It used to really annoy me when adults would tell me — usually in the presence of another adult — that, being a child, I couldn’t be stressed. The other adult would go, “Ha, yeah, too many video games to choose from? Got too many balls to throw?”
They always reminded me of overgrown frat boys. But then again, I was always a pompous little brat.
To them I now point out that, a little over a year ago, at the tender age of 15, I found my first gray hair. Or, to be precise, my friends did. I was with two of my good friends, Sascha and Raizel, in the latter’s basement. I was laying on a beanbag, butt up, head in my phone, when I felt hot breath on my neck. Whipping around, I smacked right into Raizel’s nose.
“Dude, what the hell?” she spluttered, as blood gushed from a nostril. “I was just looking at your head! You’ve got a gray hair!”
“Yeah, well, now it’s probably red. Geez, Raz, this is so inconvenient. You got your blood on me!”
“Not as inconvenient as going gray at 20 will be!” Sascha chimed in, earning herself a high five from Raizel. “Oh Jesus, Raz, now there’s blood on my hand!”
I held up my phone, trying to glimpse the hair in the screen’s dark reflection. Sascha came over and plucked it out. A single, long, reflective silver hair. “You know, I’ve been thinking of dying my hair silver anyway,” I said.
I don’t think any of us were really surprised. It made sense. It fit my personality. Driving home that day — my father supervising from the passenger seat, Sascha in back — I contemplated Obama. He’d been so young and spry at the start of his term; now he was looking a little frosty. And I thought of my pops, who hadn’t looked nearly so creaky in pictures taken before my brother and I were born. Of course, I’m not planning to have kids or become president anytime soon, though I think I could give Trump a run for his money. Still, it’s weird being a kid and thinking, They grow up so fast.
As I was pondering all this, stopped on State Street, reaching to skip a song on my phone before my dad could slap my hand away, an SUV pulled up next to me driven by a boy who looked like he was 12 years old. It’s really strange to see kids my age driving. Kids in shitty little tubs on wheels aren’t so bad — I drive daddy’s 2006 Camry to school every day. It’s the kids who drive the tanks that freak me out. On the gray-hair day, this particular kid was driving a beast: at least three rows of seats, running boards so wide that you wanna hop on and wave to strangers like you’re in a parade. This was the type of kid in the type of car that makes you realize why the legal driving age is higher in other states.
It was getting dark, and this beast of a vehicle had tinted windows, but I could see that this boy was pale. He was skinny, too, and looked nervous, kept checking himself in the rear-view. His car shrunk him, making him appear smaller than he really was.
Maybe he was older than I thought he was. He was apparently old enough to drive unsupervised, which would make him older than I. He could be my brother’s age, just starting college. I couldn’t tell. At a certain point I stopped being able to determine young people’s ages. Could’ve been when height ceased to be a telltale factor because everyone had pretty much stopped growing. Or maybe it was when kids really started to grow, on the first day of eighth grade, when the boys came back several feet taller, towering over all the girls.
The kid in the tank flicked a lighter. So, 18 at least. But who knows? My brother once told me that people sold him lighters because he passed for the legal smoking age. Other than that lone gray hair, I certainly didn’t pass, and I still don’t. But I’m waiting patiently. I’ll drive a beast when I’m older, too.