We sit on the patio, eager to grab some sunshine and warmth. My birthday is nearly upon me and, as is usual around this day, I have been feeling moody and grumpy — and, most of all, I have been wondering where time can possibly be going to, and seemingly always with such indecent haste. And… and is it still stepping on the accelerator…?!? More…?!? Honestly! What does it want? Light speed…? Hasn’t it got enough already…?
And why can’t it for once be kind a bit, take its time a bit, give people a bit of a breather…?
Oh, the things I come up with! The very concept of time taking its time… Imagine such a thing!
Maybe time taking its time, or stopping for a bit of a breather, would be as preposterous as expecting… expecting what? Anything, really. I don’t honestly know. The absurdity of possibility and impossibility, of life and the preordained, and Fate and Destiny. Of compliance and deviation. I don’t know what I expect.
But what would it be like, to live without a concept of time or, in any case, this concept of time we have devised? Would we still turn a year older every year? How would we set milestones? Can we even imagine any other concept of time than one based on the light/dark cycle of our planet? And if time ran differently, would life, things, run differently too? And would turning sixty still feel as much of a drain as it does?
I’m entering my 60th year of life. It is a sobering thought. From now on, I am officially classified as an old person, with whatever perks may come from that milestone, and all the damn disadvantages. Ask my knees and my fingers, and they’ll tell you all about it.
But what if we don’t feel anywhere near enough our age?
It strikes me that we — I! — have to live our lives the way we want to live our lives. As we go by, we have to make decisions constantly about what the next step will be and how we want to take it, and into our decision-making process come to bear whatever factors we allow to come to bear. Which is, in the end, something Mr Light and I have very seldomly done.
I look at the sky beyond the tall canopies of next door’s cypresses. It reminds me so much of Portugal. Any afternoon in my childhood, really, with the breeze softly shaking whispers out of the trees, children noises in the background, adults scolding, a radio somewhere in the village, birdsong, the wood pigeons c’rroo-c’rroo-cooing their conversations and love declarations from their perching branches, the nest Mrs She-Pigeon has built, this time, hidden away inside the canopies. There will be no pigeon fledglings chirping and trilling on our chimney, this year.
And then, suddenly, there’s this moment of absolute silence, and it — it is just like magic. Magic, magic, magic. The perfect moment in time.
For a moment there are no babies crying in the playground, no parents scolding, no children shouting, no music from next door, no bees or wasps, no hornets, no bird singing, no pigeons on the cypresses, no background white noise of the rustle of woody branches, soft leaves. Nothing. It’s uncanny. Eerie. Just a magical moment of complete suspension, and the brief eternity of a moment’s silence.
— Ssssh… — Mr Light admonishes me. — Listen…
— Silence, yes. — I tell him with a nod, and smile.
I swear… Time has just given me my birthday wish, and it just stopped, it just stood still, for me, for as long as it could. Just to tell me that it can happen, it can be done.
Nose up in the air, my right hand distractedly caressing Ginger curled up on the chair next to me, Mr Light holding my left hand, my eyes close to better enjoy my special moment and this gift of Time’s. This is bliss.
And then, just as suddenly as it stopped, everything starts all over again: pigeons, kids, angry parents, the thomp-thomp-thomp of someone’s stereo’s bass, the buzzing, the murmuring of the trees and the singing of the birds. I open my eyes and find Mr Light observing me, between quizzical and confounded (I’d say round about four-tenths to six).
— Penny for ’em, honey.
— Your thoughts. Wherever you were. You seemed a million miles away, suddenly.
— Oh, those. And no, just your impression. I was right here, in the patio, with you. Savouring the moment.
— Wouldn’t swap it for the world. But I was thinking…
— Uh-oh! Here it comes.
I smile. Of course he knows me.
— I was thinking about age, and time, and growing old, and…
— And I want to grow old disgracefully. I want to be a edgy grandma. With colour-streaked hair and outlandish clothes. I want to wear ripped jeans, flip-flops showing my tootsies and bright colours and whatever else I dream of, and big earrings and many and strange necklaces. I want to know what’s going on, and experience it. I want my outside to look like my inside. Without owing anyone any explanations, or whatever. Do a ‘like it or lump it’ finger in the air thing, you know?
