Fifty-Eight Year Old: George



Obediently the body levers itself out of bed – wincing from twinges in the arthritic thumbs and the left knee, mildly nauseated by the pylorus in a state of spasm – and shambles naked into the bathroom, where its bladder is emptied and it is weighed; still a bit over150 pounds, in spite of all that toiling at the gym! Then to the mirror.

What it sees there isn’t so much a face as the expression of a predicament. Here’s what it has done to itself, here’s the mess it has somehow managed to get itself into, during its fifty-eight years; expressed in terms of a full harassed stare, a coarsened nose, a mouth dragged down by the corners into a grimace as if at the sourness of its own toxins, cheeks sagging from their anchors of muscle, a throat hanging limp in tiny wrinkled folds. The harassed look is that of a desperately tired swimmer or runner; yet there is no question of stopping. The creature we are watching will struggle on and on until it drops. Not because it is heroic. It can imagine no alternative.

Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man


Published in: 58 Years Old | on December 7th, 2011 | No Comments »

Fifty-Three Year Old: Arthur Norris



Not many days after this, Arthur telephoned to tell me that Otto and Anni had made it up.

‘I felt sure you’d be glad to hear. I may say that I myself was to some extent instrumental in the good work. Yes. …Blessed are the peacemakers. …As a matter of fact, I was particularly interested in effecting a reconciliation just now, in view of a little anniversary which falls due next Wednesday. … You didn’t know? Yes, I shall be fifty-three. Thank you, dear boy. Thank you. I must confess I find it difficult to become accustomed to the thought that the yellow leaf is upon me. … And now, may I invite you to a trifling banquet? The fair sex will be represented. Besides the reunited pair, there will be madame Olga and two other of my more doubtful and charming acquaintances. I shall have the sitting-room carpet taken up, so that the younger members of the party can dance. Is that nice?’

‘Very nice indeed.’

On Wednesday evening I had to give an unexpected lesson and arrived at Arthur’s flat later than I intended. I found Hermann waiting downstairs at the house door to let me in.

‘I’m so sorry,’ I said. ‘I hope you haven’t been standing here long?’

‘It’s all right,’ Hermann answered briefly. He unlocked the door and led the way upstairs. What a dreary creature he is, I thought. He can’t even brighten up for a birthday party.

I discovered Arthur in the sitting-room. He was reclining on the sofa in his shirt-sleeves, his hands folded in his lap.

‘Here you are, William.’

‘Arthur, I’m most terribly sorry. I hurried as much as I could. I thought I should never get away. That old girl I told you about arrived unexpectedly and insisted on having a two-hour lesson. She merely wanted to tell me about the way her daughter had been behaving. I thought she’d never stop. … Why, what’s the matter? You don’t look well.’

Arthur sadly scratched his chin.

‘I’m very depressed, dear boy.’

 Christopher Isherwood, Mr Norris Changes Trains

Published in: 53 Years Old | on November 2nd, 2011 | No Comments »