At age twenty-eight I find myself constantly thinking of myself at age twenty-one, or eighteen, or sixteen. It’s as though I had no clue I’d been aging until these past few months. I look in the mirror and I trace what I think are visible wrinkles. I think back at times I used to consider my older siblings “old” and they were my age today. I revered them, but I still thought of them as old.
I have this obsession with suspending reality. I think we all do, whether we’re aware of it or not. We simply (consciously or unconsciously) select our vices, passions, and habits. We choose to believe they are putting time on hold; none of us believing in our mortality.
I remember as a kid laying in a field of buttercup flowers with my twin. We used to hold them up to our chins, and if the striking yellow of the petals faintly glowed, it meant we liked butter. We would laugh like it was this ridiculous yet completely factual notion.
Fifteen was Degrassi marathons with the same companion (twin time) on summer nights. There weren’t smart phones, only Nokia’s with the game Snake. And we weren’t looking at them, perhaps they were upstairs in abandoned, messy bedrooms. Just the television, suspending reality for hours with each other, laughing, gasping, laughing again. I could think, “Oh man, you were completely wasting your time, girl.” But I don’t feel that way at all. I’d go back to it in a second.
Seventeen with a boy named Cole, at a house in Hernando Beach, drawing side by side taking art lessons with a plan to avoid college. I thought I considered him a crush, but I’m not sure now. He had me far and away beat in talent; but it helped me improve dramatically. Every moment in that surreal house with our strange teacher felt like stretched reality. The tea, the minimalist decorating, the openness of it, but the obvious decay that comes with ignoring maintenance. Even the drive home in Cole’s beat up car, not sure if we really related with one another at all.
I know now that we didn’t.
Suspending reality at age twenty-three was slightly different and regularly involved drinking to absent memories. One completely random instance comes to mind, with no particular meaning. Sitting in my apartment on the sofa with a 6’5″ tall (to my 5’3″) awkward dude. I pretended to casually sip a vodka tonic while he didn’t drink, and we watched Ice Princess on the Disney Channel. I remember blinking slowly at the television, wishing I was being kissed but knowing this wasn’t that kind of moment, and not feeling quite real.
Less than a year later, I think of sitting in the coarse Florida grass in a cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood. I was back home with my parents for a year and sketching my idea of interesting plant life (Home Depot purchase?) for a drawing class. The raw blades poked my skin, my mind emptied, my present moment defined clearly by action. Time passed flatly, no urgency, no places to be; only existing.
I suspended reality in Rome at age twenty-eight. I finally got the courage to go into a small, dimly lit bar across from the flat my mom and I were staying in on Via Cappellari. The (suspected) owner, with salt and pepper hair and a young face, was always there whenever I walked by. I told my mom, “I need to go in there. I have to do it alone, though.” I’m not sure why this was important.
Neon pink and green hand written text enticed me over big glass doors: “Birre! IPA! Craft!”
When I finally walked in I remember smiling at the owner as if I was a long time regular he was expecting. Once I ordered in the little Italian I knew, I faced the wall. A long rectangular mirror covered the length of it, and above it was a shelf with neatly organized rows of color popping beers. I began to write.
I actually recorded something while traveling. A moment. All while delightfully suspending reality and feeling completely aware of it; brimming with happiness (and probably the IPAs).
Maybe the idea, or hope, is to be aware of it.