The Young People

"The young people" is how our parents refer to us sometimes. It's a joke, but it's stopped being funny. Even at 20, 21, 22, we feel like we're getting old. Mistakes we made seem impossible to get away from, petty shit sucks at your feet like clay-laden mud. The Young People are a few of my friends and I who are still in the small town where we've done most of our growing up, still living with our parents, still thinking "I may have legal rights but I sure don't feel like an adult." It's small to us - 54,000 people or so - but bigger than, say, Hayfork (a real CA town with a population around 2300).

People who I think of as being as smart as I am have, by and large, gotten the hell out of town. UCs, mostly. One fellow got a full-ride scholarship to Berkeley, then another to do grad work at Stanford. I try to keep in touch. We talk when they're in town - mostly about them. I can talk about small things, but when they politely ask "So, what's new ?" it always gives me that sinking feeling of having to say "Absofuckinglutely nothing."

When we take walks together, it seems like we usually pass through some kind of K-12 institution - most often a high school one of us went to, sometimes a junior high. No one comments on it, but I keep thinking that in the movie of our lives, a competent director would use that to show how we want the past back - we want a chance to undo screwups that we made around then.

Those screwups have led to effectively being stuck in this town - which, good or ill, is a small town. It's not particularly suited to awkward Young People trying to figure out where being a grown-up starts. We've acquired a new crop of screwups, too. One or two cutters. Low-level alcoholism. Smoking. I know one fellow who had a case of gout - gout! at the age of 20, and had some kidney stones removed shortly thereafter. That's pretty much emblematic of the sort of lukewarm mush of a life we've got - nothing so romantic as felonies or heroin addiction (okay, "romantic" should rightly be in quotes), just low-level stuff. A couple of us worry about the right doses of antidepressants. I try to remember details about the Eli Lilly suicides. Little hurts that gnaw, that's all.

I needed to say it to someone, that's all.

No-one knows who said it first, but we all agree - we'd be Shakespearian if we weren't so pathetic.