Paul wrote on my wall: We’re almost halfway to 70. How do you feel?
I wrote back: When I look at it that way … not good.
When Paul and I met, we were only halfway to eight. Back then, we spent most of our days together. We were best friends, and really more like brothers. We also happened to be born a day apart. So it was never just my birthday. It was our birthdays. And I liked it that way. I liked sharing my birthday with Paul.
My mom usually took us out for pizza at Mr. Gatti’s. And Paul and I would celebrate another year of life by shooting spit-balls at the big-screen TV. Then Paul would stay over and we’d be up late doing Mad Libs, laughing like we were out of our minds, and imitating Bob and Doug. Or sometimes we’d turn philosophical and discuss things like, I don’t know why I never noticed this before, but Princess Leia is kind of hot.
What’s amazing to me isn’t the fact that I’m halfway to 70. It’s the fact that I’ve known Paul for 31 years. Age by itself is sort of an abstract. You just go on feeling like you. It’s when you put your age in relation to things and people that it takes on meaning. Because you recognize that while you are still you now, you are not the same you you were when you were halfway to eight. Or halfway to twenty. Or forty. That, in fact, you’ve been several different yous between there and here.
I tend to see my life in phases. Sometimes a phase revolves around place—a neighborhood, a city, a school. And sometimes it revolves around people. I usually don’t know a phase is happening until it’s a memory. I keep piling up new phases. And that’s good, I guess. I mean, it’s better than the alternative. But it’s also sad. Because entering a new phase means leaving behind an old one. And there’s always a certain amount of forgetting that is to be done and doors to be closed. And more and more I appreciate the people who span the phases and help me remember. There are lots of them now. More every day. And they help me keep the doors open.
Today I live in New Jersey. I think I’m in the middle of a phase that started in Baltimore. But I won’t know for sure until it’s over. Paul just moved to Argentina. We don’t see each other very often, so we won’t be shooting any spit-balls at TVs in Mr. Gatti’s. But we can write on a wall on Facebook. And talk long distance for free using Skype. And we can continue to span the phases in modern style. Until we stop referring to age as “halfway” to anywhere, because suddenly “halfway” won’t seem like much of a possibility anymore.