Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ring cycle: 41

"Bill, you're 40 and you still have a wallet with a velcro strip?"

This was a friend and she was amused by yet another sign of my retarded maturity. There are plenty to choose from.

At my age, I should have a leather wallet. I should probably have a decent car and a savings account that registered more than double digits. I should probably have a better wardrobe, too, and something going for me other than a gold library card and the ability to make a pretty good apple walnut cake.

I tried to explain that leather wallets rot, but that didn't really get any traction. When a wallet, a pair of shoes, a shirt or anything else outlives its usefulness, you throw it away. That's what everybody does, right?

"I guess I'm aging awkwardly," I said finally and paid for lunch.

She smiled. Poor, silly, clueless me.

Looking at her, I think I saw how most women would see me.

I am 41 years old and don't have much of a future. I'm good for a few laughs, but not much else. Here I am, on the youngish side of middle-aged with few resources and many, many responsibilities. I am the survivor of two failed marriages and the father to a couple of kids. I also work too much and dress like I'm a second year Senior at a mediocre liberal arts college.

And to be honest, I kind of like that last part. If nothing else, I am very comfortable in my own skin. I know who I am. I like who I am. Better than most people, I live by terms I agree with --except this one: I'm kind of a joke.

As I put away my wallet, I could see the outline of my future. There would be many lunches like this one and a couple of dinners. There might be a few adventures here and there, but very few actual dates. Nothing like love. There would be many friends. I do make friends often and easily. I would be good company, but company no one would mind to see go home before it got too late.

It seems like a lot to read from a short exchange about a silly wallet and the look in one woman's eyes, and I can't defend it except to say, that's what it seems to me. I felt like I'd read the pulse of my personal universe, which was strong and steady, but lonesome.

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