Youth ends all at once, not gradually. It is a fact I wish I could at least have been informed of with conviction by someone, when I had youth left, even if I would have learned nothing from the warning and it would not have changed the way I lived one bit. I could only have understood its truth, as I surmise most people do, only after my own youth was gone.
It is as if one is standing in front of a door which one has left ajar and which leads into a room containing items that one has assumed the responsibility of inventorying for some unknown purpose. There is a clipboard and you hold it, in perhaps a self-important manner, checking off the items as you find them. Then, unexpectedly, your work is interrupted by some importunate pleading behind you, and you turn your head to it, to deflect its demands until you finish with this task of which you were just in the middle, until momentarily budged by this premature entreaty on your attention.
In responding, however, your feet have moved and so your body stands in a twisted awkward position which requires some torque to stay steady until your posture and previous business are resumed. You stand your ground against this invasion of your composure, you temporize to it: “Just let me finish this”, etc., not knowing who or what it is you’re talking to.
Then, thinking (incorrectly) that you may pick up where you left off (it occurs to you now that you had enjoyed the task even though it might have seemed less than ideal work), you turn back and see that the door has shut. You’re nonplussed. How did that happen? Was there a breeze? Did I leave the window open inside? Of course I did. There was so much air and it was blasting so hard on the glass that I could not avoid letting it in. And it was warm, gorgeous air. I wanted it all over the room.
Now it comes to mind that you cannot remember when you were last inside the room feeling this air susurrate and wash over you as if you yourself were exalted and were being anointed. Or when you picked up this annoying clipboard. Where did it come from anyway? And why do I have so little real memory of what it was like inside? I was just looking right into it. When was I last in there? Why was I not in there just now?
And you recall with faint dread that while you were occupied in fending off the trivial intrusion behind you, you had heard a single clicking sound which had not then registered too explicitly in your conscious mind. It was the door, of course, not slamming itself shut, just coming drolly to a standstill. Flustered, more because your previous rhythm had been dislodged than because of the new obstruction, you take hold of the knob and turn, but it does not move. What? You check your pocket for the keys. They’re not there, a thing you realize only after trying every other key on the key chain you had, whereupon you see that there is not even a keyhole on the door and you remember that you never had a key because you didn’t think you needed one.
Panic begins to shimmer inside your ribcage. You shout: “Does anyone have the key?” The door suddenly looms and you glance nervously at the clipboard, which you still hold dutifully, where it was just a moment ago when you were prepared to recommence your blind labor. But wait! You notice now the list of items, the things that you had just been checking off as you matched them to the contents of the room even though you have no memory of its contents and the only vision you have of the space behind the door is that of total emptiness. But the items: they are your years, you see, as the door swells larger and the space outside of what is behind it where you stand grows even darker than it was before, a detail you had not previously observed.
You laugh bitterly, putting the clipboard down, and you sit on the floor, against the door, in the dark. You sit like that for a long time, seeing nothing. Then, more time brings a nether penumbra of light from behind the door, softly flushing into the night around you. You see now that the quantity of light has not actually changed, you are only acclimating. Getting up and walking away from the door, you proceed into the glow, though you can’t see far, surer of foot.