The lines under my eyes are deeper than they used to be. This is not a lament. It’s a simple realization and reminder of decay’s enduring march which can not be stopped. The age of twenty-five is when one is at their peak health, or rather, that is the point at which their body can be in better condition than it will ever be. Supposedly, from then on the trudge is downhill, the pinnacle of physiological perfection tasted, enjoyed, and now waning. But I am only twenty-three and see how these lines express that, age aside, this body’s been breaking down from day one.
These lines which would once be there after several late nights would fade after a couple days of rest and calm. But I have been resting for the last couple of days, and these lines and their depth remain unchanged. But again, this is not a lament. Perhaps, instead, it is a rejoicing. To be reminded I will not be here forever imparts the urgency and necessity of time while still inside its hold.
Heaven forbid I should reach the end of life and still look somewhat young. I want lines hard across my face and body like the rings of a tree which tell a tale as deep as roots clutching the clay beneath me. I want there to be meaning mixed in with the dust buried far beneath the folds of skin in those lines, hidden so far down it would take effort and time to dig out and display and process everything that went into acquiring them. I want the epidermal cracks to shout any time I smile—a less-than-placid facial construction shown to take considerable effort to pull off since moving those lines means shifting and shaking all of those stories and experiences. Quite a load to transform into a wink, a grin, a laugh, a chortle. I feel my roots stir.
But we flee the acquisition of lines. We hesitate to put on the war paint of living a full life because heaven help us if our countenance happens to come across as speaking to a life well lived. Displayed instead on our face is our aversion towards picking up the joyful skin stripes of focusing a life on fighting injustice, helping those who have nothing, or becoming less so someone or something becomes more. But the very fiber of running from those stories will still impart deep strokes into our facial display, but they will not convey good stories. No, they will speak of bitterness, insecurity, and selfishness. Excretions of this human’s waste . . . of everything.
May I never put my face first.
And so now I wonder what kind of lines these are under my eyes. Do they tell a good story or one of disappointment? I suppose I and one other person are the only people who can answer that because we both know this face better than anyone else. Lines are so ambiguous. It’s never as simple as point A to point B. Burrowing deeper into those streaks, we see how forks and detours and dead ends abound between the points, but from the top zoomed out we can’t catch it. All we see is a simple slash, but it took much more than a quick clip to place it there. Only one person can tunnel far beneath the layers to see what truly made up that line, and only he can pronounce whether it tells a story that is “well done” or “good” or “faithful.” But if this one—this grand storyteller himself—sees how beneath it all this story lacks substance, he will issue upon it the command of “depart,” a secondhand paperback issued to the used bookstore and a tale not worthy of staying on the shelf to be re-read and delighted in over and over again.
I want to be on that shelf. Not so I can sit and do nothing, but rather, sit and be assured I did do something. Something of consequence, of worth. If he came for the propagation of full life, I intend to find it—that bucket of razorblades that it is—and plunge my face in for the lines he likes, draining my head of my self and turning and saying, “What do you think?” And if he asks, “What do you think?” then I will reply, “I think this hurts.” And he will say, “I know. Keep going, though. You’re not done yet.” And I won’t know I’m done until I ask, “What do you think?” only to be met by, “That’s good. That’s real good.” And the blood by then will have run down and covered my feet, and he will say, “Why don’t you come over here? Let me wash those off for you.” I’ll probably try to fight that, like they say one other guy did a while back. I’ll probably fumble some words about how I should do that since it’s the exact type of thing that will give you a good line on your face. But I think at that point he’ll nod his head and say something like, “You already have those lines,” but I can’t be sure he will. I can’t know for sure. So it leaves room for hope.
These lines under my eyes are small, tepid. A sign of age, but in their insignificance an accentuation to youth, as well. They show there is more to be done and highlight how little has already happened. To one man, this message from his face will energize him. To another, the one having little endurance, it will chop him down. And I don’t know which one I am or to which man these eye stripes speak. But I suppose I am not the one to answer that. To him and to me, the lines speak for themselves.