I stayed up all night wondering where the sun went. I also wondered what happened to the man who would stay up all night just because he could, because he wasn’t weighed down by responsibilities and obligations and because dammit, he was alive. Then it dawned on me. I’m growing old, and there’s no getting around that fact. But maybe I’ll chase the dawn tonight, put aside my duties just for a little while and remind myself that, even if you strip away my career and family, I’m still a man. Will this reminder give me the vigor I need to accept the early nights to come, or will it make me loathe them even more? There’s only one way to find out. Guess I better make some coffee.
What’s the difference between a piano and a tuna? Not much to me. I certainly can’t play the piano or catch a fish anymore either, not with these arthritic hands. When I was your age I could spend a weekend in the wilderness and come back with enough food to feed the family for a week. Now there are days where I struggle to make toast. Will you come make meals for me, when it gets worse? Or will you abandon me to the ravages of time, unable to confront your inevitable fate and the fate of a father you once thought stronger than 10 men? As you ponder that, just remember that no matter how old you get, you can tune a piano… but you can’t tuna fish.
Do you file your nails? Really? I just throw mine away, into the trash with everything else I’ve thrown away in life. My ambition, my health, my passion for the little things. Not all at once, mind you. An old friend’s phone number because I’m convinced he wouldn’t want to get in touch after all this time here, a novel outline I’ve stared at for years before convincing myself that it will never be as good as I see it in my head there. The fingernail clippings of life, piling up one by one. Unnoticeable at first, little white flecks against the white plastic bag I use to line the trash can. But they pile up, one by one, until there comes a day when they’re overflowing. Nail clippings can be vacuumed up, and the bag taken out to the garbage. But there’s no vacuum for regrets, and no garbage either. Not unless you count the grave.
I got a haircut. I got a shave too, and as the razor passed my throat I thought about lunging forward and sparing myself the parade of indignities that comes with old age. Better to go out a man than a senile old coot yammering misremembered stories to a pitying audience like my father. But by the time the thought came to me the blade was already gone, and maybe that’s for the best. Now’s not the time. I still have too much to accomplish. There’s still too much… I got all my other hairs cut, too. Getting one cut would just be silly.
I told my wife she drew her eyebrows too high. She cried, and through her tears she said “The first thing you’ve said about my appearance in months, and it’s an insult?” I sat down next to her on the faded couch we bought when we first moved into this house all those years ago and hovered my hand over her shoulder, uncertain if she would pull away if I tried to draw her in. I wondered if I should tell her that I still find her beautiful, and that I wish I could tell her that every day, but that ever since I discovered the affair the words turn to ash in my throat. I want to kiss you, Maryanne, but how can I when every time your lips draw near I imagine Albert’s rough mouth on them? How can I, when those same lips moved to tell me that you haven’t spoken to your old friend Albert in over a year when I asked how he’s doing? I know it’s as much my fault as yours. The long nights, the emotional distance, the little things around the house… but dammit, Maryanne, if you had only said something I would have changed. That’s what really hurts, that you didn’t even ask. If I had tried and failed, I could live with your infidelity. But to not even be given the chance to try… The words pour out of me before I can stop myself, more intimacy between us in this moment than there’s been in God knows how long. She looked surprised. And I surprised myself.