not relapse during the night. You decide you have probably been going to the wrong places your entire life. You get a tattoo just before you turn nineteen, and almost everyone is there with you, and the bee’s kiss buzz of the needle feels grounding, like summer’s song rising from the season long rattling of your bones and turning it into poetry across your right thigh. You turn nineteen and no one is in town but your mom buys you a cake anyway and it is just another day. You have a lot of firsts that year, your first cigarette and your first New York sight, and they feel the same somehow. You take a drag of New York mid autumn and it feels like nothing you’ve ever felt and it burns a little and you’re not entirely sure you like it, but it makes you feel other worldly and inhuman, so you smoke two, three, ten more cigarettes that year and you go back to New York for a second and third time, and you love it this time, East Coast geography turned to nicotine in your system. The third time you go you turn twenty mid trip and you forget the birthday candles but you swear to yourself that you will never forget the year you were nineteen. You keep recycling words and memories to make sure you don’t forget. It’s probably because you have only been twenty for three months and this, the business of being an adult is both miserable and joyful and also a simple fact. You look in the mirror and you are twenty. You know, with a confidence that sometimes shakes you, that you want to create, to turn California mountains and shiny, indecisive, alcoholic youth into things people can tuck in their journals like pressed flowers. You know you won’t be happy otherwise, that there is no alternative to your happiness but the words, no plan b. You think you know your body and the places across it that can make you sigh out static, rumbling galaxies named Love, and you know already, that you like the feeling of tall boys with large hands, and how it feels to make promises with your body when there is a boy next to it and music in between you. You know this, but you do not know, yet, the feeling you dreamed of when you were sixteen and seventeen, of jumping from something tall and daring edged into a deep, fountain youthed body of water, but you see a beautiful girl at a party that takes your breath away and you imagine it might feel like her eyes meeting yours. She does, and you feel like you’re fifteen. You realize, one weekend, sitting by the curb of a stranger’s house, too drunk, too mean, too fucked up, that you are in indigo blue deep over your head. That to this day you do not know how to speak to your parents without feeling misunderstood and that there are still things you are not brave enough to even admit to your twenty year old self. That being twenty feels a lot like being nineteen, but with more panic attacks during the night, and the drowning feeling in your lungs. The next time the world forces you deeper into adulthood you make sure to buy candles, close your eyes, and wish on young and bright and impossible things.