The Heart at 23

A few months ago, my roommate had her birthday and I posted “The Brain on 23” on her facebook wall without even thinking. It’s cleverly written–the kind of tempo’d prose I love to read and write. Much, but not all, the piece resonated with me, so I decided to carve out my own poetic essay about twenty three. I’m posting it today in honor of my beautiful bestie, M, who celebrates her 23rd on this very day. (A couple of years ago we celebrated our first BBBFB, and we haven’t looked back since)

I’m 23 and change (enough that you’d pocket it), not yet a college graduate, as you are well aware by now. The fuse burns, though, and I’m ready to shoot out into a productive future. Yeah, right. I’m 23 and living in Donald Trump’s America.  I’m 23 and all my friends have degrees, but they were gracious enough to stick around town to support me and each other as we figure our shit out…M doesn’t think it’s right for me to live my life like I’m in a movie, but I just tell her that it’s research for when I do, finally, eventually, write FOR THE BIG SCREEN. Movie life or not, our existence together is pretty fucking magical. Here’s to M, and to making the rest of ya’ll jealous of our life: 

We’re twenty three and we flirt with each other and our smoking habits. We play it safe, except when we don’t, which is often, and thank God for that. It is in the moments of naked risk when we are most ourselves.

We’re twenty three. We smash flower pots boys we don’t like gave us. We are too old for cooties, too young to want bouquets that seem to say: Look at me, I am trying to buy your love. We are too young for that kind of Love. We pick the flowers first and make them into crowns because in our hearts we are eight, but in our minds we are twenty three, nearly twenty nine, running up our time to be free, single, alive. Of course this is a lie, force fed by the media and our mothers, but still we chug it like we chug our three-dollar Trader Joe’s wine.

We are twenty three. We smash pots and the patriarchy, smoke pot and monsters out from under the bed. Our monsters aren’t the hairy, scary ones of the past, well, maybe that one night stand, but we let that one pass. No, instead we battle societal expectations, telling us to dress smarter, look for a partner–But we’re not crafting CVs, we’re drinking craft beer in converse sneakers which stick to the floors of the only bars we can afford. We want to dance till our feet bleed, pressed up against a stranger we won’t text tomorrow, because there is no tomorrow in our minds. We are twenty three.

We still babysit. Come home and sit cross-legged on each other’s bedroom floors, giggling about the silly shit we got into that day. We are twenty three and trying to navigate “intimacy,” whatever that means. We know nothing of string theory, and everything about no-strings-attached theory. We ghost and get ghosted, which seems only fair. We are learning that love is difficult and a mess, so we find comic relief in the”hey beautiful” messages we get from Tinder matches we probably–no, definitely–won’t meet for drinks. Drinks we can’t afford and drinks we do not wish to have because porch beers with our best friends are all we’re looking for right now.

We’re twenty three. We take each other on writing dates in hipster coffee shops, drink our coffee black. The baristas smile at us, flirting or trying to make tips, we can’t tell- We’re too preoccupied to care, really, about his tattoo sleeve, her guitar pic earrings. We’re busy writing love letters, cover letters, and grad school apps, well, some of us. We’re busy making and breaking plans, hearts into pieces. We’re busy being us.

We are twenty three. We play with magnetic poetry and prank each other with ugly statues we bought on sale at Good Will. We sustain ourselves on boxed pasta and avocados, black bean brownies and dreams. We don’t follow recipes or rules, which means our lives often look like a drunk dart board. Our floors are covered with clothes and the occasional thermos of what was juice but is now wine. We either own cats or despise each other for owning cats. Most of our walls are covered in chalkboard paint. We are dusty, musty dreamers–we are doing it right.

We’re twenty three. We sleep alone in unframed IKEA beds to which we have no extra sheets. We are early to bed early to rise, trying to get worms, grow up, sometimes. Other times we’re skipping downtown through moonlit muddy puddles, back to the same hipster cafe to drink stale wine and coffee-flavored cocktails. We hold hands and our contradictions, telling each other it will all work out. We hold back tears and the door open as we stumble back to our shared home. Our out of season Christmas lights. Our life.

We are twenty three. The future is out there, looming like the parking tickets we swore we would pay yesterday. We are just the right age for jumpsuits and postage stamp skirts and knee-high boots. For half off margaritas any night of the week. We aren’t dressing smarter, looking for partners. We are driving to the 24-hour Stop and Shop at midnight, buying Mylar balloons and coconut ice cream. We are twenty three. We flirt with each other and our smoking habits. Twenty three, not dead.

 

And because I’m hipster and sappy as fuck, and fancy my movie-life to have the same filter as a Wes Anderson film, but with strong feminist overtones, I present to you, as your musical note, The Zombies: 

 

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