Moment of Reckoning

Woman in an Adirondack Chair:

The perfect day is agony. Not a ripple on the lake, although a soothing breeze moves trees, wind chimes, the abundant petunias. It’s a dry air today with plenty of sunshine, late afternoon in late summer, chores completed. No impending bills, social engagements, deadlines. The muffler on the old car has started to rattle but it isn’t a bother today, just a reminder of the wisdom in nursing an old car instead of being pressed with a car payment each month.

I can sit and simply indulge in the glory of the aging process, observe how each day knocks off another sliver of expectation, closes another door to a potentiality that would, in the end, become a burden, something that had to be ‘kept up’ like a rose garden or a hair highlight. For now, no such pain in the ass to contend with. Career in the shithole, mood in a hell hole, lips sucking on a beer. The monotony of lethargy. The consistency of hopelessness. The insight of mortality. The wisdom of nihilism.

And here it is. Perfection. The moan of locusts, the buzz of flies.  Lack of desire, motivation, schedule. A few bucks in the bank, enough to eat. A quiet interlude before the next humiliating defeat, disaster, freak-out, agitation, betrayal.  A ladybug crawls up my age-spotted claws. It dances circles on my wrist. I think about the awful movies at the film festival and the film makers and their make-up plastered wives.

“I just got into film-making. Was an actor, Search for Tomorrow. Put my wife through law school so now she makes the money, I take care of the kids and make films.”

Where are you from?

“New York, just outside, the island, takes fifteen minutes on the PATH train. People don’t realize it. Closer to Times Square than people who live on the Upper East Side.”

Gee, that’s great.

Wife in white pushes towards us. Huge leather purse with matching high-heeled sandals. Blonde, large face, large lips, lawyerly lids. Porn star pretty, in other words, sexy ugly. Eyes blue and dull. Neanderthal qualities. Silk scarf tied just so. Kisses film maker husband on ear. He’s shorter.

This memory of a third rate international film festival experience passes through my mind without a shift in mood. The hoards of film makers and their entourages, riding the PATH trains, making bad films, wearing white jeans and white high heeled sandals, carrying pillow sized leather purses with studded inlay. The world wouldn’t be twirling without their earnestness.  I am off the hook. Don’t need to make a bad film. Can take the day off. Can take this life off.

But first, there’s research to be done. Gin. Feeling poor, I grabbed a bottle of Gordon’s instead of Tanqueray, got it home and wanted to know if there was scientific difference. After two drinks, I have lost interest. Seems fine to me but I won’t have a third. A third drink is the teller. You can drink two of anything, -kool-aid and rum, grape juice and gin, vodka and urine. If you want three drinks, you don’t buy Gordon’s, you don’t buy fructose sweetened juices, you don’t piss in your cup. And you eat. Cheese, crackers, bread, scones, beans and rice. Eat and grow fat and drunk. Ten dollars more and you’ve got a professional buzz going. Three or four drinks. No matter. Who wants to count on a hot day? Cut costs in other ways, sleep in the street if you must.

I’ve got the Gordon’s and I’m stuck. Two drinks and I have to quit. What fun is half a party? Half a party concludes with a restless nap, time distortion, the waste of a day or evening. No experiences worthy of memory, no A’HA moments, no epiphanies. Just a half bottle of Gordon’s left on the counter with the remnants of a lime. An untidy, cheap mess of a half party. A cop-out. And tomorrow? A dull morning sans hangover, sans perkiness. All for the sake of a ten dollar savings.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I won’t be punished by the third drink of Gordon’s despite it being called a Middle Class gin.  But if you think I am going to revisit the Gordon’s website for more information on their distillation process, you haven’t had two drinks.

The Chinese definition of happiness is: Grandparents die, then parents die, children die last, but if the decrepit and uselessly aged refuse to kick-off, the rest of us are forced to overstay our welcome as well. It’s the Frozen Domino Effect. Not one domino falls, so no dominos fall, and the natural progression of life comes to a stand still, a stand-off, until the whole planet is a hospice, the entire globe an empty grave. Grandparents and parents will begin outliving their children in greater numbers because the children will kill themselves in frustration at being frozen in youth and middle age, unable to retire and rest unfettered in a shaded hammock because they’re forced to serve their tirelessly immortal ancestral tree.

