A coming of age

'But miss - I'll perish without the hair of the dog!' "But miss - I'll perish without the hair of the dog!"

I turned twenty-one the other day. Yes friends, twenty-one. That magical age where dreams come true, where malted hops rains down from the heavens like so much manna, where every door is open and every bottle full. No more sitting in the car as my friends hefted up the last stanky case of Howie. No more standing outside the bar on wintry nights, nose pressed to the glass like a kid in a Jimmy Stewart movie. No, I was grown up. Or so they said.

Needless to say, I got pretty fucking drunk. The usual rite of passage involves twenty-one drinks and a good hassling from close friends. I'm not sure how much I had - my friends credit me with finishing off six liters of Franzia unaided - and that was before we even hit the bars. Things got shitty pretty quickly after that - at one point I grabbed the mike from the blues band and mumbled a teary-eyed rendition of 'Sweet Caroline'. And then, of course, there was the kid I threw through the plate-glass window. I'll be paying that one off long after my debts with the college are settled. And finally, after a gang of townies put an imprint of my face into the hood of my car, I passed into a deep, satisfying slumber.

The next morning, I awoke with the acrid taste of cheap wine in my mouth, some impressive puncture wounds on my torso, and fear in my heart. Because I don't want to be twenty-one. When I think about it, its all over. I'm old enough to buy booze, and that alone signifies the imminent approach of the end. No more jostling in line at sweaty keggers, no more fear of the cops as I stumble down Division with one hand full of Phillips and the other of girl. I can't party like I used to. I can't sleep like I used to. I can't eat, or study, or even write like I once did. Hell, I can't fuck like back in the day.

From here on out I'm gonna be responsible for my actions - and not because I want to. I'm not getting any younger, and my shit got old long ago. I don't have my youth, or my beauty, or even all my hair. And I want it back, more than anything in the world. I want those sunlit, apple-scented days of my youth, those frantic nights of first adolescence. But they're not coming back.

So enjoy it while you've got it, kids. Enjoy the good times, and learn from the bad ones. Stop to smell the roses on the long road to the middle. Love what you've got, and treasure yourself, as inchoate and misshapen as you may be. Love life, and all that it has to offer.

You'll never be back this way again, except in your dreams. Stay green, kids. Stay green.