Rummaging through a desk drawer I stumbled across a photo from the Weird Era: sometime around 2004, after the magazine but before the Paragraph Factory. I am with two friends in the middle of the night and we are famously in our cups. My beard is black; the hair on my head is full, streaked instead of laden with white. I have no idea how strange the next decade will be.
Now that decade has come and gone and as you can see, my selfie face is decidedly different. The forehead is a five, maybe a sixhead. The corners of my eyes crinkle in those rare times when I smile. No one will ever card me and I could get away with senior discounts if I wanted to diminish myself. I am old and a special kind of gross, existing in the valley between vigorous manhood and harmless geezer. I'm too ancient to be scary ferocious but I still bite. Not as often as I used to – my thirst for the jugular is less pronounced – but do not bare your throat around me and expect a kind and courtly nuzzle. It's not in my nature.
I'd like to think my eyes are kinder, with a gentler heart responsible for that gaze, but I don't know if that's true. Most of the time it feels like there's a hard, cold rock in my chest, picking up minerals from my bloodstream, growing stonier with each new day. Even when life intrudes with brief flashes of sunshine, the rock stays cold. I don't know if the sun is ever going to shine long enough for it to get warm. The inner winter has been going on for a couple years now. I've come to grudging terms with the cold.
The sunshine is nice, sure. It's mostly reflected light – reveling in a friend's success, huzzahs for someone else getting something good – but I'm up for anything to get a break in the routine. It feels old and dead, this winter inside me, and I'll be goddamned if I spend the rest of my days on the outside looking in. By celebrating the joys of friends I hope to convince the universe that a little balance is in order here. I don't want less happiness for my friends; I just want my fucking share of the booty, a few strong, selfish rays of sunshine, enough to keep the rock warm through the coldest nights.
The trouble is my orbit has gone all wonky. Knocked from my once-close proximity to the sun, I'm spinning into uncharted space. With each new revolution the sun's pull diminishes and I go a little bit deeper into the dark. The unknown is both thrilling and daunting; who knows what I'll discover? Maybe a creature with a hot sun of its own, and I'll bask and soak in new light. Perhaps like me it has teeth, too, and I'll forget to remember to keep my neck covered. Ah, bliss.