Diary, February 9, 2017; Bittersweet Decay

The girls from work are all young and pretty, and in various stages of wreckage. Taylor is delicately featured, pale, a classic red head except for the not quite red hair. She’s done up too much, with the excessive eye liner and dark red lipstick that is a current, unfortunate fashion; it cannot overcome her natural beauty, which bleeds through with all the bloom of youth. I suggest a trace of her Indian ancestry in her high cheekbones, complimenting her, taking advantage in the presumed harmlessness of my age what I wouldn’t have dared as easily as a young man, always perceived as being on the make. The worst part is I am harmless. She had been talking about a Native American great grandmother down the line, maybe I’m indulging the flattery too much there, but it’s okay, she’s genuinely beautiful, tragically, hopelessly beautiful, all for naught.

She’s one of these girls you think don’t know they’re beautiful, you hope she doesn’t, but she probably just isn’t at peace with it; she’s admirably not in control of it–despite the make-up. And all the young girls look better without the war paint; but I won’t tell them. It’s no use. She has no chance either way, she’s too frail, too delicate; none of us do. I can see the brief grace of flowering youth just burning out of her, I can see it evaporating with the alcohol fumes in the haze of smoke and the godawful vape mist, but not dissipating, not yet, like some short-lived nuclear reactor inside is still outpacing the awful, relentless wasting away of time, burning itself out with indifferent, mystical precision.

 I can only think it is good to be young and to go any farther in trying to describe it, why it is good, or how it is good. is not just pointless but wrong somehow. At any rate I cannot bear that it will not last, and despite that something sadder still, I think, that if it did last it would no longer be good–there is nothing for it but to avoid these too melancholy reflections on it. To not look upon beauty without despair gets harder as we age and soften; it just comes through more piercingly as you near your end. Everything else fades away with you.

Youthful ardor obscures somehow, even in intimacy, just what you’re up against. That too may be a necessity. But I can’t help wishing we were in simpler times, and they weren’t awash in options, and the boys too–that they might make honest men and women of each other. That these kids represent a generation; it’s too much to bear. I don’t know how we will reclaim them, but we have to, somehow, for tradition, for the future.

 I have been drinking. I rarely drink, especially now, but I can put it away like my torso is just a hollow cask; I don’t know where it goes. Some of the young guys are crashed out here and there, and I just keep going. I should leave, I think, I don’t belong here, but I don’t want to go. I take my harmonica over by the decks–they’re dj’s here–and I’m playing along. It sounds amazing; I’m finding the right key by accident, somehow, maybe it’s the alcohol. I don’t really know how to play but I can fake it, and I’m lost in the music, and the dj approves, he likes it; it’s pure joy for a while, but I won’t play too long. People are watching, I’m putting on a show, it’s like a fantasy I have of playing an instrument on stage–always a great music lover, never able to play a musical instrument–and it’s good but I don’t want to overdo it, so I don’t go on too long.

And somehow I can just keep drinking. Until I wear out from exhaustion I only get more sharply gregarious, too much really. I hope I’m not boring anyone; my conversation is way over their heads, my best stuff wasted. I’m wasted. Occasionally one of the guys falls apart, trying to sound smart, or cool; they don’t know how to take me. They’re in worse shape than the girls, even: they have to put on a front. It’s so important to be interesting; I try to make small talk and find them uneasy; they can’t talk about themselves. They just fall apart trying to sound interesting. I don’t care; I’m not so interested in them–I don’t know how to take them. They’re incapable of jesting self-deprecation. They’re hopeless; there’s nothing I can do for them. But the girls, they break my heart.

I’m thinking about what it means, about countless kids like this living like this–I’m a hypocrite, for I might be right there alongside them if I was young, and I mourn for my own lost decadence along with their lost innocence. But none of us know what’s good for us, until it’s too late.

And then it’s over.

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