a vintage

“A poet might die at twenty-one, a revolutionary or a rock star at twenty-four. But after that you assume everything’s going to be all right. You’ve made it past Dead Man’s Curve and you’re out of the tunnel, cruising straight for your destination down a six-lane highway–whether you want to be or not. You get your hair cut; every morning you shave. You aren’t a poet anymore, or a revolutionary or a rock star. You don’t pass out drunk in phone booths or blast out the Doors at four in the morning. Instead, you buy life insurance form your friend’s company, drink in hotel bars, and hold on to your dental bills for tax deductions.”

–Haruki Murakami, New York Mining Disaster

Call it a twisted version of l’esprit de l’escalier: the feeling of a moment, hitting you long after the moment had passed.

Just a few months or so back, I had one of those get-togethers with several college friends. These were the sort that you planned for weeks, and almost never pull through at the end, because of the majority suddenly coming up with other obligations at the literal last minute. Thankfully though, this one did, as it was an anniversary of a personal excursion that we nevertheless planned to commemorate, by hook or by crook.

This one was a wine-and-cheese party. It was an attempt to inject some culture, not to mention maturity, into the drinking binges we used to have, which, we are slowly growing to realize, our bodies are having more trouble handling the morning after. Glasses of decent wine–one red, one white, one rose–instead of cheap beer, or cheap gin, or cheap rum, or cheap brandy. Pasta, grilled bread and vegetables, cold cuts–pastrami and parma ham–and good cheese–manchego, brie, emmental, and some sour fresh cheese–instead of fish crackers, or instant pancit canton, or chicharon, or whatever junk food was easy to reach for in the room.

To hide it from each other, we tried talking about old things: old classes, old binges, old situations that were awkward then, but laughable to high heaven now. How one house was a damned good watering hole, if not for a crazy witch living two houses down. How another house was painted orange outside and pink inside. How a house sometimes became a school, and a school sometimes became a house.

Still, it crept in. Somewhere, even though we hadn’t felt it. Perhaps when talk shifted to our current careers–or lack of–and plans for the next few years. Or when we had opened the third bottle of wine with only a pair of scissors and a couple of knives. Or when we decided to get a few hours of sleep before our little field trip the morning after.

But it was there: silent, invisible. Hiding among the rush hour crowd, above office cubicles, behind the last text sent before going to sleep, just under an article about writing read the night before.  Only making itself known now, after people have been together and apart for more times than they can count, when silence and darkness cause specters to wander freely, free of others’ chains of thought.

But the last step has been descended, the moment come and gone, the feeling left only for the self, like a poem one writes for no one’s eyes but his own.