I’d tell you my name, but it doesn’t matter.
I overslept. There was a polite knock at the door. A man kept saying my unimportant name, and asking if I was alright. I allowed as how I was, but the man had to physically see me to make sure. I answered the door in my underwear. I was old. He was thirty-one. He recoiled a bit in revulsion, then composed himself and said he was glad I was doing well, and breakfast would be ready any time I wanted it. I thanked him without meaning it, and he smiled without meaning it, and went away.
It’s winter. My joints ache. They sting when it gets really cold, but it’s not that bad today. I go in the bathroom and do all the normal bathroom stuff, then get in my walk-in tub and hit a buzzer. Presently a pretty nurse comes in. she’s thirty one. I can bathe myself, but they fear me putting my head under the water, probably with good reason. I don’t mind. The warm water feels good. Her fingers feel good in my thinning hair. Her blouse doesn’t quite contain her pulchritude as she leans over me, but below the waterline: Nothing.
I live in a small apartment building across the street from the Westfield Gateway Mall in Lincoln, Nebraska. It’s been converted to an old folks home, with a ratio of five attendants to each resident. My every reasonable whim, and their salaries, are paid by the state. There are places like this in all the major cities and town in the state. In insignificant places - as insignificant as my own name - they simply load up the old folks and ship ‘em here. The number gets smaller every year. Only fifteen in my building, counting me. There were twenty last winter. Does the clock speeds up, or do I just notice it more? All the staff are thirty-one.
I have a breakfast large enough to choke a cowboy: Steak, Eggs, Ham, Bacon. I’ve taken to eating clam chowder, too. They just started making it again this last year. It’s expensive, but I figure ‘what the hell, let the taxpayers pick up the tab. Live a little. It’s not like I’m long to this earth.’ Whichever earth this may be, that is. I’m the only one in the room. I seldom see the other residents. They mostly stay in their rooms, watching old videos, listening to old records, basically sitting around and being silently old. I wonder if this is the way it’s always been in old folks’ homes, or if it’s unique to our predicament. In any event, the chowder isn’t as good as I remember from my youth. The clams come from the New Gulf Of Mexico, and not old New England. I wonder if that’s the reason. Or maybe it’s just that I’m old.
I don’t drink coffee in the meal room. For a long time this was because no one had any coffee to be drunk, but three years back some explorers in New South America found a whole lot of wild coffee plants, and the Midwest’s long love affair with oral stimulants was rejoined. It tastes like crap, of course. No one knows how to breed the plants, the quality control Starbucks used to use in preparation was more-or-less abandoned and only slightly-less-quickly forgotten. Still: I like coffee.
I hobble across the street with my walker. It’s been plowed, so I’m in no danger of slipping, though my knees and fingers hurt from the cold. There’s a few busses, and a newly-installed trolley, but few cars. We don’t have the ability to make cars yet, it might be decades before we recover it, and unquestionably the first generation of any cars we make will suck, so such cars as we have are hoarded for official purposes. My 2003 Ford Escape was commandeered by the state a year after we got here, wherever here is.
In the food court, everyone is thirty one. A few people stare, a few avert their eyes. A decade ago, I got sympathetic looks, now everyone takes my affliction - being old - as some kind of personal affront. I get my coffee from a handsome thirty-one year old man with hair like Simon LeBon circa 1984, then realize I forgot my wallet. There’s a line of thirty-one year olds behind me. Hair boy flashes me a fake smile across the counter. “It’s ok, old timer,” he says,