I’m feeling old these days. Mostly in a good way. But then, sometimes, in not such a good way. Usually when I look at recent photos and I look like a gaunt, eyelash-less man in his late 40s.
A few weeks ago, in the middle of a crushing heat wave, we were out at the lake where my in-laws have a cabin. The lad was up very early in the morning, so we went for a stroll down to the water before it became unbearable outside. Sitting at the edge of the playground on the beach were three young women – if I had to guess, I’d say they were heading into their last year of high school, though I am terrible with guessing ages, so they may have been older. They were just gorgeous, flush with lovely skin and suntans and secrets and friendship and – most of all – promise.
They asked me what time it was – it was 6:30, and one of those beautiful, still summer mornings just overflowing with birdsong and dew and fecundity – and I asked whether they’d been up all night. Of course they had. And I smiled at them and realized, with some sadness, that those nights are behind me. Those nights are over – the ones when I had such freedom, and such fire. When I had so many ideas that I could stay up all night drinking beer and talking philosophy, and so much energy that I’d climb buildings to play hacky sack on the roof, or leave a great party at 3am to go play frisbee on the lawn of the legislature until the sun really came up. Fuelled by music, dancing, wine, the possibility of sex. That was a time in my life, and now it’s gone.
There was another beautiful young woman I saw the other week, walking in front of my car as I waited for the light to change. She had way more beauty than she knew – don’t we all, really? – and there was a sweetness, a vulnerability to her as she waited on the corner and pulled up her strapless top, though it wasn’t falling down. I watched her go – funky indie style with vintage purse and cute flats and a little skirt – and as she crossed the street she tugged at her top again. She was doing that dance of wanting to be seen and not wanting to be watched. Or maybe it’s the other way around. She sent me hurtling back 20 years or so, remembering the times when I would have fidgeted the same way – with every breath, squirmingly aware of how I wanted to be perceived. The studied coolness, the calculations doing battle with the fear.
Those days are over, too. It’s a relief. Still, there is sadness, nostalgia. I’m not sure what for, exactly – I suppose just that feeling of wide-open, the promise of a future filled with adventure and joy and discovery, that naivety. That lightness of youth in summertime.