There hasn’t been much in the way of indication to suggest that I’m getting older. Of course, the days go by quickly, and each day seems to morph into the other. I suppose in that sense it is inevitable that I am simply aging with the passing days. But just the other day someone looked at me, laughed (laughed!) and told me that I was getting old. And fat. Sure, they just threw that one in there for fun. Because, while I was feeling sorry for myself about getting old, I might as well think about my expanding stomach too. It isn’t my fault that I have put on weight; food just seems to find me. I have always been a ‘good eater’ or so everyone tells me. I’m not as fussy as some of my friends, who will only eat brand names and refuse to touch anything that might upset their delicate little stomachs. No, not me. I’ll eat anything you put in front of me. And exercise had been fun when I was young, but now when I go to the beach or to the park I just want to lie down in the shade. One of my friends caught me doing this one day and thought it was hilarious, especially since I was so lost in dreamland that a puddle of drool had started to form next to me. So what man? What’s the big deal? It was comfortable in the shade
I just don’t understand why people keep telling me that I’m getting old. As far as I know I’m still pretty young, and while I can’t run as fast as I used to, or think as quick as I perhaps once could, it doesn’t mean to say that I’m old. Older, yes. But old?
This made me think about the definition of old age. Is it the actual age? Because I know some old people that act very young and some young people that act very old. So, if it isn’t their age then what is it? Their hair? I once knew someone with grey hair from the time he was born. So don’t tell me that hair has anything to do with it. Personally, I quite like grey. It’s far better than the typical brown and black you always see running around. Okay, so my once black sheen is now dotted with bits of grey. I don’t deny this. But it doesn’t define me as being old.
So today I’m walking around the neighbourhood daring anyone to tell me otherwise. I’m on a mission to prove my youth. I’ve put an extra spring in my step—to convey that whole ‘spring chicken’ idea—and I’m refusing to admit that it’s making me tired. I wonder briefly if it’s also making me look like an idiot but I hop away regardless. So what do young people do that make them seem young? I ask a passerby who regards me strangely, “Well,” he said after some pause, “They live with reckless abandon.”
Reckless abandon, huh? I can do that. But how? I look around and see a skate park, filled with teenagers showing off and doing tricks. I’d never been one for social activities such as these. I have always been more of a walker. A stroller. A watcher of the world. But now, I stroll up with as much confidence as I can muster and wonder how I can best act with recklessness. Watching the kids is, admittedly, making me tired. They’re all shouts and screams and puffs of the chest. It’s all very unnecessary. But I’m here to prove a point.
In the distance I see a skateboard which doesn’t seem to belong to anyone. It’s just sitting there, waiting to be used. And just like that, I seize my opportunity. I run with full force and jump straight onto it before I can change my mind. Unfortunately, in my haste, I didn’t have the foresight to realise that as soon as I pushed on the board that I would immediately be plunged into a downward slope, which led straight into the skateboarding arena. I didn’t know how to stop it so I just closed my eyes and held on tight. The moment I opened my eyes I saw that I was now in the air, the board having flung away from me as I plummeted straight back down onto the concrete floor. Around me lay graffiti and a word that I think spelt out ‘Thug’. Thug? I do not belong here. I sat up and stretched my neck. The fall hadn’t been too big and thankfully only my neck had gotten most of the abuse. Then, as the rest of the world became clearer, I saw that all the kids were around me. When they could see that I was fine they all broke out into a round of applause. And I saw the one kid turn his camera back towards himself and say, “and there you have it folks, this old chap proves that anyone can try their hand at skateboarding.”
This old chap! After all that I had been through, I was still being called old. I glared at him and walked away, my gait a lot slower and limper than before. I knew that, if anything, I had just made myself look double my age.
Maybe I should just admit facts. But numbers don’t lie, and I know that I’m not old. Maybe I just look old, or act old, but I’m not actually old. Why doesn’t anyone understand that?
It’s my birthday tomorrow. So I have one more day to prove myself to the rest of the world. But what else could I do? I know! I’ll go to a party. One of the guys down the road is always having a party, although I’ve never gone before because late nights on the couch sound so much better to me.
I walk over to his place. He’s outside, like he always is, a gate surrounding his property. But he’s alone, which is unusual for him. A ball lies next to him, and he’s staring at it as if willing it to move.
“Yo!” I shout out and he looks up at me in surprise.
“Hey man, what you doing here?”
“Ah you know, just wondering if you’re having a party.”
“No party today my friend. Everyone has gone on holiday. I’m here on my own this time. And quite frankly man, I’m just not in the mood.”
“You’re not in the mood? But you’re always in the mood.”
“Well maybe I’m just getting too old for this, you know.”
Ah no! Not him too. I put my head down and walk away, finally defeated. Fine. I’m old. Whatever. I’m too exhausted to think about it any longer. So I head home, eat whatever comes my way and head straight to bed.
The next morning I wake up with a heavy feeling in my heart. It’s another birthday. Another year has gone by and I simply cannot avoid it any longer. I hear her come in, her voice all high and shrill as she attempts her version of a happy birthday song. She’s changed the words.
"Happy birthday to my old boy. Happy birthday to my old boy. Happy birthday to my very old boy. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday fatso."
Seriously? That’s how we’re going to start this day? Always old and fat. Old and fat. Although I can’t help but be intrigued by the cake which smells of cooked mince and seems to be covered in mashed potato. It was unique, I give her that. I lean forward and look at it. She’s placed ten candles all around and is waiting for me to blow them out. I count the candles. Yes, ten. They’re all there. So ten is old I’m guessing.
“Okay my boy, time to blow out your candles. I know you’re actually seventy now but I could only fit ten candles. Plus, you’re also ten in your world so it still counts.”
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Wait just a minute. I find myself backing away. I’m SEVENTY? AND I’m TEN? What’s going on? I look at the candles as they flicker in front of my eyes and I figure that I have finally lost it. I knew that I was ten. I’d been counting down the days until I was finally in the two digits. But then everyone started calling me old and I started questioning myself. Perhaps ten was considered old and I had been wrong all along. But now, apparently I might also be seventy. SEVENTY? That is old. But where did all my years go? Is that really why I’m going grey?
“Oh come on my boy,” she says again, “are you scared of the candles?” She giggles, a sound normally so cute and friendly now fierce and demonic. “I guess I always forget you’re not human. Let me take those candles off so you can have your cake. I figured a good eater like you would like this. It’s mince and mash, your favourite. A rather strange meal for a dog, though, I must admit.”
And just like that, my legs gave away as I fell to the ground.
I’m a dog?