01 July 2013

Lotus Onion

A Facebook friend posted recently, “Is twenty-eight too early to miss twenty-three?” The status update threw me into a panic. We are the same age, but unlike my friend, I don’t miss being twenty-three—because, and this is the cause of the panic, because honestly I can’t remember what the heck I was up to five years ago. My memory is usually not terrible; it’s supposed to be very good.

Could that amount of time have passed already? Or: could it only have been five years ago? Because it feels like a lifetime. It feels like the unwritten gap between one installment of the Patrick Melrose cycle and the next. I probably won’t recognize me. Back then, to be sure, I did not go or move about with the sense of having left people behind, of thinking origins to be so permanent, which is all the sense, it seems, that I have these days, wherever I do go. Others might call it responsibility; it involves having to talk to all sorts of people, yet in the end having no one listen to you. I guess at twenty-three it didn’t matter that no one listened, but it matters now.

Anyway, no, I’m not talking about responsibility. It’s more like what Alan Hollinghurst described as the darker sense of stepping already along the outward edge of youth, of looking back at the truly young with unwelcome eagerness and regret. You look back and wonder how you had all that energy to take notes, of everything, whereas now you just get on with it, time is running on, you’re fading and peeling. How I’d gotten to the edge, I don’t know; the five years that just passed—unlike the five years that preceded them—passed, it seems, while I was unconscious, instead of being simply on hallucinogens or salts and antipsychotics, which enabled alternative (and usually untroubled) ways of being conscious. Let me tell you what I do miss: being eighteen. But there you go: once a lotus blossom, now a lotus onion. Peel away.

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