Gas Card

Letter to Myself at 40:

I am twenty today.  Another autumn birthday. I’ve always turned a new year when plastic witches are hanging in windows, with fiberglass webs and spiders made of wire.  I was born to goblin days.

I spent the late morning unfolding myself from the stupor of a night of drinking beer and smoking pot, succumbing to sleep with a belly full of nachos.  Two nights ago, I dropped acid; not the first time, but each time it’s just a little different.  Me and a friend wandered the bare streets of the old town, well after three, breaking the crisp leaves under foot, startled by our voices, by the lights in the alleys.  Part of me worried about cops; part of me took the world apart and put it back together, gently, one grain of sand and human ego at a time.  We were bleary fools and wise ancients.  We slept heavy in the daylight hours, drank the next night through.

I used the gas card my Dad gave me to buy snacks for everyone that night at the gas station; they paid me back with a sofa bed and beers.  I will be old enough to buy my own drinks next October.

Will you be a sad old thing when you’re forty, me? Will you think about about how your Dad stuck with the bill on the gas card? Will you remember his tone of disappointment when he sees how much you’ve abused the privilege? Will you regret every advantage you took without grace, without thankfulness and reverence?  Will you miss your father? Will he be gone when you’re forty?  Will he have slipped away, you summoned by a late night call from your mother? Will you have Thanksgiving in the room next to where they removed him from the house, a white cloth dropped over his grey face?

Will you punish yourself or the whiskey or both?  Probably both.

I like the phrase ‘punishing the whiskey’.  It’s almost the words of something I heard from an old movie I love. Because at twenty, I love old 30s movies, putting on mascara, doing drugs, and worrying about boys who don’t love me.  Maybe when I’m forty I won’t worry about sparse eye lashes or dicks or dicks with dicks. Will I shave every day like Dad? Will I be a man he would like?

What will I worry about?

Will I be alone?  Or will I be gloriously confident, happy, thoughtless? Bouncing from one success to another like a bubble that smells of champagne and just enough sleep?  Is life ever going to be so simple?

Tonight, I came home early, disappointed that I didn’t run into Steve at the tea room.  What would we have talked about? The poetry he knows that is always a little too rare for anyone else at the table? I’m not going to realize what a silly snob he is for another dozen years, right? His nose is straight, his eyes such a dark green, they are like lakes of ice, trodden by literary greats from old worlds.  He thinks about things before he says them, batting his great thoughts on a vast field I shouldn’t play on.  I am all romance and laziness. I’m barely curious, too intent on making my own gossamer worlds. Yet how I wonder about this young man, want to be let into his soul.  Will it be nothingness to me when I am twenty years older?

Mom and Dad are asleep already when I get home. It’s a relief, really and truly. I think I’ve broken them of worrying about my late night escapades. Still, I steal around the kitchen like a thief, opening drawers for snacks, ninja quiet. If they catch me making a sandwich at one in the morning, we might have to make small talk. And they don’t get me anymore, if they ever did. It’s best if I put together my sandwich in silence, eat it alone in my basement room.  I can fill the silence with cable TV; Lauren Hutton talking to people through mirrors.

Dad in his underwear, big belly, flop of hair falling the wrong way, showing his baldness. With his fat rolls and his moles, he is homely and foolish to a young shit like me.  What can he say to me that I want to hear? If he feigned to care about what I care about, would it knit us any closer?  If he talked about vampires, about Stone Temple Pilots, about loving someone who doesn’t see me…would we see each other finally?

Older me, what do you think? Do you think Dad knows what it’s like to love someone who doesn’t see him?  Or does anyone see anyone? See them enough?  Are you happy, older me? Do you think I’m a fool or do you think you are?

Older me, are you kind? Do you forgive me?

I’m only doing the best I can.

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