What are normal 20 year olds concerned about? Hair? Cars? The sun, since without it they wouldn’t be feeling much like a 20 year old (or anything else)? Well, when I was 20 a few years ago, my main concern was this: am I really 20?
It wasn’t an existential crisis – that’s just now starting to kick in. The question was whether my brain had been tricking me my whole life into thinking I’d existed for way longer than I actually had.
The internal debate came to a head when I went to Spain in 2011 with my parents. We went on this nice bus trip around the mountains. Everything seemed normal, the bus crawling up a road 3-6 inches wide as we all admired the rocky descent off the cliffside. I felt a young and alive adult (nudge nudge). Then the bus guide started to talk.
’They have names for these roads,’ he joked. ’This one’s Oh My God lane, another’s Oh No road, and the one we’re now approaching is Holy Sh-’ He stopped, swallowing his words. Nodding in my direction, he said ’Sorry, I forgot who’s here with us today.’
I looked behind me, expecting to see the Pope on his day off, his white cape smeared with tomatoes and, uh, peppers and stuff. Nope, everyone was looking at me. Was I the bus’ uninformed swearing modulator? Or was there something a little more eerie going on? We set up WTF hill and arrived at the restaurant stop.
Earlier on we all made our orders. An old woman giggled as I said I wanted bread and soup, almost as if surprised at how advanced my vocabulary was for my age. Hmm.
The meal was a 3 course and as soon as we sat down the starter was in front of us, then 5 seconds later the mains. Somebody had switched the waiters onto ’Pour into mouths and get them out’ mode. Eating the meal was such intense labour we nearly had a breakdown, mistaking the beef for the cheesecake and mixing tea into the latte, while the unfinished starters were removed with incredible stealth. Sweating and defeated, we threw down our forks. Whether I was full or malnourished, I didn’t know, didn’t care. I needed a break from the snatching waiters and their deadly speeds, some escape from the madness.
’Ready for your alcohol everyone?’ shouted the bus guide. Faces resting on tables, we managed to emit some sound. At last the waiter arrived at our table with 2 shot glasses. Huh? There were 3 of us.
’His drink is on way’ said the waiter to my Dad. He soon returned with the drink. ’Sin alcohol,’ he said, with an air of professional pride.
We talked for a bit, me addressing Dad, Dad addressing the waiter, the waiter referring to me in third-person. I gave in.
’Just give me the goddamn shot,’ I said, slamming my fists upon the table. Not really, he just left the squash – or whatever it was – in front of me and walked away. I gulped it down like a boss. ’Hey, get me another one.’
To this day I blame him for my squash problem. I can’t go 20 minutes without taking a shot of Ribena, strong and pure.
At the time I concluded that I was clearly about 10 years advanced for my age and I think that still makes sense. I think and feel 24 right now, so that means in reality I’ve just hit puberty and, trust me, that explains a hell of a lot.
Many people will tell me ’Come on man, this is all about attitudes and dumb assumptions,’ to which I reply: Ha! Nice try, brain. I’ve discovered your secret scheme, no use backtracking with your illusional human plants now. I’m 14 and you can bet your ass I’ll drink squash until I’m 40 in 26 years time. Oh sorry, language.