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What I mean to say is....
That old, Gay man I'll be
by Beau Burriola - SGN Foreign Correspondent

I've had a strange recurring daydream lately that's been nagging at me. I'll be doing nothing in particular, like reading in the sun or taking my daily bike ride, when I'm suddenly struck frozen by a future image of myself some forty years down the road. The image itself is nothing terribly jarring, just an image of an old man with one or two familiar features - a dimple among the wrinkles of a smile, a partially-toothless grin with signs of familiar dental work, or a thin tuft of reddish-white hair - sitting alone on a porch or walking in a garden, deep in thought. But when I see this image, it's as unsettling to me as if I'd see a ghost. My whole body seems to shake with a terrifying chill and the course of my whole day is thrown off the tracks like a derailed train. As this daydream occurs more frequently, this picture of the old man seems to become more detailed- the slow manner of his walk, the way he holds his hands behind his back with his head looking up at the sun, or the deep look of thoughtfullness in his eyes. He never speaks but I can tell he is thinking deeply.

Although I pride myself on being a reasonably intelligent person, I allow myself to entertain the unlikely theory that this daydream is some type of message from me in the future sent back through time to me today. Can the future deep thoughts of the old, pensive man I will one day become be some sort of hopeful capsule that can be sent across time? What could the hopeful thoughts of a sixty-something Gay man be to himself forty years earlier?

It's hard to imagine being a Gay man in my sixties, especially now at twenty-eight. Gay life as I know it today seems to become a bit fuzzy after a certain age, well-hidden beyond the glossy, muscular ads for Gay gyms, Gay cruises, Gay parties, and Gay glamour that I am familiar with. Any image beyond that thirty-something happy Gay man with his house, his gym membership, his annual vacations, and his boyfriend - that whole part after - seems like a well kept secret, revealed only to those Gay folks who seem to suddenly disappear from all view and into "whatever comes next." Whereas most straight folks of my age might look forward and imagine themselves a jolly old grandparent surrounded by all their children and children's children, or one of part of an old married couple pulling an RV down to Florida for the winter to some senior retirement community, there aren't really any obvious images in my head of what I think my life will be like. Add to that the fact that I've never felt much like the rest of the crowd, and my future is as foggy as it gets.

I suppose if I were to venture a guess at what it will be like, I'd imagine that life as that old Gay man isn't going to be so different as the life of an old straight one. Maybe I'll move to a small town where I'll notice and appreciate the different species of trees and flowers more than I do the different types of clubs or men in the big cities I live in these days. Maybe I'll find a nice, quiet bungalow at the end of a tiny street near a lake where I can live among shelves of my old books and CDs, surrounding myself with things far less exhausting than the beauty and noise of another Pride festival. Maybe I'll have decided that the "Gay community" isn't so much a destination where Gay folks remain, but really just a central arrival point, like a welcome station, where you come out to learn to be okay with being Gay and then move on to live openly and happily among the straight people of the world. Or maybe there really is a whole underworld of over-sixty Gay men that my eyes have not been trained to see, living lives I've never stopped to notice, living lives that are obvious to them while many of us are to terrified of getting older to even think or ask what it is like.

"Don't think too much about it," wise Sean told me when I complained about turning twenty-five. "Holding onto time is like trying to hold water in a pasta strainer." At the time, I didn't think I was afraid of time passing so much as I was afraid of not noticing it passing, of not stuffing it as full as I can with the "living" and "doing", or worse, of looking back with regret. In hindsight, though, he read me correctly and gave the only reasonable advice you can give to anyone who feels time going by too quickly. After all, you only have two ways to look at getting older, a choice between spending those precious hours now noticing time going by or living it without noticing at all. So I resolve to go about my days, carpe-ing the diem, until the daydream comes along again and there is the familiar old man in the sun with his eyes deep in thought.

More likely than being some supernatural message through time, the daydream is probably just a more colorful version of the same old thing any person experiences regularly through the years: the understanding that time is passing, gently repeating and becoming more pronounced; a subtle reminder playing along with life's usual blind indifference, like the constant beat of a metronome showing that four beats have just passed and a new four beats have begun, there to gently nudge us back onto the bigger composed path. "Time is passing... Two, Three, Four. What were your goals again?... Two, Three, Four."

I cannot say what I will be like or what I will be thinking of when I become that old man, and I won't offend him by guessing, but if I am fortunate enough, I hope I will have found that difficult balance of forward-looking and present-living that will allow me to sit on that porch or walk in that garden and think back on a life well-lived, well-traveled, and well-loved.

Then, perhaps, the image of sixty or seventy won't be jarring at all, but just a confident glimpse into a peaceful and well-planned future.

Beau Burriola is a queer writer and tree shade philosopher, rationing glimpses into the past and future to keep an eye on the road today. E-mail him at beaubrent@gmail.com.
visit Beau at www.beaubrent.com
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