In Brick Lane there is a plain coffee shop staffed by well-travelled and attractive young adults in harem pants and t-shirts regardless of weather, I was served on one occasion by a handsome woman with close-cropped pixie hair and striking, youthful eyebrows.
I ventured to compliment her shirt and to ask where she came by it — the answer came there: Brazil, she had bought it for 10 real, 12 years ago, when she had travelled around South America between school and university.
If pressed, I would describe this woman of at least thirty as beautiful. She produced a loyalty card that said “FUCK” in stage-whisper lettering at the top, and stabbed with a sharp knife the box next to “this”, underneath it. After much contemplation, she handed it to me. I took my Japanese soup, Parisien sandwich on hard white bread, and smooth Rwandan coffee to the front decking to sit in the sun and contemplate my mortality.
When will I first be described as “middle-aged”? I’ve thought about it before: I don’t include jokes, sarcasm, insults. These, in any case, are the currency of the young. I mean, when will the day come that someone casually, uncontroversially, calls me middle-aged? An entirely practical description, useful logistically, for easy identification.
Next month, I will be 25. You might then immediately dismiss my worry, but I may be in the middle third of my count of heartbeats, today. And what do I do that can only be done by the young? Cocaine worries me when it smells too much like a building site, I have mobile phone insurance, I trust some people over thirty. I roll up my trousers in puddles and take into account the next morning when I drink.
It is coming to us all, to many of us it has come and to some more it has gone. Clapped-out, blacked-out conversations with your friends, now with heads surrounded by a desperate lapsed halo of disappearing hair, and children. The jokes you shared aren’t funny any more. Fading strength and the sure knowledge that you will be less tomorrow than you were yesterday. Not only does that Pink Floyd song make sense to you now, but a Pink Floyd song is making sense to you now.
The sun was behind the clouds and the wind was sharper than before. I would have gone back inside, but the music in the coffee shop was too loud and it was about time to get back to work.