Crossing Borders

I don’t like boxes.  I don’t like confines.  Routines are physically painful in some ways.   I can credit or blame my ADD or ADHD or hyperactivity or multitasking mindset or whatever you want to call it for some of this.  Maybe all of this.  It can be a curse or a blessing either way.  

There was a young woman in my bartending class this week.  Pleasant.   Dressed stylishly with skinny black jeans and high heels.  She wants a part-time job while she works towards her real estate license.  She might be 20 years younger than me – it’s hard to tell exactly.  Her conversations are punctuated with checking her iPhone and responding to texts.  
Talking with her briefly, sharing the space of a small classroom for a few days, I find myself crossing borders – part of the reason I placed myself in a bartending class.  Once across the border I feel the glow of a fiercely hot sun, young and pulsing with life and possibility so palpably that the people beneath it absorb and radiate that life and vitality.  She carries herself with an air of confidence that I would still kill to have at twice her age.  A confidence that the world is her oyster.  That she’s going places.  That she’s going to be somebody.  Perhaps she already is somebody.  
None of these are bad things, per se.  They are accessories of youth more often than not.  I don’t fault her for them, I just observe them.  By watching the way they carry through her eyes and conversation,  I can almost imagine the world as it appears to her.  I don’t live in her world, but for the span of a few hours I step over the border between us and observe.  
I’m just a visitor.  I can’t live there forever.  
I crossed out of that border of confidence and energy and into other realms later in the day.  Lands where the sun is not the robust, fiery gold of youth but rather the wan, pale, nearly translucent sun of winter.  The sun that doesn’t warm, but only displays the bleakness of the terrain around you.  
I helped a man up off the floor of his small apartment.  He had lain there an hour, alone, unable to get himself back up again.   Not so very long ago, there was someone there to call for help.    Not now.  Not so long ago, this sort of help wouldn’t have been imagined as necessary.  But things can change quickly in the lands under that distant, cold sun.
He’s not quite twice my age.   Not so long ago his eyes sparkled and danced.  Not so long ago he seemed a very different man on the inside, and certainly a different one on the outside.  Today, perhaps the outer man better reflects the man hiding on the inside all along.  Today his eyes are dull and tired.  No apologies for the mess of his apartment, or the mess of his clothing.  No real awareness of himself or the danger of his situation.  Just the dull tiredness of another day to be endured.  
He looked at me today as I asked him questions.  As I tried to ascertain what help he needed and how I could get it to him.  I could almost hear his eyes, they were so plaintive and loud.    Why am I still here?  Why can’t I have peace?  Why do I have to deal with today?  Why should I deal with tomorrow?  He lay there, just looking at me.  Lids heavy and slow, just like his words.  His voice not so long ago danced and rang with a deep, rich timbre.  Now words dribbled out only with great effort, limping and crawling across the short span of air between us.  
There was no confidence.  No certainty.   If the world is an oyster, it can be a difficult one to shuck, and people are liable to seriously injure themselves.  Stepping across the border between he and I, I found myself in a place where there seemed to be no places left to go, even if there were energy and interest to go there.  The man I helped into a chair and sat with had no illusions about being someone important – whether in the future or in the present.  All that was left was being, rather than striving to be.  Que sera sera the old song hauntingly promises, without ever clarifying whether that’s a good thing or not.  
The world calls us constantly to put off the crossing of borders, to believe that life is meant to be lived young and rich and beautiful forever.  That it’s possible to remain transfixed beneath the glowing pleasant warmth of youth indefinitely.  As though we needn’t ever grow older.  Needn’t ever realize suddenly how little so much is worth that we’ve been told is invaluable.  We’re assured that this pricey education, this pricey home, this pricey car, this pricey lifestyle is all worth it, will always be worth it.  But it isn’t.  
Because we’re just visitors.  We can’t live there forever.  

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