An essay about aging by Rachel Thompson
You’ve seen them— old man or old lady—they’re everywhere.
Molded from common cast. Their forearms look as if they’ve reached into the jaws of death. But, perhaps, they had only reached for a can of tuna.
You wonder if it’s cancer or medication, or another sign of death’s encroaching door: Liver spots, blotches, pulsing veins, and forearms rasped. Nasty beat up arm skin.
Mechanics working overhead from a grease pit look better.
“What’s wrong with these people?” you ask.
I assure you nothing but aging is wrong with these people.
At a certain age, skin becomes overly sensitive. Grandma cooks like a machine at Thanksgiving, bruises and all, doesn’t she? She is still fit and able. Our skin gets old before we do.
I have reached a milestone. I just received my first old-lady bruise. I saw it coming but now it’s here. I have arrived. I am officially old.
Moving a portable oven, I brushed against a rail, nothing bad, didn’t hurt, hardly noticed it. I said to myself, “I wonder if that will leave a bruise?” I went on to think much later, “No . . . it’s fine.”
It wasn’t fine.
The next day a purple Rorschach ink blot tattooed itself onto my forearm. The dreaded old-lady bruise arrived by overnight delivery. I think the tooth fairy was involved.
Two quarter-sized blobs surfaced just under my thin skin. Lesser splotches danced in between. Over the years, the few arm freckles I had as a child, reproduced and joined hands. I saw lichen-skin flying in from way off, but now it crash-landed. My spreading freckles—the kings and lords of my aging skin—have abdicated: A new destroyer of skin supplants them.
Paying attention to aging doesn’t allow it to sneak up on you like a unique rabbit. One can feel and see the results of aging as it comes, but how many of us are willing to admit it’s here?
Unanticipated realizations strike like a sprained back. Milestones make one face facts—willing or not.
Aging is done best with open-eyed expectations. I still wasn’t really ready.
Age happens. It sucks. Old lady arms, everywhere hurts, deeper understanding of everything, the good and the bad are represented by my new, but temporary, tattoo.
I’ll wear them badges. I should have used more sunscreen, but then again, some sunscreens are reported to cause skin cancer.
I thought, “OK. I’ll get a real tattoo, celebrate my old ladyhood.”
This is, after all, my first official coming-of-old-age event: I deserve a real tattoo.
But then age-wisdom reared its logical head and said, “No, you’ll get a bruise.”
I don’t want to get stuck in the bruise or not to bruise loop.
I hope my logic chip doesn’t burn out but then again…
I’m not ready to give up living. I’ll take my lumps and the bruise-tattoos that go with it. That is why we see old, old people out and about with their splotchy wisdom written large. You might wonder how they stay alive. There’s more blood under-skin than inside their bodies.
They ain’t done yet.
I just stepped onto life’s third-rail. I should get a tattoo.
Rachel Thompson contributed to the Parisian Phoenix non fiction anthology, Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, and self publishes her novels as RC Thom. Her latest, The Book of Answers, was released last month.