He was late teens, or early twenties maybe, the age when you’re searching for what to believe and rebellion carries the heat of refreshing excitement. Irony lives large, but sincerity and passion wait around the corner, intermittently revealing hints of their immense future value. He had a nondescript black beanie and dark long-sleeve button-up, untucked and unironed, of a piece with his lean and slouching figure. We were on a northbound 5, cruising into 130th. It was almost his stop.
I said, “How's it been going?”
“Aw, pretty good, bro. And you?”
I was a young man in my early thirties, verging on middle thirties; the time when youthful confusion has settled down, and sensitivity has revealed its appeal, but also the time when people you know are starting to die, and thoughts of mortality creep in, destabilizing what you thought you knew. I said what happened to be percolating in my mind for that whole drive, and what gave me peace in these chaotic times.
“I don't understand this life, but I like living in it!”
He kept staring forward at the road. Thinking. A door was opening in his mind, and he reflected, rising, formulating. Finally he exclaimed, with sudden force and excitement:
The pause before his words, as landscapes came together. Concepts were formulating; their speed and freedom unleashed his outcry, a mental freedom that made the day all over again. You sensed my phrase gave him a place to put his ironic rebellion, a standpoint which quelled the thirst of sarcasm and pessimism while allowing room for unvarnished, pure appreciation. I got the impression he was realizing he could give himself permission to enjoy things. That the world doesn’t have to make sense, or be perfect. You can still relish the good. He grinned wide on leaving me and nodded significantly to himself, to the pavement and foliage around him, pacing to a new beat.
I don’t understand this place, but I like living in it.