It’s those age lines by the side of my eyes. You know the ones. Someone less squeamish might just outright call them wrinkles. They creep like crow’s feet, like little rivers depicted on maps, like branches on leafless trees left barren during the winter months.
They weren’t there yesterday. At least I didn’t think that they were there until I looked. And then there they were. Stuck to the side of my face, something new to look at when I’m brushing my teeth. Something new to agonize over when I’m standing there wondering what happened to my life.
I woke up 50 the other day. The night before I’d gone to bed an aging adolescent and the next day I woke up half dead with one foot in the grave. Although I really didn’t feel any different than I did the day before, or last week, or even last year.
It’s not like I’m an invalid, cane welding, get-out-of-my-way-you-kids-
I’m-gonna-fall-over-and-die-at-any-minute old man. But I’m fucking fifty for god sake!
Last Friday when I was bitching about getting old to my dad, he told me that people that don’t worry about getting old live longer. And then he asked me if I had a pension plan at work.
Today the kid who works at the liquor store at the bottom of the hill held the door open for me when I was about to leave his store. I just stood there and stared at him for at least a full five minutes.
“Why are you holding the door open?” I asked.
“Sir you’ve got a bag of groceries and the Sunday newspaper,” he answered, “I thought you could use a hand.”
“What, you think I’m too old to be able to manage out the door carrying a bag with one pint of Ben and Jerry’s and a freaking newspaper?”
“Just thought I’d help” was all that he could say.
I waited for him to close the door and walk back behind the counter. With my shoulder I pushed the door open and like an idiot stumbled into the street missing the one short step down onto the sidewalk. A grey haired old lady dressed in a bright pink Adidas tracksuit caught my elbow as I almost fell to the ground.
“Careful there tiger,” she said.
I wanted to ask her who tiger was, but I was afraid that she was talking to me, so I shook her vice like grip off of my arm and turned to walk into the street just barely missing being run over by a police car, the one that screeched to a halt, the one that I unfortunately made a somewhat vulgar hand gesture towards, the one with two rookie cops twenty years younger than me that got out and made me put my bag and newspaper on the hood of their car and show them my ID.
Apparently these days even the cops call me sir. Of course that is after they ran my ID, electronically viewed my past rap sheet, looked at each other, got a little uptight and then subsequently discovered that I haven’t been in trouble for the last ten years. Then they looked me up and down, re-holstered their weapons and said, “have a good day sir,” clearly relieved that I’m not that young troublemaker that I used to be.
Ten years ago when I turned 40, I told no one it was my birthday, except one of my homeboys as we were walking the exercise yard of one of California’s finer correctional facilities. Birthdays aren’t something you really celebrate incarcerated, behind bars, living in a five by eight foot cell, surviving on cup-o-noodles, wishing you were anywhere but there.
Back then I thought my life was over and it was. Well, at least the life that I had been living was over. Today I have to admit that my life has never been better, although it doesn’t take a lot to be better than doing time locked up and angry. But that’s beside the point.
Yet standing here staring at the lines on the side of my face, coming off the corners of my eyes, I realize that there’s more to life then worrying about wrinkles and people calling you sir. There’s next year to deal with when I’ll be fifty-one.