I know that one of these days I’ll put a towel behind my ear to dry it after a shower, and my ear won’t go back; it will be sticking out at a 90 degree angle for the rest of my life. I’ve lost all my body hair, half my head hair, one boob, about a thousand boyfriends, and most of my illusions, but that ear sticking out is really going to hurt.
I enjoyed being young. Being old is OK, it could have been worse, but it’s different.
I’ve been looking through journals I kept most of my life and trying to trace the connection between that girl and this woman. It’s not so easy. I was invincible and fearless and could bluff or blunder my way through anything and come out on top and unscathed. Now, NOW I’m mortal, don’t drive more than 5 or 10 miles above the speed limit, carry a cell phone in case of an emergency (I don’t turn it on), I don’t move the furniture as often, I hire plumbers and electricians, am thinking maybe I should hire someone to clean.
It’s clear that I liked writing about my life as much as living it, sometimes at the expense of living it. That’s still true, except that I stopped writing. I only wrote when something big was going on, but something big was always going on. Men and books were always big. I wrote down dreams, and 30 years later I can see what they must have meant. Not dreams as in hopes and aspirations; dreams as in going to sleep and you jump into a hole when it’s dark to save some stray cat or dog or little boy and the hole goes deeper and deeper and when you come out of it it’s daylight and you think you must be in China.
I still choose to be alone rather than with people who are dull or needy or chronically embattled or ruthless or who worry about too much too often. I’m still an atheist who thinks it would be a relief to be able to pray. (If there are boxes to check I say I’m a Pantheist or “spiritual” to avoid arguments.)
You couldn’t have told me then that I’d be looking back now, brushing off the chaos, uncertainty and anguish to see through to the self-confidence, minor achievements and pure animal pleasure of those years. I tell myself that I’d do things differently if I could go back, but I lie. I’m still an outsider, and I’d still take a pass on all those alternative lives and live the one I did.