Joseph Coroniti

We hear this all the time.   A creature around twenty says, "I think you're being too hard on the guy, I mean, he's an old man; he's forty-five or something."  My first impulse is to hit the kid, but since I'm too old and tired, I usually just wonder how these young people can behave so insensitively.  Then I catch myself thinking, "these young people," and realize I'm not one of them anymore.  When you're in your teens and twenties, you think of yourself as an eternal member of the youth culture.  The music, the rebellion, the hair -- long Hippie hair, dreadlocks, a mohawk, an attractive punk cut, you name it.  Then one day, you're forty-something and find yourself poring over mutual fund returns and life insurance options.  You never resigned from The Youth Club, never tore up your membership card and stomped out of any meeting, but there you are, out in the parking lot of life, banished from Youth.

It's worse than banishment, of course, because you're surrounded by young people.  Walking through the streets you see one beautiful or handsome young thing after another. Surely, they're doing this on purpose.  I imagine young women at their mirrors plotting to drive me crazy.  Women at the fitness centers say they're taking those step classes and cranking those ab machines to count down their cholesterol and tummies, but let's face it, they shape their bodies into classical perfection simply to drive me nuts.

And good grief, even if you've taken to draping your mirrors with purple satin so that you don't have to see the coursing of time across your face, you look out on their faces and you know in your bones, that the sweet bird of youth has flown south and is lost, deep in an unknown jungle, never to return.

Talk of life's "passages" doesn't ring true.  The modulation from youth to middle age is a long deceptive Indian summer when it seems as though winter has got lost somewhere in a land far away, far away from your life, like a hurricane in the heartland of America as you sit sipping G&T's on the coast.  Suddenly, the program you've been tuned to for what seems like eternity, is interrupted by an emergency bulletin:  A hurricane is coming to town. You have to fold up your chair, throw your beer bottles against the rocks -- get off the beach, get to high ground.  Hurricane Mortality is tearing in from the horizon and you are in the eye of the storm.

Joseph Coroniti has published essays, fiction, and poetry in many magazines and journals, including Art Times, The Quarterly, Mind In Motion, Lynx Eye, Quarter After Eight, Visions International, The Wolf Head Quarterly, The Antigonish Review and Oxford Magazine.  He teaches creative writing at Berklee College of Music and Brandeis University, and has twice been a Fulbright professor of American (and Irish) literature: Cameroon, 1989-90, and Norway, 1995-96.  During his 1998-99 sabbatical year, he will teach creative writing and Irish literature at the University of Essex, England.