In the Twilight of Youth
By Nathan Key
Today, I felt old like New Jersey on a rainy day in December. The feeling crushed down into my shoulders on the way home from work, accentuated by the growing ache that crawled through my fingers and hands as I flexed against the steering column. Was it the beginning of arthritis or just the change in the weather? I wasn’t sure. And frankly, I didn’t really care. What I cared about was the greasy cowlick on the top of my head. My hand inched its way toward the back of my skull I fumbled around for a bit, scratching out bits of white dandruff while I debated whether or not my forehead was getting larger.
I pulled the car into a sodden parking lot and headed into the corner store to relieve them of a case of John Smith’s Extra Smooth. The only one left was on the top shelf and my lower back groaned as I reached for it. Then, it cursed me out as I pulled the beer down and cradled it in my arms like a child. I stumbled over to the checkout lane with the grim realization that even this purchase showed my age. It was an old man beer that matched my Buick and my mortgage and my middle management job. I’d be picking out a smoking jacket in no time, maybe even a coffin.
“I’ll need to see some I.D.,” said the boy behind the counter.
I stopped short, unsure if I had heard him correctly.
“You’re carding me?” I asked. Surely, it was a mistake.
“Well, sure.” He replied, pointing to the small print beneath a bright red sticker on his cash machine. “I have to ask for ID from anyone who looks like they’re under 30. Company policy.”
I love him.
I love this kid behind the counter. His tender voice and gracious smile filled my bones with hope. Suddenly spring flooded the store. Bathed in the light of a millions suns, I realized that I wasn’t old after all. This boy had proved it. I took out my wallet, found my license, and handed it to over to him for inspection.
Behind me, an old man let out a grunt of understanding and I turned to look at him, beaming. He was an ancient thing, hunchbacked and completely worn out. He was ready to be put out of his misery as far as I was concerned. The very sight of him made my heart glad. I was being carded and this old chap was ready for the grave. I was young. There was so much to do and so many places left to go. Life blossomed with opportunity.
I paid the bill, picked up my beer, and began walking back to the car.
“I’ll need to see some I.D.,” declared the boy to the old man.
Never mind what I said earlier. I hate that kid.