I recall looking over the fence at my neighbour’s washing line. At the clean clothes hanging up there, drying in the sun. Well, I presume they were clean anyway. The line stretched lengthways across the garden, like ours did back then, reaching from a hook screwed into the brickwork of the house all the way to a tree stump at the far end of the lawn. You could see this pretty clearly, with those old fence panels which separated our gardens being low and all. Anyway, I noticed the inverted slogan across one of the drying t-shirts: “PARTY ANIMAL”. I shook my head, and thought to myself how everyone is just trying to get by. A family’s clothes hung up there on the washing line, for all us neighbours to see. Dividing the gardens all the way down the straight line of houses, wooden fences at shoulder height not hiding much at all.
I remember the day. Twenty years have clean passed since then, but I remember it. I got those juggling clubs I ordered, and spent a few hours in the garden, picking up where I’d left off with juggling twenty other years before that. And I even remember thinking, when I looked at the differently sized clothes on that line, and the PARTY ANIMAL shirt too: It made me think about how rapidly we get through life, or I reckon you could argue that much at least, in retrospect. The things we claim, the slogans we wear, how we present ourselves, our dreams, lack of dreams, pets, houses, job if you’re lucky, jobs if you’re luckier, boyfriends, girlfriends or lack of boyfriends or girlfriends. They’re so fleeting. And I remember thinking back then, under those spinning juggling clubs: I’ve been at this job five years; what do I have to show for it?
I came up short, you bet.
You know what? Here I am, twenty more years gone, and I’m thinking the same. Same job even. Not even a girlfriend to show for it now either. Just been me for seventeen years, getting older and wrinklier. Not going out much either. Too tired, like everyone else.
Oh yeah, that was the year when everyone started wearing their hair right on top of their heads. Shaving off the sides and leaving a pile of it right up there. Boys and girls. I might’ve tried it but I was going bald by then, and so shaving off the sides left nothing on top. You still see it. I always used to say how we lived in a world where anything goes, and nothing has changed really. Although I guess there was all that stuff with the governments. I guess nothing changes but also everything changes. Someone said that, didn’t they?
So, I know I got those juggling clubs a clean twenty years ago because I was just snooping on old emails, and the delivery notification email was right there, dated. Twenty year old messages. I’m amazed that they’re still on those Microsoft servers, amazed that Microsoft is still a thing, albeit different than it used to be.
I recall how I used to panic. Worried about society falling apart. Worried about scary news with terrorism and the economy collapsing. But you know what they don’t tell you? Nothing much changes. Us humans generally manage to get by, and when you get to be wrinklier, you notice that the panics kind of blur together, and you get on with it. Everyone was just getting by anyway, but when you’re wrinkly you start properly just getting by.
It’s pretty funny. I bet in another twenty years those email servers will still have those old emails. Fresh as daisies up there in Los Angeles or something. I bet I’ll still be in that job. Everyone knows retirement will be pushed back quicker than we can age. Fine by me though I guess. Need to get by. I just hope I’m not still alone. That would suck.