Burly Writer

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I'm a Writer, if by Writer you mean a misanthrope.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Reality's Raccoon

The persistent ratchet effect of turning 41 years old. It's the feeling of the start of a rollercoaster where the cars are pulled clank-clank to the highest apex, upon which gravity takes over and the cars begin their violent throbbing rush toward an irrefutable end.

Only in aging, in finding myself with a birthday in a couple days, I don't get the sensation of the rollercoaster's power or force, just the tense ratcheting as each day passes.

I don't think people perceive time like I do, or at least as I profess. I think convicts and people in asylums understand the passing of time. To be denied free motion or free thought is a distillation of punishment, pure as 180 proof moonshine. I once watched a burly man take a shot of moonshine: he hit it, doubled over breathless with his hands on his knees, then raised up with a howl, fumes stinging his eyes.

Being a younger man then, I didn't have the courage quotient to take a shot of moonshine. Every time I think about it, I regret it. I wasn't offered a shot, mind you, just that sometimes you have to take what you want. That mentality may get you arrested if what you want is to force some sex on someone, or steal their car, or rob a bank. But in some aspects of life, if you don't act, nothing will happen. Nothing. A virtual and distinct absence of action.

Boys just needed The Girl's validation to become Men.

Nothing crystallizes memory quite like regret. You didn't ask some girl to go out in middle school, you recall plain as day the sensation of failure. You may have suspected the girl, The Girl perhaps, whom you would never believe had "eyes" for you, might have laughed at you. But what if she did not? What if that girl was just as problematically unsure as you? What if she merely had to be presented with the idea of dating, of holding hands, of kissing your virgin lips, to be in love with you? You, the kid with the chuka boots and the too-long jeans because your mother always bought your school clothes too big? "You'll grow into them," she'd say when you complained. "And don't you forget the money I spent! You're ungrateful, you know that? Just roll them up! The other kids won't care!"

But the kids did care. They saw clearly I was a kid in middle school who didn't buy his own clothes. The girl, The Girl, she saw a shy boy with long hair who didn't much like to look other kids in the eye because he might get beaten up for it. A victim of paralyzing social fear. The Girl laughs at the boy too, maybe, just because he reminds her of a raccoon she once saw trying to pry the lid off a trashcan with its monkey paws, its cartoon thief masked eyes goggling comically for fear of the upright hairless monsters inside the house, who might make loud noises to scare the 'coon, or kill it with their magic boomstick.

The Girl may reject you, but God abhors a vacuum.

But the raccoon still made the effort, and that's what made it memorable to the girl. The shy boy doesn't even get the benefit of a survivalist's desperation; because he did not act.

At this point, in my 40s, an age of consent to becoming older, fatter, more stiff, less virile, there's the idea that inaction is regret, but with only so many years remaining in a life, the actions of youth are unforgiving when you're older. The Girl is no longer waiting for love she did not even imagine existed. The Girl is now A Person, scarred, listless, bitter, or merely satisfied. No one thinks of her like boys once did in middle school. She's never going to wonder if there is something better than what she's known. She is a precise result of time, a walking clock face so used to the plodding click of the hour and minute and seconds passing that she hardly has to think anymore to step over them.

For me, a man at last, just as I imagined myself, heroically a man as I envisioned it as a 10-year old boy, too shy, too light in the pants, too sensitive to people's friendly stares, too leary of big boisterous howling men with fumes ruddying their cheeks, I am disappointed in my state of being. My howls are rage-filled, regret-laced and heavy as bowling balls. Without action, without the need to survive, I am a 41-year old mummified raccoon, the bare crumbling outline of hair and bone, with a tiny set of sharp teeth.

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