The walking dead have their spells and bad days but continue, miraculously, to drive to the grocery store and comparison shop. Walking skeletons with wandering minds and milky eyes get a mind for meatloaf or an ice-cream sundae, and they’re up and off the couch. Refreshed with a surprise craving, off they go, back from the brink of a mini-stroke. Dead batteries revived, tough as cockroaches.  The human spirit, the will to live, in addition to a myriad of drugs, keep the clocks ticking after time has run out.

Age rage resembles road rage. Somebody is in the way. The life force wants to move forward in the fast lane and there’s a bottleneck. I am aware that even now, although my daughter loves me, there is a part of her that longs for my evaporation into heaven. It’s about the circle, the wheel of Fortune, the next thing. If there is a reverence in aging, there is a reverence in death, so get it over with.

A year ago, standing at the kitchen sink, I suddenly shit my pants without warning. A river of foul soaked my pants and puddled in my shoes. I was 56 and it was a gentle reminder from the Grim Reaper that I was headed for a soiled oblivion, none too soon. I am not saying that diapers are not an option or that a person cannot live a full and meaningful life with a full load in their pants, but as I waddled from the sink to the bathtub for a hose-down, I recognized that Mother Nature did not like to be fooled. Pills, diapers, soap, surgery.  Postponement of an idea whose time has come. Rectal mishap as crystal ball.  I took note. I await further instructions.

If Frank Sinatra and Paul Newman are dead, how bad can it be?

Walking in a cemetery the occupants silently suggest they’ve got nothing to worry about which balances out the nothingness of their non-existence. They don’t  even have to pay to have their lawn maintained. That’s unheard of, otherwise. You don’t get something for nothing, it’s the first life lesson. The first death lesson is, you get something for nothing. Lawn care. Security. Consistency. Freedom from all worry, disease, heartbreak, regret, insomnia, futility, broken electronics.

So, what keeps us here? Responsibility. Somebody loves us and needs our attention. Moreover, they’ll need to borrow money soon, or want to borrow the car. Being bored, they’ll need to visit. Being boring, they’ll need to call and chat about being bored.

A life affirming decision: let your cuticles go. Let them dry and flake and redden from dishwashing. Chew them and let them bleed.  Death by degree: the maintenance of manicures. Your hands, dirty and rough, meant to work and then tell the story of that work. Nail file, polish, clippers, buffer brush, tips, full-set, filler. Protective rubber gloves, hand cream. Each item a back step away from hands-on accomplishment. Look away from your hands, ignore them, let them live on their own and follow their lead.

Moment of Reckoning: The moment when you realize that all the people in charge are no smarter than you are, just better public speakers, more efficient test-takers. The moment you realize that all the people in Hollywood as no better looking than you are, just better at applying make-up. The moment you realize that you could be everything you think you could be if you could just shamelessly fake it like everybody else. The moment you realize you won’t fake it is the moment you’d better get used to being miserable.

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2 thoughts on “Moment of Reckoning

  1. Maybe it’s because it’s spring, but I’ve got age rage too. Actually more like age astonishment: what, I’m here already? Being childless I’ve had roughly 40, count ’em forty, years of being a more or less autonomous adult without having to grow up. And suddenly I’m growing old. It’s like walking on an uneven lawn with your eyes fixed on the horizon and suddenly stepping into a hole. Who put that there?!? Where’s my transition, dammit?

    • The transition happens when you realize you did not fracture your foot when you stepped into the hole. You are still in one piece. In other words, a survivor, one who endures. With your two good feet, childless or not, you can now take the elbow of a less fortunate klutz, and with your martinis and intellect, help them through the hell of aging by reminding them that it doesn’t last forever…x

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