I turn fifty in a couple of weeks.
A few months ago I spent the day with an old friend. We met in the early 80’s when we were both teaching English at Kansas State University. I think for both of us, those years were a safe time before entering the real world. We didn’t have too many responsibilities, other than paying rent, grading papers, and thinking of the future. I needed to figure out what to do next. He wanted to get his poetry published.
And this was a university setting; we had the time to sit around and talk with other writers and students. We’d make up literary puns. We’d crack wise about current events (it was the Regan Era, after all). We’d have conversations about Chomsky and Derrida. We were funny.
After we left KSU, me for a technical writing job in Dallas, and him to the Ph.D program in Utah, we had some contact, but not much. We had a lot of catching up to do. A long time ago, he asked me why I was still single. I told him, “I’m waiting for Prince Charming to come and take me away on his white horse.” He said, “Make him buy a car.” When he asked about my husband, who he’s never met, I said, “He already had a car.”
For a few hours, I was witty again. But it was hard work to keep up with him — the guy is a full professor, and has wikipedia entry. He asked if I still did any writing. I told him that I was thinking of starting a knitting blog called The Ravell’d Sleeve. Of course, he recognized the reference, and added, “Ravelled is a great word — it means the same as unraveled.” I’d never thought of that.
I came home exhausted. Too many big words and big thoughts for one afternoon. And a lot of memories of misspent youth. That old epigram, “they say that the memory is first to go, and I can’t remember the second thing,” is wrong. The first thing to go was that quick humor that came so easily. The well-turned phrase, uttered at the perfect time, with precise timing. Gone.