— I gather you’re talking about…
— Yes. I know you will love it. But also…
— Oh yes. — And I nod. A nod which is a bit like a Jack-in-the-Box’s, to emphasise the point. — Also has a very precise idea of what I should be like…
He looks at me, now the full ten-tenths on the perplexed.
— And all this, because?
— Oh, I don’t know… Because… All this because I am entering my sixtieth year of life, honey. Sixty, can you believe it? And I feel like I haven’t lived. Oh, I’ve lived alright, and I’ve aged, and sometimes I feel old too, but I haven’t lived my life, on my own terms…
— Oh, I don’t expect you to understand… — I add.
‘I don’t expect you to understand‘, I tell him, unabashedly, brazenly, just like that, as if I did not know all about him too, and when all I really meant was ‘I hope you still have no idea what I’m talking about’. Because I do so hope he hasn’t got there yet. Here where I am now. I do so hope…
— Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. — He says, and looks straight in to my eyes.
Is that a bit of sadness too? A bit of nostalgia for what could have been? Nobody prepared us for life. They kept telling us how to live our lives, which meant living them to their own ideals, to the ideas they had of how lives should be lived, in so many ways living their own lives vicariously through us. Oh, we weren’t the only ones, no! But we were soft, weak, the two of us, and in all our rebellion we were meek and we did not know how to fight to win, and come out at the other end doing our own thing. We grew old, without living.
And I do — I do so want to grow old ‘disgracefully’. Do things that are not exactly my age, and when whoever says whatever they say about it, just tell them it’s not them, it’s me. My head, my hair, my toes, my body, my life, me. I want to wear strappy vests, semi-sheer muslin skirts and bias cut floaty tunics and dresses. Despite the lumps and bumps, the sagging, the wrinkling, the bulging. And if a man ever tells me again “nice dress, shame about the body”, ask him if he’s looked closely at his dick lately. I want to wear my hair plain white as it is, without hiding its shade in shame for it betraying my real age, without having to endure weeks of pressure to dye it back to my ‘other’, my ‘real’ colour; and I want to put streaky bits in it in bright, weird colours, as if I were a daydreaming teen again. I want to wear white all over, like my own natural hair now is, wear it top to toe, like you were told you should never ever do past a certain age. And I want to wear my own, clashing or not, colour-combinations. In colours just as bright as the streaks in my white hair will be. Those very colours you were told were not ‘de bon ton’ and strictly a no-no. And I want to wear clashing fabrics. Ditto. And punk earrings and necklaces. Ditto. And red lipstick, ditto (well, maybe not that one, but you get my drift).
And every time they disapprove of my choices, of my looks, of me, I’ll tell them it’s not them, it’s me, not their body, mine, not their choices, mine. Me, mine, my. Life, choice, decision. My pleasure and glory, and — or! — my blame and shame. No one else’s.
And whenever they poke fun at me, that I’m regressing to a second girlhood and a brand new ‘ignorance of youth’ phase, I’ll tell them that they’re probably just jealous and spiteful. That probably they only wish they too had had, or ever will have, the gumption to be like me. To be. To just live.
As the years have passed relentlessly and I near this milestone in my life, I realise more and more that, of so much living my life as others thought I ought to live, I may have almost forgotten who I really am, what I’m like, what I like and what I want. And as the milestone approaches and I become an officially ‘old person’, I feel it’s about time I decided I’m just going to grow old outrageously, on my own terms, ‘disgracefully’ to their eyes in all likelihood. I’ve decided I’ll finally be the myself I almost forgot I was. Because no more. No more. No more.
Mr Light opens up in laughter and twinkling eyes, his hand still grabbing mine. I can see the pleasure and the mirth on his face, his amused expression, the way he looks at me. And even Ginger raises his sleepy head and chirps, to join in with our laughter.
— That’s more like my girl… — He comments, and the cat concurs with a very loud purr.
And all I can say is, Amen to that.