The Mirror Doesn't Lie
I hit puberty late. When I got my driver's license, six months past my sixteenth, I looked like I was ten. I was driving with my brother, two years younger than me, and we passed a town cop going the other way. I checked my rearview. He was turning around. The lights and the siren came on and he pulled me over.
The driver's buddy took station behind my car, just like the manual says, and he looked ready to shoot me down if I made a suspicious move. With his back covered, the driver sauntered up to my window, just like the book says. I'd already pulled out my license, told my brother to pull the registration out of the glovebox, and rolled down the window. As soon as the cop reached me I handed them to him. Apparently, the book didn't cover this contingency, so the cop followed the script that was in the book, and as he took the license and registration, he said: "Let me see your license and registration." I played along. "Here you are, sir," I said as he studied the documents.
He looked up. "How old are you, kid," he said.
"Sixteen and a half, sir," I said.
"Are you sure?" He looked at me suspiciously.
"Yes, sir," I said.
"You don't look sixteen," he said, accusingly.
I nodded my head. What could I say? I knew it.
His eyes narrowed and he studied the license. "When were you born?"
"December 30th, 1942, sir," I answered. I didn't add: "Just like it says on my license."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, officer," I said.
He went back to the license and studied it some more. He was sure that I'd memorized that birth date just like I'd memorized my age. Then he realized how he could trip me up. He'd ask me the question that I didn't expect.
He leaned down, to get a better look at me and to make sure I didn't cheat on this one. "What color are your eyes," he asked.
"Brown, officer," I said. Brown. Just like it says on the license.
He looked disappointed. "Are you sure?" He asked.
I resisted checking in the mirror. "Yes, sir," I said. "I'm sure."
"Well you don't look sixteen," he said and handed me back the license and registration.
I looked like someone much younger, but I felt like someone older. I was precocious and didn't have much respect for most adults. They were stupid, and I was smart. So there I was, a grown-up stuck in a kid's body.
And now, ironically I'm a much younger man stuck in an old man's body. I don't think that I'm seventy. In my mind, I'm still thirty. Or forty. Or fifty. I didn't grow older, just more experienced.
But my mirror says different. I look in the mirror and see this face that I don't recognize. It's the face of an old man with deep lines around his mouth, lines around his eyes, wattles at the neck, and other indisputable signs of age.
Who the hell is that? I ask myself, looking in the mirror. That's not me.
But neither is the twenty-something-year-old guy with curly hair and sideburns in the picture sitting on my dresser. Or the three-year-old kid in the small picture next to it. I just finished scanning thirty years of family pictures with plenty of shots of younger people that I think I used to be. But I'm not them anymore. I'm not the kid in the small picture or the handsome dude with the hair.
I'm a seventy-year-old guy who doesn't believe he's seventy. But my mirror refuses to go along with me.
It says I'm seventy.