Sometimes it seems inconceivable I should be the age I am. When sunlight through the atrium bakes us in the common room like tacos under a heat lamp, I stop counting the days I do remember and consider this scene before me. If not for the fan blades turning, it might be a movie still, snagged in the projector lamp, crisping. Now come the young ones shining, pink and squeaky, Sunday afternoons with their fresh air, freckles and fragrant hair. I know that I have loved because a young girl breaks my heart, but what are these other memories that crease the corners of the ward? Something must connect them all besides these photos I’m shown of my young impostor, but when I sense that they expect me to remember, forgive me, I do. Silence comes at intervals, and a vertigo that feels like a falling away, but I cobble a life story from what I know: because I think in terms of loss and how it profits me, I know I once did business. Family would account for why I feel so orphaned. As for the war, I must have defended something noble. Tickertape is not for losers, nor for conquerors, only champions. The papers ask me how have I achieved this age, but to me it seems more like an accident. Don’t die is my advice. This girl who wants me to go home with her seems nice enough. Whatever it is she’s planning, my dignity’s involved. What could that possibly matter to me? I can’t have been consulted. I won’t make one more compromise for that cypher in the scrapbook. She’ll let me make a glorious mess, or be sorry, or leave me be. Either way, I’ve earned a little indignity and I shall have it.

Copyright © December 10, 2006 David Hodges