There comes that one moment for each who lives when he steps out onto the silent stage, speaks such of the lines as he recalls, gives a half-intended bow, and in his rage
curses his lost youth like over-aged wine, that is now a shadow of its promise and he knows that somehow this is a sign not of what he was but what he now is.
In the evening mirror he doesn’t know the white bearded face that stares back at him, a far older man who hates the coming of night. He searches in vain for a way to show that the spark that once burned did not grow dim but holds even more tightly to the light.
I was born the same day, in a much later year as Thornton Wilder, a fact that had no impact at all on my life, since I discovered our common birthday long after my life’s path was half tread.
I read him in my youth, and must admit I can recall nothing of what I read, which I attribute to all that I have read since, and not as any criticism of Wilder’s writing, for his talent is beyond question.
But what was disconcerting was to learn that Nick Hornby was born five years to the day after me and has penned works that I love but cannot hope to equal despite my having lived longer if not more fully than he has.
Looking back, it is easy to see now what was difficult then, not looking like complete fools, we all did, but knowing that we looked like fools and would for the foreseeable future, those of us lucky enough to survive and actually have one.
We knew they wanted to break us down, rebuild us in the desired format, always bending to unit cohesion, following orders thoughtlessly, never questioning why we were there, when those who sent us were ensconced in their homes and offices.
Once a year some offer me a free meal, on a day, they say they honor me, and while I appreciate the gesture, I know that, for me, is one more fool’s errand.
I can’t remember what year it was, or why I was in his apartment, half sprawled across the sofa, my girlfriend sitting with his, or one of his, he had many, on the floor, listening to Inside Bert Somers, and thinking that was the last place on earth I intended to go that evening.
I recall the wine was good, but then anything a step up from Ripple or Boone’s Farm was good, and the rugs were threadbare.
I was never a fan of Bert, didn’t know until today that he died and was buried in Valhalla, thirty years ago, not long after my youth did as well, although I am here to mourn that at least.
My granddaughter is intensely concerned with the growing loss of species, and rightly so, and I share her fears, though I feel largely powerless to do anything.
She has the faith of youth, a belief that she and her peers can, with work, effect a lasting change, climb up the slippery slope which we have cast them down, and save other species from a fate nature never could have intended.
But she cannot fathom the losses that I have seen, things I knew rendered extinct by her generation, and that of her parents, the cassette player, the typewriter, carbon paper, and stationery and a writing desk, to name only a few, but at least the haven’t outdated my Blackberry.
It was a small house, that much I still remember clearly, not wide, what some called a railroad flat, but ours had two floors, as if two railroad cars had been stacked one on top of the other.
We, luckily, had the bottom, or at least that’s what my father said, and his varicose veined legs applauded his selection of our new home.
I was less convinced as Mrs. McCarthy upstairs was a Reubenesque lady, that was my mother’s term, her sons were every bit as large, and they seemed to walk about at all hours, mostly over my room, leaving me to wonder amid the creaking, when the ceiling might suddenly blanket me.
That never happened, and I have no idea what became of the McCarthy’s, but I would have buried my father last year if my step-brother had bothered to give me the location of the body in his text telling me of his death.
So I am again an orphan, but in the process of building a new home as wide as it is long, and with only a single floor, and the birds have promised to be tread lightly at night.
He knew, the minute he stepped off, that it wasn’t going to end well. He should have realized it two steps earlier, but hindsight was of little use to him now. He knew he had to keep looking up, to focus on the sky. He knew he had to hope it would be like entering a black hole, where the end is certain but time slows and almost seems to stop. And, he remembered, the laws of physics break down inside the event horizon. What he knew he could not do was look down and see the ground rushing up at him. Even when you are 11, walking off the garage roof was not a really bright thing to do, the dare by your friends notwithstanding.