Through the Eyes of Age

youngblood brasket

'Room at Arles' by Vincent Van Gogh

I am an old woman. I lie here beside the sapphire sea, far from my home, and wait to die. Wait for that warm, comfortable blackness to enfold me and carry me away. To know nothing, to feel nothing, to want nothing. . . these are now my only desires. I desire to no longer desire. Anything. Anyone. Any end. Any end will do. And so I embrace the days, wiggling my wrinkled toes in the white sand and staring into the blue, blue sea. I speak to no one. I share nothing.

"An old woman," people think as they pass. Then I am gone from their consciousness. I do not exist for them any more. Is that what it will be like after death, I wonder? Will my life have had as much meaning as the passing thought of strangers on an Italian beach? Will it have zoomed by in a flash, with the speed of a fleeting thought? Will it leave not even a slight disturbance in the ether? The people look at me but their eyes do not linger. It was not always so.

This face was once as lean of line as those of the young Americans who occupy the room next to my own. These eyes once danced with the light of love, as theirs do now. But today people look at me and think, "An old woman," and quickly turn their eyes and their thoughts away so that Fate does not demand their presence in my world. Not even for an instant. They do not want to be old and wrinkled. They do not want to think about being on the way out. Of the final curtain. Of Life's exit door. No. It makes their hearts race to think of it. And they cannot see past the wrinkles and the sagging flesh to discern the young, vital, passionate woman who still resides here. She is an enigma to them. She is not real because they cannot see her. Perhaps she is not real to anyone but herself. Perhaps she never was.

I pass my days observing the young Americans and waiting to die. This man and this woman will eventually leave and others will take their place. But for now I amuse myself by wondering about these two. They are so caught up in being together that they shut the rest of the world away. They stroll down the beach; sometimes they are thoughtful and reflective. She rests her head on his shoulder and he cradles her in his arms. They stop to gaze into one another's eyes. They smile. They kiss. Their hearts roar with the passion in their loins.

Other times they are playful, mischievous. She reaches down and splashes him with the azure water. He splashes her in return. They laugh. She splashes him a second time and runs away. He must chase her, of course. It is a part of the fun. And so off they go, laughing and running, their hearts entwined with their love for one another and their eyes reflecting the fear, the unspoken fear, about how it will end.

Yes, the fear is there. The fear is always there. It is as much a part of love as the passion and the tenderness. The heart always wants to know if the joy will continue. The heart always wants a guarantee. But there are no guarantees to be had.

There is only risk. And uncertainty. And change. There is only time and how we choose to spend it.

The American couple talks freely here on Italian soil, encouraged by the small number of people who know English. Their foreign tongue provides them a cloak of anonymity, and so they talk. They do not know that I understand what they say. They do not realize that I, too, am American. To them I am just an old lady. A silent old lady who watches and observes and waits to die. Who lives vicariously through them, re-running her own love scenes in her head, her heart a tiny bit wistful for what once was. For what can never be again.

Soon she will exit Life's door and her story will be written. She believes it will be a relief. It will mean freedom, at last, from the bonds of this world. Freedom from pain, from heartache, from responsibility. Freedom to move without the creaking of the bones, the screaming of the muscles, the stiffness of the joints. Freedom from doubt, anxiety, desire. Freedom from fear. Freedom from need. Freedom from all the things we hope love encompasses.

And perhaps that is where love is truly to be found. Perhaps not. I only know that I wait to go there, to that place beyond this reality. And while I wait I wet my wrinkled toes in the blue, blue seas and watch love frolic before me.

Youngblood Brasket is a storyteller who shares her home, "Rock & Roll Heaven", with cats Harmony (also known as La Pussoise) and Bandon, a rabbit, a field mouse, and various creatures of the forest on the Texas Gulf Coast. Her background includes freelance work in petrochemicals, the oil patch, trucking, construction, and aerospace, where she still works. Youngblood has also tried her hand as a rigger helper, ironworker, demolition technician, and roadie for a rhythm & blues band.