23 to Life

It’s five before 12 noon on a Friday, and I’ve taken a bus down to Fashion Island. That’s a mall. I’m looking around for an employee at Edwards, and I find her. She comes out, and I buy my ticket for what I guess is the first show of the day. 12:05 pm. The Shaggy Dog. I didn’t realize the theater wasn’t open up until that point. There’s only one other person in line behind me. Upon hearing me buy my ticket, she glances around, and says, “Well, I guess it’s going to be a lonely theater.” And it is. It’s just me and her, watching The Shaggy Dog, at 12:05 pm on a Friday afternoon, about three weeks after it came out.

Two hours later. I’ve now walked to the opposite side of Fashion Island, across the street to where the other Edwards is. The Benchwarmers. 2:15 pm. I see a few kids walking around, and realize immediately I should have reversed the movie order, and attended the 11:45 am. But whatever. I buy my ticket, and I go in. There’s a solid number of kids there – they’re well-behaved for the most part, except for the spaz in front of me who keeps rocking back and forth in his chair. No big deal. When I leave, after I’ve used the bathroom, I slip past about a group of 20 young teenagers, presumably waiting for their parents to pick them up.

I don’t belong.

For about a month, I’ve been 23 years old. As Jessica Simpson once said, that’s “almost 25, which is almost mid-twenties.” That’s 1/4 of my life, maybe 1/3. More, if something happens to me. They don’t check my ID at casinos anymore, and they barely glance at it when I get alcohol. I haven’t been a teenager for four years, and I’m getting closer to my high school reunion than I am to my high school career. I’ve got a college degree at home, my driver’s license is up for renewal in a year, and at some point in the near future (if not already), going into the comic book store is going to get fucking depressing. The latest batch of pop princesses is no longer my age – in fact, far from it; and there are now more seasons of The Simpsons that I haven’t seen than ones I have. Tim Salmon’s hanging on for a last hurrah, and Eric Karros is in the studio; both just rookies when I really started following baseball. Time’s passing me by.

I don’t really know what the fuck I’m doing. I’m going to grad school, which is nice. If I actually had to go out and find a job right now, that college degree would be pretty meaningless, and I’d be pushing papers or doing some other bullshit, menial task. Making sandwiches, maybe. That’d be fine with me… I’ve always felt like a blue collar kind of guy. Pull your weight five days a week, shoot the breeze, then you go home, have a beer and watch the game. You get by. For fuck’s sakes, I’m still going out to see Rob Schneider movies. Only we’re not living in that kind of society, that kind of a world. Besides, it’d be selfish on my part. Do something with yourself, right? Take advantage of what you’ve got. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing. But my sense of purpose is relegated to the short-term. Write a paper, do some reading, etc. The big picture? I got nothing.

I think I have about five friends in the world. Maybe seven, but that’d be stretching it. It’s simple, really. They’re people who I like and respect, who I enjoy spending time with and do so. And vice versa. Maybe it’s the second part that’s more important. The number worries me, of course, but it’s actually been that way for a few years. It just wasn’t until recently that I realized this. I don’t owe anybody anything. I was putting in too much effort and not getting nearly half in return. It was time to be more selfish, at least in this regard, to ignore my foolish loyalty. I guess I was stuck in a high school mentality, that’s all. Cliques and group identity, right? Fuck that. What good is history if it doesn’t mean anything to anyone else? What good is history if there’s nothing substantial there? It’s just wasted time.

So I’ve grown up. And yet I haven’t. There are the kids movies, of course. Then, there’s this. For the first time since high school, I have a genuine crush on a girl. I’ll spare the details. But I told myself that it’d be different this time around, that I’d actually do something about it. Wasn’t going to just go home and daydream for six years or however long it’s been since the last time around. And then I saw her the other day on campus, first time this quarter. She couldn’t see me… shading her eyes from the sun, walking tentatively in my direction. And it was like I started fucking panicking. Clammed up. I avoided eye contact and slipped away, never even saying hi. She knows who I am. But I couldn’t do anything. And so I’m back here, lamenting this shit again, just waiting and hoping for another opportunity. I don’t deserve it. Fucking worthless. What am I, 12?

I’m 23. I don’t get like this all the time, but it happens more often than it used to. Maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know, but it sure seems that way. I know how lucky I am to have what I have, though – so don’t give me that bullshit. I don’t like wallowing in self-pity myself, of feeling the burden of that knowledge of what reality is right now. I try not to do it often; like everyone else, I’ve got my good days and I’ve got my bad. But it’s not like I can just go out there and do something about it. There’s a fucking limit to that. It’s the big picture. The underlying purpose. I need something. I’ve made every girl I’ve ever liked the answer to all my problems, and I don’t even have to fucking know them. The thing is, I don’t care about much in the world. There’s family, the few friends I have, and a couple of sports teams. I don’t think I’m on that list.


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