I'm old. Not so much chronologically, but apparently, to teenagers, I'm old. That sucks. I never wanted to get old. I tried my best to avoid it. And I thought I was winning the war until today.
It all started because I forgot to go play basketball this morning. I try to play every Saturday. I try. But today I was busy. Busy with 1) sleeping until 10 AM, which is nice, and something I won't be able to do for much longer. And for 2) I went to the Salvation Army store, which is a place I could spend hours and hours and hours at, and get 20 different things, and still only spend 30 bucks. It's awesome.
So it was a confluence of events that kept me from my routine. I felt guilty this afternoon, partly because I didn't go play and felt lazy, and partly because I ate half a pound cake in 20 minutes. So, guilt ridden, I got my sneakers and headed out to at least go break a sweat shooting some hoops.
I had no idea what I was in for. Upon my arrival, I was encountered with a choice. There were two groups of guys playing. One was teenagers. The other was 40 year old men wearing goggles. I weighed my options, and decided to not play with the goggle gang, and jumped in with the kids.
"Can I get get in?" I asked.
"Yeah. Can you play?"
Should I lie and sandbag them, or tell the truth?
"All State, 1999," I tell them. (Totally a lie. I'm good, but not that good.)
"Let's go then!"
At this point, I was made aware of how these kids viewed me. There was four of them, and I made 5. To even it out, they yelled to a buddy of theirs on his BMX (Do they still call a freestyle bike a BMX?) to come play.
"Hey, Eric, let's go. Some old guy is jumping in. We need you!"
Sonofabitch. Dude, I'm 26. OK, almost 27 (The twenty seventh everyone. That's next Sunday! I expect presents!). Is that old? I don't think so. But I suppose to them, I am. They asked me when I graduated high school.
"1999," I tell them. Apparently graduating in the last century makes you old. More than one of them let out an audible gasp. Sons of bitches.
So we played three on three for a while. I showed them just how old I really am. I'm not in the best shape of my life, to be sure. In fact, I've spent the last 3 months falling out of shape. But I can still play. I hit my shots, I made some sweet passes, behind the back, through their legs, crisp bounce passes, I ran the gamut. I impressed these young punks who are in the best shape they will ever be in for the rest of their life. If I could be in the shape I was when I was 16, I'd be a happy man. But I'm not.
Surprisingly, they were the ones huffing and puffing afterwards. I was doing my fair share of panting, but they were BEAT! I had proven to them, and most importantly to myself, that I'm not an old geezer. I can still hang with the kids. I threw a good amount of elbows, and so did they. But I wasn't going to be pushed around. My 6'3 frame was a virtual brick wall of indestructibility. On the outside.
On the inside, the wall was losing its support structure. It was crumbling down. But I never let on.
I got home, too tired to even lick my own wounds. Thank God for Floyd. He's a good licker of wounds. And his crotch, but also wounds. After a 30 minute shower that was absolutely WONDERFUL, I sat down to my after-ball cup of tea and my book, some Kurt Vonnegut, because Sisyphus hasn't come in yet, damn library, and I realized something.
The dumb bastards were right: I am old. Not so much chronologically, but physically, I'm elderly. I had ice on my knee, a heating pad for my back, and a cup of Earl Grey (yes, I'm a dandy).
If that doesn't scream "Old Man", then I don't know what would.
Perhaps the lingering scent of Ben-Gay in the air?