I turn twenty-four in two days, which means – and excuse me for stating the obvious – that I will have been upon this spinning globe for nearly a quarter of a century. Have I accomplished everything I hoped to at this point? What do I really have to show for twenty-four years? Have I anything to be proud of?
I would like to think that the answers to those questions are not black and white. I have a full-time teaching job, but I am still living with my parents in my childhood bedroom. I am having a novel published, but I am single and lonely and at times, that makes me miserable.
If nothing else, I believe that the past twenty-four years have taught me many, many lessons, but the most significant lesson of the past has been this: to take the good with the bad, and then deal with it. I need to be thankful for what I have and take my blessings into consideration. Everything that I want will not suddenly appear before me when I want it to. I have to learn how to be patient. I find it ironic that I am so petrified of death and of wasting my time as I simultaneously wish it away and focus so much on some ambiguous future while ignoring the present. I cannot have it both ways; I cannot be young and careless and reckless, and be wise, mature and responsible. What I should wish for when I stoop to extinguish the candles on an ice cream cake is to find a healthy balance.
But then that wouldn’t be me. What I’m going to wish for is a whirlwind romance and literary success. I will keep dreaming big, planning an impossible future, but will vow not to forsake the present.
Wish me luck.
PROMPT: “The only thing I’ve got left is my pride.”
PIECE: I was sitting at the bar on a wooden stool that was mostly uncomfortable and tottered from side to side on legs that were clearly uneven. I had been speaking with a boy – twenty-five but not yet a man – that I had been fawning over and lusting after for years, literally years. We had made a trip to a chic, bustling New England city to visit a mutual friend. She was currently in the restroom, probably puking and then cleaning herself up. We had been in the bar for hours, since before the sunset, and now it was long after – most likely just an hour or so before last call. We were all pretty intoxicated and it would only take the suggestion of one to call it a night for us to head home. A natural silence had descended upon my current conversation, and I had decided to pass the time by picking at the label on my bottle of Coors Light. The conversation was idle and slurred and not worth continuing; both he and I knew that. Therefore, I was shocked when I felt his breath hot against my ear and neck as he whispered, “Let’s go somewhere real quick, okay? It’ll be just you and me. There’s something … I want to tell you.” He paused between words because he was lying. There was nothing to tell me. He wanted to do things and have things done. My body tensed and I didn’t dare breathe with him so close, speaking the way he was in the husky tone with the implications. He thought my silence meant I needed more convincing, so he kept talking. “I know how you feel about me. Everyone does, and I’ve never taken advantage of it, have I? I mean, I’m a good guy and we’re good friends. It makes sense, doesn’t it?”
I turned to look at him. I saw the glassy eyes that were trying to focus on me but were failing. I felt his hand upon the small of my back, moving in small circles in what was an intimate gesture. I should have thrown myself at him; after all, I’d been waiting for years to be one of his chosen ones. But I didn’t because it was cheap. He was drunk. I was drunk. There was no meaning, no significance, nothing to build on there. I wanted to cry and I wanted to be alone. Sliding off the stool, I looked him in the eye as best I could and said, “All I’ve got left is my pride.”