Elegy

You've been through it all, they say. You've been to the top of the world and felt the exhilaration of admiration and you've been to the deepest pit in hell and felt the cold, stinging pain of loss. You've seen it all and felt it all and nothing, nothing can surprise you.

And yet, no one can stand you either.

You used to be amazing and wonderful and loving and strong and people looked up to you and wanted to be you, but now you're just a shell and living has become more a disease than a treasure. It hurts to move and it hurts to think and it hurts to breathe and it hurts to hear the exasperation in their voices, to see the irritation in their gaze.

That's why you pretend that you can't see it, you pretend that you're going blind and deaf and act like you really don't know what they think of you, because you don't want to recognize that you're nothing like the beautiful and amazing individual you were once-upon-a-time.

You say your words and shift your cane and hide behind a haze of blurred vision and creaking joints so the sting won't ache so much and the demons of your age won't carry over into reality. You're simply tired, nothing more.

You watch your grandchildren, so full of life and exuberance, and you'd give anything you could, your hand, your foot, your stomach, even, just to know that joy and life, just to feel it all and see it all and taste it all, just one more time. But it's been too long and those days have faded into the grainy ink inside a history book that gets tossed around and no one reads because it's boring.

But if you could read those grainy words, if you could live that life again…

It'd be worth every piece of you it'd cost. It isn't like your body is worth much anymore, too bloated and wrinkled and broken and sagging and tired. But, oh, if you could just take it all back and go through it all again, wouldn't that be wonderful?

You know someday they'll talk about you on a podium and they'll recall all the good and wonderful and amazing things you did that barely anyone really remembers but they've dredged it up from other people's stories and other people's articles in the paper and other people's memories because you've lost it all to brittle bones and creaky joints and your memory is fading almost as fast as the ink on those letters you wrote to your son who was stillborn after you threw them into the fire. But if you could take it all back and erase all the bad and take away all the pretend and just once, if you could look on your granddaughter's face and see the admiration and adoration she once used to show when she saw you…

Oh, it'd be wonderful.

But you're just a broken old wisp of a memory and everyone puts on fake, bitter smiles and pretends to still admire you like they used to, before you turned senile and decrepit, before all of your memories and loves and joys and tears became little imprints on an old-fashioned printer. You're just an old nothing and no one really cares as much as they'd like to because you know they really want to love you but you just make it so hard, but they can't see things the way you do.

You see things the way a blind man sees them; however the hell you want to. And no one else can grasp that you're a miserable old coot who watches the teenagers climb into their cars and the youngest children tug on daddy's sleeve and wishes, wishes, wishes that you could have it all again.

Eventually, they'll sing your requiem and they'll stick you in some pit that looks like the dusty old life you left behind and they'll all cry and wish, like you do now, that they could have the old you back, the one that wasn't old.

Eventually, you'll be released from this shell of a life and you'll understand what it's like to be young and happy and amazing again, and you'll know what it's like to feel things without a thick cloth sheltering your emotions, and eventually, you'll be free.

But until that time, you pretend that you don't see their forces smiles or hear the way the grind their teeth, and you pretend that you're going blind and deaf and can't move and have to be carted everywhere because you'll be damned if you'll let them hate you in peace.

And until that time, you're dreams and your memories are fading with the history-book mass of words that no one reads but you, and when you're gone, no one will read them at all and you wonder, will they still show even when no one is there to see them? Will the music of your ancient records still play when no one cares to listen anymore?

But, oh, if you could be there again, in the halcyon days of your own youth, if you could cry in a corner where no one will see you again, if you could laugh and joke with your friends who're now dead again, if you could just feel it all one more time, if the life you knew then wasn't confined to a book in a desk that no one reads, if it could all be real again…

It'd be wonderful.