Oh to be young again.
That is, among other things, one of my strongest desires.
But, unlike the other things my mind longs for, this one is unrealizable.
I get out and plant my two feet firmly on my grass porch. I look outside and see people walking their dogs on the sidewalk.
It is a calm, warm morning. It resembles other calm warm mornings. Only this one carries with it the nostalgia of past days; the remembrance of times of innocence. There were days when life seemed so easy and uncomplicated – days when my only worry was getting on that bus and heading to school. Days when homework and playground roughhousing and concert tickets and high school crushes were the only headlines to be concerned about, the only things worth getting out of bed for.
These days were simple, gentle and delicate. But they never preluded the forthcoming days. They could never predict the incoming madness, the alcohol addiction and excessive writing.
These days came before the world got tough on me. They had some kindness in them, and they filled me with some of that kindness.
Now I don’t need kindness anymore and I don’t ask for it. It seems all a man needs today is some discipline to survive. That and maybe a little bit of love.
Anyone can chase a skirt down the road. Anyone can talk to a girl with a good pair of legs. But for someone to possess a good heart and walk around carrying it and showcasing it to others, that takes guts.
There is some sort of consensus in the world today that vulnerability is a weakness. It is better to die a daredevil than to live like a soft hero. Those generally don’t make it to the record books and their memory quickly washes away with dust particles in the cool autumn breeze.
The image of the school bus appears before my eyes. The image of kids my age, who are now all employed and trying to make it in the world. Trying to make it their own, not realizing they never had a chance to begin with. The world was never ours to take – it was never handed to us.
We had to fight for it like kitchen workers scraping the bottom of the pot for leftover bits of food.
You work and work and work for the system but never succeed in breaking in. You live your life trying to get accepted only to die realizing you never were. They trade your trust for a few soft memories: school, friends, social events…they want to make us think all life is easy and fun and happy and constructed that way. It’s an elaborate ruse, a ploy they came up with to reel us into the net. But then one day comes and you start wondering why all the money you’re making is going right into your boss’s pockets…why he is the one harassing that poor secretary and threatening to fire her if she opens her mouth. Why the landlord makes you sign a contract of consent granting him full ownership of any installation you make to your apartment. You realize the system was never set up to your advantage – it was never designed to incubate you or make you a part of it.
And you go hiding in the books, the music, the few docile things left in this place. You spend afternoons lying in bed, wishing for the pain to stop.
What pain? The pain of feeling the burden of existence. The pain of having to choose between sticking to this life or dying. But it isn’t really a choice, is it? There is no way out.
It is almost noon and I am still sitting outside on my terrace. Everybody in the world seems to have moved on. Only I am sitting here wondering why the heck we don’t have a time machine situated somewhere on some forgotten continent waiting to be used…a time machine that could take me back to the good old days, while granting me the full awareness that I am just reliving an illusion. I could warp back to my high school prom night and kiss that foxy girl in the black dress and tell her: this will all go away now, none of this is real but whatever I’m feeling for you is! I could breeze through college again, take the same hectic courses and flunk them all a second time.
Sometimes you need to retake certain paths. You need to recreate the feelings you went through to sync your brain with the reality that they now belong to the past.
A time machine seems a good idea right about now. I’d give anything for it. Of course, I don’t really have anything right now except for a few packs of smokes and an expired bottle of Absent.
I’m old and retired and my spirits are crushed. I can feel the weight inside me, my organs rumbling and slowly deteriorating. These arms were once built to carry enormous weights, but now they can barely stroke a pen. Just as well, since writing is the only thing that seems to have aged with me. And we both did in an ugly way.
Time to head back to the writing room. Maybe the next time I sit outside on the porch I’ll have the chance to encounter other memories – perhaps remembrances of lost love or forgotten flames…or maybe I’ll witness a time machine popping in front of me and treat myself to a quick trip down memory lane…
WRITTEN BY A 72 YEAR-OLD MAN IN A 22 YEAR-OLD BOY’S BODY.