Here Be Dragons

“I would never slay the dragon,

because the dragon was also me.”

― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

On my 58th birthday, I woke up and realized that I was finally growing older and things have been going downhill from there. My body no longer cooperates, it protests instead. I can sense the future and it includes knee replacements.

A month ago I stared at my computer and realized I couldn’t read the numbers on the screen. The corner of my eye flashed with a psychedelic light in an arc like a rainbow. The ophthalmologist dilated my pupils until I looked like an anime character then told me “You have floaters, they’re common when you get older.” She went on to say that they “might go away on their own” and I should be patient. I never thought I would find patience more valuable than passion.

I used to enjoy hiking and long walks in the nature preserve near our home, but I’ve developed a pain in the ball of my left foot. After x-rays and an examination at the primary care clinic, the doctor informed me she could find nothing wrong. “Maybe you should try orthotics,” she suggested. An internet search led me to purchase metatarsal pads. As you age the bottom of your foot thins. Meanwhile, the middle of my body fills in like I’m storing fat for hibernation.

I gave up coloring my hair and embraced its natural silver grey hue. A rinse of color gives it a bluish lavender tint that matches the varicose veins that snake down my legs. I slide unremarked through crowds of younger women, a granny ninja.

I’m drawn to lotions to that promise to firm and smooth. My skin folds and wrinkles in sections that resemble scales, dry and rough. I scour my heels with stones so they won’t turn into hooves, so they don’t harden and crack.

When I lie down everything shifts to the sides and when I stand my flesh sags like a melting candle. Gravity is a bitch.

No one told me that you never outgrow pimples.

When I fall asleep on my back, I wake to rumbling snores, like growls from an animal trapped in my chest. My tongue dry and hot, it tastes like ashes. It could be worse, Maurice-Auguste Chevalier is said to have stated — Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.

If my life is a map marked Here Be Dragons, then I am not lost. I’ll spread wings and breath fire, take to flight, never conquered but unfortunately hindered.

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