Mostly, it was the manner in which he parked his car that captured my attention.
Nearly sunrise, he pulled the BMW into space 219 with what was either delicate care or anxious precision. Slowly and with style, the white lines framed the gold, still freshly polished body with perpendicular perfection as the engine silenced, both synchronized as if the entire action was one choreographed eight count of a slow dance.
The door cracked and he took pause inside. I decided at that hour he was either a very stylish drunk young man or very regretful one. The comma of that moment was more like a series of long hyphenations with the several small deliberate steps it took to create such a classy exit from that beamer after such an obviously long night on the town.
It was almost light enough to see his handsome, tall, tired frame and the thin emergent lines around his eyes which had grown all night in their attempts to lure him home to rest. He’d been to several venues from nightclubs to titty bars and a few incoherent places in between as he’d been for every Friday night that he could remember from recent years…and many he did not.
I watched him from my quiet Sunday morning perch on the patio where I’d been enjoying the pre-dawn breeze and my thoughts. He clicked the locks and lights on the car. His pace was slow, straight, pensive and, I think—this time—a bit regretful. I smiled to myself and applauded him silently as I witnessed this private, game changing epiphany of a young man’s life who’d finally decided he’d had enough of youth. The entire scene was just so incredibly well done, as I imagined were most of his life’s best moments.
And just then, I thought I’d heard a crescendo of cymbals as he closed his front door on the first thin horizontal ray of the sun.
Each of us has that moment when we finally grow up.
I’d seen none as poignant as his.
I don’t remember the day when I grew up. I’m pretty sure I did, but it was much later in years than I’d expected if I was to ever expect one. It wasn’t the sighting of a grey hair or the fact it hurt getting back up this time. Just as I’d spied of this man’s experience, growing up was mostly a moment in my head.
If it were predictable, it would be meaningless. The convergence of experience, thought and time just one day unexpectedly align, sometimes at the break of dawn after a night out that used to be a lot of crazy fun but now just seems crazy. Some divine element sets in motion a completely different paradigm to the path we had, up til then, so painstakingly prepared for ourselves.
We’re a lot more sober. We are less prone to experience and more prone to contemplate. We wonder how much of these years we will regret and which few experiences we will remember with fondness, and if we will even call it that.
There are no boundaries to youth except those which our consciences inflict upon us. And it’s always at the right time. Wild and Crazy are sent to the back seat on our nights out and Wiser and Smarter sit driver and shotgun and set the route for the evening. I think this is all supposed to happen before the back seat drivers take you on a trip to jail or worse, to the morgue.
But inevitably, at least for most of us, it happens at the right time and place. And sometimes it happens right in front of an unsuspecting someone very early one morning who imagines that we have finally found truth and meaning in one rather large but painless epiphany.
The warm morning sun was now well over the horizon and my coffee cup was empty. My four-legged best friend was whining for our routine, so I slipped on something comfy and with leash in hand, headed out the door for a brisk morning walk before church. While I was certain he’d long since gone to bed, we walked past his place and Butch flew off the leash and ran up the walk as he opened his door. His chocolate brown Chihuahua met mine and instantly, they were buddies.
“Hi. Hey, sorry about that,” I said pulling on the leash.
“No worries, I was headed out for a walk with him anyway. It’s good they’re getting along. A lot of times Chihuahuas don’t,” he assured me as the dogs were still introducing themselves to one another.
We were on the same path on the same street in the same direction and our dogs, already marvelous old friends, were doing what dogs do and people don’t understand yet admire. It was just small talk between us and he’d no idea I’d witnessed the beautiful experience of his earlier arrival home nor what I’d inferred and suspected to be a rather significant moment in his life.
“I’m always up early and we go on a walk in the morning.” I struggled to continue the conversation.
“Yeah, as events would have it, so am I,” he replied.
We continued the conversation and I avoided getting too deep as we’d only just met, though our dogs were chatting about intimate things like the smell of butts, dead birds and how many bushes they could pee on in one outing.
“Well, we’re gonna head back home I think. Time to get ready for church,” I said as I let our friends finish their business together.
“Church? Man, I haven’t been to back to church in a long time,” he almost stuttered with great curiosity and the next question.
“Yeah, it’s just up the street and I still need a shower.”
I finally introduced myself by name and apartment number at that point, and as I turned, I smiled the exact same smile I’d smiled alone on my porch watching him in in the early dawn of that morning.
I was enjoying the experience of watching what was obviously his second glorious epiphany of that morning.
Nobody ever regrets growing up,
and nobody ever regrets going back to church
on a Sunday morning.