The sound of my own voice reverberates in my head as I catch my balance, startled as I am by the desperation of the primal bark that just involuntarily escaped through my lips from somewhere deep inside. I pause for a moment to collect myself, then lean slowly down to rub the spot on my shin where tomorrow I’ll sport a nasty bruise. I press gently but firmly with my thumbs and wince as the pain shoots through my leg, and I can tell right away it’s going to be a bad one. It feels awful, but then it feels good to feel anything at all.
I’m playing soccer on a crisp January afternoon, while a sinking sun reflects off the glass skyscrapers looming just across the river as if it’s checking itself in the mirror before calling it a day. I’ve just been relieved of the ball while trying to make a move I’ve made a thousand times before, one that used to work every time but has seen a dwindling success rate in recent months. I shake my head and start slowly back in the opposite direction.
It’s not that I’m slower, I think. It’s that I’m less quick. Somehow, at this moment, at least in my mind, there is a difference.
There is also a metaphor.
I am a grown man, playing against kids in a kids’ game. The only other player my age, who’s lagging behind the action along with me, glances over and catches the grimace on my face. He nods, knowingly. “It’s tough,” he says, and I muster a small laugh of acknowledgment.
“At our age, you get going in one direction and it’s hard to change.”
He’s right, of course. He’s talking about soccer, but I’m thinking about life.
Either way, though. He’s right.
I’m leaning on a bar sipping a Jack ‘n’ Coke, taking long, deliberate drags from a Marlboro Light and staring intently at the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.
She’s a new hire at the office, and somehow, inexplicably, she’s agreed to meet me for a drink — in the middle of the night, no less — at a dive halfway between our apartments that any sane person would be afraid to enter.
“It only gets faster,” I tell her. I’m talking about time, of course, because she has mentioned that the previous year seemed to fly by for her.
She’s seven years my junior, and I can tell by the look on her face when I talk — or shout, rather, over the blaring redneck music and bleeping electronic dart boards — that she’s only ever dated boys, not men.
“It seems like it’s building up momentum, but really it’s all about perception,” I say, and it becomes immediately clear that she’s intrigued — if not by me, at least by the idea of being on a date with someone who discusses things like perception and the concept of time.
“Think about it,” I continue. “When you’re three years old, one year is a third of your entire life experience. In relative terms, it seems huge.”
“But when you’re 30 … a year is nothing,” I go on. “It’s merely one-thirtieth of everything you know. Barely over three percent of your lifetime.”
She smiles and looks deeply into my eyes and I know with as much certainty as I’ve ever known anything that the hook has been set.
Eight years, three apartments, one house, three cats, two jobs, a dozen trips, a million laughs, a hundred thousand tears and a blink of an eye later, I hand her a check for $20,000 and she drives away.