I have had my time. I have had my chance at fresh, unblemished skin. I have relished in the vainglory of taught muscles and beautiful bones. I have had youth.
I have had my fill of the eyes of young women as they glance through curiosity, then twice through interest, then a third time because they imagine futures stretching off in permanent adolescence.
I have had my opportunity to clutch caution and consequence, and throw those notes scrawled upon torn paper up into the air to be snatched by the wind and whipped away to some distant revelation.
Now I have marched with blind naivety the path that so recently felt to be such an unconquerable distance. Now I look back upon the hesitancy of youth, upon those worries of the simple unknown, which turned out to be but the tiniest goblin growling as a lion concealed by shadows. I look back on the heedful prudence that haunted every of my steps and I wonder whether regret is a companion I have managed to avoid. Whether that sad man is left in one of the gloomy inns along the way.
For I have had my time as the young man – the vessel for old men to stuff their own regrets in, to project their own dreams and aspirations on to in frustrated impotence, to seek to belittle and browbeat and beat with the sticks of their own insufficiencies. I have had my time as the brief light of realisation, that coarse reminder that their bones and their muscles and their joints no longer afford them the opportunity to achieve those dreams that long ago felt could take place in eternity.
Yes, I have suffered the resentment of the aged. I have had my dreams and my ideas undermined by those who have given way to time’s judgmental nature. I have had my green horns and I wanted nothing more than for them to be severed, not realising that with them went the hope that can only come from perception of a world undiscovered.
I have smelt of new birth and possibility. I have been the exciting prospect. I have been the untapped mineral reserve in the mines of humanity amongst the dark, brownish matter and the dripping muck. Now my preciousness has been looted and I hope the world got all it could. I hope that the jewels of my raw, blank material that now sit in the shop window are a source of delectation and delight for the passers-by. I shall never know. Such is the curse of having access only to one mind, so full of curiosity as to the state of others’.
I do not know whether that potential of which so many spoke, whether the unknowable seas that were so vast and so infinite were blue illusions. I do not know whether the depths of my waters contained something worth finding, or whether the dips and the troughs of their beds retain something left unfound. I can never know. Though, perhaps I can say I am satisfied with the treasures I discovered.
When I was young, I knew that beyond the pale, death and his creeping embrace awaited. Still my collar was grabbed vociferously from behind by wary watchfulness. How was I to know that it would not lead to ruin or pestilence or impecuniousness to act upon the lustful desires of spontaneity and luck?
It is both the curse and the blessing of mortality that it brings life’s end. It is both the curse and the blessing of life that it must involve the slow depreciation of both one’s flesh and one’s thoughts into some unhinged and unimpeded abstraction. It is both the curse and blessing of the ages that with the impending possibility of youth comes the stifling stranglehold of uncertainty, and with the stifling stranglehold of senescence comes the limitless power of knowledge.
I am still young. I am still beautiful; I am still the capsule of possibility that so draws ire and admiration, which spins the loom of regret and resentment in those who have not the gifts of my temporariness.
So I stand in the doorway of the rundown boozer and its beer that inspires my introspection and I crane my neck to the night sky, feeling the breeze upon reddened cheeks. As I pull the cigarette between my fingers to my lips, cracked and pink in the cold, I watch the cherry ignite boss-eyed and suck that intoxicating poison down into my nubile lungs. Viscerally and immediately I am propelled back from this imagined future that I created for just an instant – just a floating, forever moment. With the nub of my cigarette stomped beneath a flat foot, so is that future extinguished as if it had never existed. But it did exist, for an instant; for the glimpse of a second I was myself, only with trench lines etched into my skin and the bags of years beneath weathered eyes. For a moment I had seen all that is to come and then I was plunged back beneath the surface. But now, of course, the vigour of such electric air infects my blood and I am renewed with my knowledge.