You reach a certain age, you have to level with yourself. There are things I can’t do that I thought I could do, there are lies I tell myself everyday that I probably should stop telling myself. I’m no longer young, I’m on the backend of an uneventful, relatively easy life, and I think it’s time to come clean. Below is a list of stuff I want people to know about me. The original list was way too long, so I cut it down to the key things that best describe who I am. I think the list is worth reading, if for no other reason than it’s the truth.
1. I can’t cry on demand. The other day I was watching Ryan Gosling in “A Place Beyond the Pines.” There’s a scene early in the movie where he’s in a church watching his infant son get baptized. The problem is that Gosling is a renegade dirt biker in a traveling show and he only just found out he has a son. His ex-girlfriend never told him she was pregnant and she doesn’t necessarily want him in her life. Gosling is clearly moved in this scene and begins crying. Just like that. After seeing this I wondered if I could cry on demand. I stood in front of a mirror for ten minutes and tried to imagine myself in the same situation. All I managed was a quivering frown, no tears. Gosling looks good, even when he’s crying. When I try to cry on demand I look like a guy passing a kidney stone.
2. The young waitress at the diner isn’t interested in me. Relatively speaking, I look good for my age. For awhile after my divorce, I had no trouble getting dates and I think most women saw me the way I saw myself. Now, ten years later, I’ve got a bit of a turkey neck, a double chin, thinning gray hair, and a gut. This waitress pays a lot of attention to me and I guess I’ve taken that for actual interest. But a quick look in the mirror in the morning tells the real story. And this is a story I think everyone should know. I’m an older guy and I’m not attractive to younger women.
3. I’m afraid I’ll lose my job even though there’s no indication this will happen anytime soon. I’m good at what I do but there are more and more young people around me every day. The fact is many of them could do my job for half the salary. I think about this as I stand at the coffee machine and watch these kids talk about their weekend activities, relationships, rock climbing exploits, concerts they’ve attended. Lately I’ve been feeling they’re somehow out to get me, or my job. So that’s why I’m afraid.
4. I feel bad about the vandalism I committed as a teenager. I threw anything I could get my hands on — black walnuts that were hard as baseballs, rotten apples, snowballs, even blue crab carcasses. I threw this stuff at bay windows, passing cars, and even people. I laughed the whole time. Not a day goes by that I don’t anticipate the impact of a black walnut on the back of my head or wake up expecting to find my house egged or my car tires slashed. I know I deserve this, but it hasn’t happened yet. I like to think I’m ready for it.
5. I’m not the kind of guy you remember meeting. The only person who recognizes me on a regular basis is the dude behind the window at the local gas station. I get my gas there once a week and he always smiles and acknowledges me. This makes me feel good, especially when the next person in line usually grumbles something like “gimme twenty on seven” and my gas station buddy frowns at him because they are not friends.
6. I want to live in the wilderness but I’m no outdoorsman. I’m old enough to start thinking about retirement and I talk all the time about a cabin in the West Virginia mountains. People tell me I need outdoor skills first. I feel I have some basic level of outdoor survival skills but if I’m honest with myself I know my log cabin existence will be nothing like Mark Wahlberg’s in the movie “Shooter.” Wahlberg’s character lives alone in the mountains with his dog and he’s very happy until people from his past locate him and basically force him to return to civilization. He’s ex-military and has all sorts of survival skills. To live in the mountains largely cut off from civilization you need high-level survival skills that I don’t have.
7. I don’t think I can cry at all. This is related to the first point about fake crying. After I realized I couldn’t cry on demand, I decided to test if I could cry at all. I thought about all the things in my life that have made me sad: my first dog getting run over by an eighteen wheeler right in front of me; my first girlfriend leaving for college and never coming back; one of my best friends dying of AIDS in 1987. None of these memories caused me to cry. This got me thinking about crying in general and I could not remember the last time I cried. I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t cry anymore.
John Meyers’ poems, stories, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly (forthcoming), The Louisville Review, Lunch Ticket, BlazeVOX, and Fiction Southeast, among others. John can be found online at http://hammeredinmetal.blogspot.com/