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39

My therapist asks me again: “Did you turn forty this week, or thirty-nine?” (We are new at this).

“Not that you look forty,” she quickly corrects, but I’m in the habit of always playing with my beard, in a sense pointing out to everyone that my body is now melanocytically deficient and that it sprouts white on the regular.

Of course I look forty, then some. As an exclamation point I’ve already had cataracts surgered.

“Is that a big thing for you, getting near forty?” she continues. I raise an eyebrow her direction.

“Of course it is,” I retort. But I make a joke of it. I say I’ve been forty since I was twenty, and she confounds the whole mathematic by saying she really had problems turning sixty, three sets of twenty. Perhaps it’s because I grew up when I did: I can’t imagine not having been terrified before twenty-five. Forty, already, portends its own particular brand of catastrophe.

There’s ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’, there’s: ‘Is it possible getting to 64?’

‘Only existential at sixty?’ I think to myself. ‘What nuclear crisis was she unconscious through?’

(I kid, though. I very much like my therapist, and she is Cuban: by nature of 1962 she trumps my Reagan-era ill at ease automatically).

This past week, Heimlich had a first chance at using his own patented maneuver to save someone’s life; Heimlich is 96. I think: we choke and laugh at the same time, get scared at getting old, save each other regardless the age we ultimately admit to.

I tell my therapist, “I’m thirty-nine.”

“That’s what I thought,” she says, and we go from there.

 

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