I met you outside the Society for Grownups where you were supposed to discuss “opportunity cost” with one of the “adults in the room.” You carried a bag of avocados and persimmons, and you wore turquoise, yellow, red, white, green, black, brown, wood grain, tortoise shell, vetiver and bergamot.
After some “cutesy” introductions in the insurance company’s “self-consciously contrived” storefront with “mostly people younger than I am,” you “made an Irish goodbye of it” and went for an orange cranberry scone next door, where The Cranberries’ Zombie playing over the coffeeshop speakers carried on this “unabating reminder” of how old you were. You wondered if you were in fact a zombie (if you bought the scone because of the song), or if the internet of things was functioning on this level now (if by using your credit card to purchase the scone you had prompted the song), and if the latter, how others in the shop felt about your cultural footprint on that “perfect day for a cranberry scone.”
It was that day in autumn — warm enough for a T at noon, cool enough for a tartan scarf later — when you start feeling the air on your skin, “even when there is no wind,” you said, dangling your arm out the window at a stoplight. In a montage of cinematic imagery, you described what it was like as a child to resist growing up.
“It was a day like this,” you said with sunlight washing over your face like reflections on the bottom of a pool, but the waving leaves version. You were running down the hallway of your childhood home, shirtless, and you flew out the “wide open front door” while your mother chased behind, fixing to throw over you a long-sleeved shirt she had rolled up in her hands like a scrunchie. “I see you,” she teased, peering out at you through the opening in the scrunched up shirt. “I didn’t want to wear that.” It wasn’t that you were comfortable without it. “I didn’t want to wear it.” I had to hear you reassert this to grasp its bare straightforwardness. This was about will — not just the will to resist someone else’s laws, someone else’s adulthood, but any of the natural forces threatening to make any sense of those things either.
At this point in our ride, I had noticed the leaves darken blue. At a light, we people-watched grad students go in and out of Whole Foods with smoothies and lopsided paper bags of “like one or two things,” you observed like someone with x-ray vision. This was really the first autumn night, we agreed. We moved, and you asked, “Where was I?”
In the street out in front of your house, holding your ground, you turned your head and looked. Now your mother sat on the doorstep with your shirt over her own head, elbows settled over her knees, lightly slouching, gracefully accepting. Feeling unfettered, you ran off to a great field beyond your house where everyone else was gathering for a long-awaited game of flashlight tag at dark — a game for which you had waited “ever since the beginning of the day.”
You reached the field. “There was chirping in everything those days,” between the ground and sky. There in the middle of it all, kids were silhouettes of themselves in the scattered light of that blue hour. “You could see a star or a planet.” Some took turns throwing a styrofoam plane. One did cartwheels for others who squatted cheering on, grinning, clasping hands tightly in a way that meant more than applauding. Others attempted their first wheelies by tugging on the handlebars of their “too big bikes.” The big kids circled a bag of supplies for the game.
Gazing, contemplating your point of entry, and not without “a funny feeling in my bones,” you felt a finger stick into your side. You turned to look at “this little kid” you had never seen, and whose lips you had to read through the hubbub: “I can see your ribs.” She ran away to where they threw rocks at the limb of a tree now harboring the styrofoam plane. Frozen there, you could still feel her poking finger. In the dampening air, you wrapped your arms around yourself. You turned your head to look behind you at the woods between you and your house, your street, your front door, your mother “maybe in the kitchen then” humming to herself. You put your head down and ran.
The woods were buzzing with mosquitos. Branches like fingers poked your chest and scratched their nails across your shoulders. The dank air stuck to your back.
Your life revolved around these “wakeup calls,” these “many deaths,” which came inevitably like twilight or equinox. “The drill was always the same,” started in like a lesson: resist the world “beyond your skin” until it transforms, sheds or “whathaveyou.” After all, “if it’s not the cold, it’ll be some other thorn in your side,” like a nettlesome little kid or some other “loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen,” you attributed to the dictionary app in your palm.”Opportunity cost,” you said in the voice of someone who might work at the society where we met. You could see your mom knew this. “She had good instincts.”
Our ride seemed timeless. It was dark now. “I feel like we finally got there,” you reflected before we had actually arrived, rustling your persimmons into their place.