You’re always at least an hour late, but the oldies music filled my time. You walk through the door in a purple tie-dyed shirt and a long yellow skirt that sweeps the floor, disturbing the dust and crumbs. At first, you don’t recognize me. We share a hug, holding each other and letting go, and you smell like patchouli and cigarettes. You hang a macrame bag on the opposite chair and set your phone by your water glass. Face to face, we examine each other for signs of change. Your hair is still long and crazy wild (the last time I saw you it wasn’t gray). I feel your eyes skimming over my hair, and I know you can tell it’s fake.
You pick up your phone, urgently, and stare at the screen as your forehead creases deepen and your eyebrows raise. Your lips turn down and you utter a gasp. “Oh God,” you say, while rolling your eyes. You show me a picture of someone named Dave who shaved his beard and cut off his hair. He’s a corporate sell-out now. I have no idea who he is, but I’m picturing hair on a bathroom floor, lifeless locks, limp and lost, forever swept away. The waiter comes. We order a round of IPA, which I don’t really like, but you tell me this one is very popular. It matters now. Behind us, McCartney is singing “Yesterday” when all his troubles seemed so far away.
You look at me suspiciously. “You’ve lost a lot of weight,” you observe. I feel the squeeze of my plastic hair, teenage brown, short and stiff, itchy and hot on a winter day, bangs like cataracts blocking my eyes, and I feel you disapprove. But I want to talk about love and peace, so I ask if there’s anyone special you are dating. You declare that you’re totally done with men. “They’re all a bunch of selfish pigs, lying dogs who only want one thing. They can all go fuck themselves,” you say. There’s so much more that you have to proclaim. The world is full of hypocrites now, the government’s turning us into slaves. Do we even know what’s in our food? Chemicals are lurking in everything. I shouldn’t believe what I read in the news. Conspiracies here and conspiracies there. Lies and deceit are everywhere. The truth is all on your Facebook page. Have I seen what you posted today?
The waiter returns and asks if we’re ready to order now. “Is the produce organic?” you ask. You tell him you don’t eat GMOs; Monsanto is clearly killing the Earth. Meat is murder (except for fish). Is there anything here that’s gluten-free? He recommends the catch of the day. I tell him I still need a little more time, which I always seem to do these days. He says, “of course,” and walks away. Then you ask if I’ve seen your Instagram page as you check your phone for “likes.”
You snap a photo of our popular beers while I lean to the left, so I’m not in the way. You upload it to your Facebook page for your friends’ back home in San Francisco. I tell you about my granddaughters. Then the waiter comes back indulging a smile and I order the special with murdered meat. You tell him to bring you the catch of the day, making sure it’s sustainably sourced.
We toast to the days when our hair was wild, when we were the catch of the day. To beaches, parties, love, and peace. I can see it all now with the edges dim. We’re under a sunrise summer sky dotted with puffy clouds of weed, dancing along in the purple haze, conforming to nonconformity. The times they were a-changing then, when love was all you needed. You ask me what’s going on in my life. “I’m writing a book of poems,” I say. You nod and stare at my plastic hair. “That’s cool,” you reply, and that’s the end. The food arrives, but I’m not really hungry. We sit alone on our cornerstones and talk about these days.
You hand me your phone to show me more truth in graphic memes and colored quotes. Love is the click of an upturned thumb from faces that know what’s going on. They walk picket lines with picket signs, playing Kick the Can down a city street, and never cut their hair. Prophet’s words are on Facebook walls and Instagram halls, they say.
You hate all the hate and prejudice; everyone’s so damned intolerant now; millennials suck and don’t give a fuck. We Boomers are getting a rotten deal after all we did so long ago. I wonder how many likes our glasses of beer will get and we laugh out loud at last. I’m nodding along to the beat of the song. It’s something new I’ve never heard, auto-tuned with a hurried beat. I try to catch the lyrics as they weave into the background words you say. None of it really makes much sense, and it doesn’t matter at all.
They have cleared away the plates, and it seems we’ve run out of things to say. My watch has been constantly counting down. The window surrounds a setting sun that’s melting like surrealistic time in a picture frame. It drips from tree branches, tables, and chairs, seeping into our hearts and minds. You think it’s too early; I think it’s too late. Minutes relentlessly pour into hours till they’re overflowing a broken cup. It’s washing away the music notes and leaving lines behind. And even the grooves will blow in the wind, so we don’t to talk about love and peace.
When we pay our checks for the final time, you tell me we really should do this again. “It’s been great,” I say, and really mean it. “It’s been way too long since we’ve caught up. Ain’t it funny how time slips away?” We stand and share a generic hug, holding on and letting go of the time that changes in between. In the moments that pass, the only thing real is the ticking of this unwinding clock. And now that time has come today there are things to realize.
It’s almost time to go. You search in your bag for your cigarettes; I search in mine for my keys. “I could use a smoke,” you sigh in the air, and I suddenly see myself sitting on a metal table in a paper gown. The obscene words my doctor spoke were cold and sharp as a scalpel blade. Time changed into a puff of smoke. It hung in the air and smelled like decay while he wrote a stack of prescriptions out. One pill makes you larger. And one pill makes you small.
There are parting songs for parting friends, but I don’t want to listen to sad songs today. Instead I tune my inner radio to the ghost of John Lennon singing "Imagine" and living for today. My phony hair is itchy and hot. We’re about to go our separate ways, and I know I’ll never see you again. Together we discovered love, we long for peace, but it's still tangled somewhere in our hair.