You don’t expect to be old. But then you start to spy glimpses of someone who is only vaguely familiar.

You’ve changed. You’re thicker now. Not overweight, just sturdier. It’s ironic. Then there’s the hair. What you do have is turning silver. When you smile in photographs you see deep lines on your face. Trenches, really.

Mental note: Don’t smile in photographs.

These changes are not fair. You’re physically stronger and more intellectually capable than ever. Yet you have less life left in you than you had yesterday. And far less than the beautiful creatures who pass you in the aisles of the market. Or on the beach. Especially on the beach. Invincible souls oblivious to what comes next.

As well they should be.

There’s peace in naiveté. Bliss in ignorance. But when we’re young we fill the void with other worries. Work. Money. Relationships. Cliche’d life drama that we eventually learn does little more than establish the trenches that we’ll one day wonder how they got there. We used sunscreen, after all.

Straight up in the mirror you’re fine. The changes have been so gradual that you know the person in there. Sure you’re older, but it’s not terrible.

Besides, getting older is the prize for everything that’s come before.

No, it’s the photographs that make you wonder just who you are now. Because this is how others see you. People who don’t know that you were once a star athlete with a full head of black hair. Someone who could dance the night away with the prettiest girl in the club, then go home and not sleep at all. A sun God.

A God God.

And so you reject the image you see. Because you’re only as old as you feel, they say. Which is complete bullshit. You’re as old as you look to others. Pretty women no longer give you a second look. Now you’re their father. Or worse.

Your teenage daughter, now that’s change. A shadow of the little girl who you used to walk the beach with holding hands on summer vacation. Today she’s a woman in a skimpy black bikini. The kind of woman men look at because their minds have been poisoned with images of teenage girls selling them things to make them feel younger.

How will you protect her from the wolves that rage behind the glass as she passes by on her morning run? Youth pulsing through her veins driving her forward under the rising sun.

You need that gun. You’re not forty anymore.

The beach house you’re renting is worn from twenty years enduring the salty mist that eats it every day. Rusting hinges. Weathered wood. And yet the sea is the same as it’s always been. A long straight line that kisses the sky. Just like when you were a boy.

The ocean doesn’t care that you have been away for a while.


Jim Mitchem

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Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.