CH. 50 «When You’re Twenty-Two»

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I think I’ve reached a somewhat depressing point in my life. I’m at that age where I believe I should be much further along than I am. It’s one of those shocking, eye-opening things and I don’t know if I want them pried open to see the truth. But I realize that I am falling behind faster than I thought I was.

When you’re twenty-two, it can be a very motivating or discouraging time. You watch all your classmates from high school graduate their respective colleges and universities and move on to the next step of education or into a career. You never notice the time move but through those passing by, leaving you far behind to stare on, only realizing you’re wasting yours away when you’ve seen them disappear. And it’s not just me. I’ve found it a bewildering time of life for everyone I talked to about it.

Qwerty Zenith, mostly Martian but a little bit machine, just turned 22 this year, his birthday exactly 6 months after mine. Already he’d found it a most dynamic episode. He had been living on Eris this past year, striving to get away from home in much the same fashion of my own escape. He’d been much smarter than me about it though, and when he felt his welcome was up he fled from the beaches, volcanoes and roaches, back home to Mars before it was too late. Since returning he’d developed quite a taste for the Fire of Jove, and in effort to do everything better than anyone else, already acquired a legal prescription to use it as medicine. As far as I was concerned, he was living the dream.

Three years ago his older brother, Gerund, the yellow-eyed Martian, was just getting over the break-up of a relationship which had occupied the previous four years of his life. He was still trying to come to terms with the bits of his identity left behind in the aftermath, taking up smoking and other vices he had neglected as integral parts of his personality. He spent most of his time at the Gypsy Den or at the local bars, living off the credits he’d saved from his last job, which he also recently found himself pleasantly liberated from.

Shayne Lynoir recently graduated from a respectable university on Earth with a degree in chemical biology, two fellowships to pay for her continued education, and an acceptance letter to graduate school at the University of Mars: Caspian. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed, spandex-clad Earthling then spent an entire summer drinking from the golden cup on Amalthea. By the time my old high school friend had arrived on Mars she had an entirely new outlook and zeal for life, as well as a new favorite pastime. She felt like moving here was one of the best decisions she’d ever made, and in the short while she’d been at UMC, Shayne had already made a ton of new friends, found a band, and requisitioned her sexuality a few times.

When Nymh Amp was this age, she had just given birth to her half-Saturnian, half-Martian daughter, Rei, and motherhood was foreign and strange. As she yearned to find ways of expressing herself as an individual she realized that she was in a topsy-turvy relationship and may be suffering from post partum depression. She resisted doing things that would indelibly identify her as a mother in an attempt to return her life to how it was before. She resumed partying at night and drinking, even during breast-feeding. She wanted to get out of it all, or at least into a more honest life with a more honest companion, at whatever cost.

My own mother, Linn, was my age in the year 2277 and at that point she had been living in Chesapeake all her life. When her best friend, Zan, moved to Earth’s southern hemisphere and left her with an empty apartment and a series of dead end jobs, mom realized she wasn‘t really connected to anything in the north. She wanted a change more than anything, and since everyone seemed to need to live somewhere new, she figured Why not? She packed up that summer and moved down to Tekesida to live with her missing roommate.

Sunshine City was a breezy coastal refuge from the Tekesidan humidity, but even then it offered very little harbor from the moisture of the south. There were mosquitoes even worse than those spawned in the swamps near DT, as well as giant, flying cockroaches and many other creepy critters that sent her scrambling for safety on chairs and tabletops. One time she was scared so bad, Zan’s lovi, a local policeman, had to shoot a snake dead before my mother would descend from her perch on the kitchen counter.

Ironically, the only thing they didn’t fear were the giant alligators populating the canals that passed behind their unit and wove through the neighborhoods, like so many winding aquatic roads. She and the roommates would feed them marshmallows from a dock suspended just a few inches from their partial-exposed heads, and watched them basking on the earthen banks on the other side, never acknowledging the scaly beasts were capable of climbing the same shore into their own backyard.

The year after he would have finished high school, Keret Lane began working for the fire department. My father had walked into city hall with the intention of working on an ambulance, but it was required to be experienced as a firefighter first, and as he was just looking to be civil servant to avoid deployment, any job would do. By ‘77 he had completed the required schooling to work as a paramedic, as well as taken a side job as a plumber.

When dad was my age in 2278 he had finally been assigned to his own ambulance and just moved into a new, less squalid unit on the west end of Alexandria. He hardly spent any time in it though, posted full watches at the fire station most of the week and working out at the gym 6 or 5 days of the week. When he’d joined the department he’d had a weak physique, not too dissimilar from mine now, and he needed to bulk up so the job couldn’t severely beat him up anymore. If dad had any time off he used it to surf off the outer banks of Carolina.

He said as far as municipal jobs go, it wasn’t too weak. Not quite the thing for people who have issues with authority figures or getting out of bed, but otherwise it was an exciting, and all together satisfying job. It felt good to help, and it gave him plenty of opportunities to do so. It also gave him perspective on life and taught him about what was really important to survival. Later in his career these experiences made it difficult for my father not to laugh in his customers’ faces while they complained that not being able to swim in their anti-gravity pool was a situation of life and death.

If you were me, you wouldn’t have a satisfying job or be fulfilling the necessary education requirements to get one. You wouldn’t be scurrying to hide from little creatures or trying in earnest to raise one. You wouldn’t be anywhere near reaching what you think of as the Martian Dream or close to achieving any of the other simple dreams you’ve set for yourself. You wouldn’t be very excited about the world changing all about you. You’d be sitting at home wondering what went wrong with your life. You’d be going to shows and feeling ten years older than everyone else around you. You’d be desperately scrapping through social networks to keep old contacts instead of reaching out to find new friends. And you’d be trying to start anew on Mars for the third or fourth time, hoping the fates would treat you a little better this time. You’d be wishing you were hitting a bowl, or cleaning swimming pools, or hitchhiking across the solar system right now. You’d be wishing that you wouldn’t have to wake up to the same violently vulgar drosslag every morning.

It doesn’t matter what planet you‘re from, I think you’d be wishing you were anyone but you, if you were twenty-two.

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PREV: CH. 49 «Tumultuous Apathy»

PREV: CH. 49 «Tumultuous Apathy»

NEXT: CH. 51 «Are You Patched In?»

NEXT: CH. 51 «Are You Patched In?»

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