Gut Rumbles

March 31, 2008

A picture I will remember for a while

Originally published August 1, 2003

We've got the whole beach to ourselves. The water is very still and waves barely lap the shore. I can see the boys laughing and splashing out there as they collect sand dollars. They run up about every three minutes to where I'm sitting to display their latest finds. Then they are off to the water again. They have ants in their pants.

I remember having ants in my pants when I was their age. Yes, I had legs that ran everywhere I went, up and down the beach, through the water to the shore and back out again. I never got tired. I could play in the water like that until an adult made me quit, and even then I would bitch about it as soon as I was called to go back to the room. That's what the boys did to me. They didn't know how tired I became from watching their endless energy.

Now, I stay tired anymore. I WANT ants in my pants, but I don't believe that I could handle it if I got a case of them. I'm coming to grips with something I never wanted to admit. I am old.

I woke up at 0215 Wednesday night after a terrible nightmare. I was covered in a cold sweat and I had goosebumps all over me. Bejus! That dream had snakes and heights and the ex-wife and everything that scares me half to death all rolled up in there. It was hideous.

I went to the bathroom to take a piss.

When I turned on the light, it took me a few seconds to realize who that old bastard in the mirror was. It was me. Once I accepted that fact, I looked closely at the person I have become over the past couple of years. That accounting was almost as hideous as my nightmare.

People once always supposed that I was younger than my actual age. They tend to err on the other side today, and I can't blame them. I have the eyes of an old man, and when I look right into them, I still see a young me in there, but that guy is buried in the wrinkles and lines etched all around my face. Hell, if that guy ever got ants in his pants, he couldn't make it out of that spiderweb. He's fucking buried, covered up, trapped.

I splashed water on my face and wiped myself with a towel. That got rid of the sweat and the goosebumps, and I thought that maybe I would get better after that. But when I looked in the mirror again, there was that same wild-haired old fart staring back at me. I had better get used to it. That old fart is who I am today.

I checked on the boys and they were sound asleep. So were the ants in their pants. I opened the patio door and smoked a cigarette in the dark. I was obligated to take the boys to the water park in the morning, then to the sand bar that evening. I promised them that I would, and I deliver on my promises. Lord knows, I didn't feel like it right then.

I finished the cigarette, flipped the butt into the bushes and went back to the bathroom. I poured two fingers of straight vodka into a glass, drank it down and went back to bed.

I didn't dream after that, but I was still old when I woke up in the morning.

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