Not enough youths fighting windmills. And the old are fearful, jaded or dead. Do not ask me what to do. I am just as cowardly as you. And do not tell me it is enough to speak the truth; that it is bravery enough. Every mountain leveled to the ground, every forest burned, every man, woman, and child who lost their shanties to arsonist fires were defended to the heavens—with words.
He has made me wary of chronological snobbery. That is, he showed me that newness is no virtue and oldness is no vice. Truth and beauty and goodness are not determined by when they exist. Nothing is inferior for being old, and nothing is valuable for being modern. This has freed me from the tyranny of novelty and opened for me the wisdom of the ages.
For me- and for everybody else, probably- this is my first experience growing old, and the emotions I’m having, too, are all first-time feelings. If it were something I’d experienced before, then I’d be able to understand it more clearly, but this is the first time, so I can’t. For now all I can do is put off making any detailed judgments and accept things as they are. Just like I accept the sky, the clouds, and the river. And there’s also something kind of comical about it all, something you don’t want to discard completely.
The photograph is in my hand. It is the photograph of a man and a woman. They are at an amusement park, in 1959. In twelve seconds time, I drop the photograph to the sand at my feet, walking away. It’s already lying there, twelve seconds into the future. Ten seconds now. The photograph is in my hand. I found it in a derelict bar at the Gila Flats Test Base, twenty-seven hours ago. It’s still there, twenty-seven hours into the past, in its frame, in the darkened bar. I’m still there, looking at it. The photograph is in my hand. The woman takes a piece of popcorn between thumb and forefinger. The ferris wheel pauses. Seven seconds now. It’s October, 1985. I’m on Mars. It’s July, 1959. I’m in New Jersey, at the Palisades Amusement Park. Four seconds, three. I’m tired of looking at the photograph now. I open my fingers. It falls to the sand at my feet. I am going to look at the stars. They are so far away. And their light takes so long to reach us… All we ever see of stars are their old photographs.
Forty-two. His age had astounded him for years, and each time that he had sat so astounded, trying to figure out what had become of the young, slim man in his twenties, a whole additional year slipped by and had to be recorded, a continually growing sum which he could not reconcile with his self-image. He still saw himself, in his mind’s eye, as youthful, and when he caught sight of himself in photographs he usually collapsed… Somebody took my actual physical presence away and substituted this, he had thought from time to time.
And so–for the first time, it seemed–Pip had looked at her mother’s hands. The skin on the back of them wasn’t pink and opaque like her own skin. It was as if the bones and veins were working their way to the surface; as if the skin were water receding to expose shapes at the bottom of a harbor. Although her hair was thick and very long, there were dry-looking strands of gray in it, and the skin at the base of her throat was like a peach a day past ripe. That night, Pip lay awake in bed and worried that her mother might die soon. It was her first premonition of the granite block.