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Slip Sliding Away

By Tom "I'm almost positive" Waters
Octomer 6th, 2006
My attention span is subjective and not to be relied upon. The ability to drift out of small talk used to be voluntary, whereas now it's contrary, or it's acquired its own sentient desires. What was I saying?

In the second act of our lives, the mind is a flawed machine. Starting, stopping, lurching, stalling, and gasping for wind, the mechanism fails and misfires like a recalled Audi. After discussing the topic with friends young and old, it's a common ailment: the mind winds down, ever so slowly. The male peak of biological progress reaches it's zenith at the tender (in retrospect) age of 23, which I'm sad to say, is in the rear-view mirror of this blown out jalopy. And we wonder if all the ginseng and purified water in the world were capable of staving off the process. It's a foregone conclusion, but like that collection of rusting machinery burping and misfiring despite our prayers and profane diatribes, it's a matter of time after the first hundred miles.

My attention span is subjective and not to be relied upon. The ability to drift out of small talk used to be voluntary, whereas now it's contrary, or it's acquired its own sentient desires. What was I saying? Give me a second to re-read the last paragraph and brew a pot of coffee. My attention span is subjective and it wanders off on flights of fancy. I'm not even forty and sometimes it goes on holiday, leaving me to occupy my body while the world marches on without me. During perfectly good conversations I return after ten minutes of time out ill-equipped to respond largely due to the fact that I wasn't there to enjoy, digest, or object to the subject matter. I focus in the beginning, I make eye contact, I'm truly interested, and then€¦the credits are rolling and the lights twinkle back on in the movie theater. This just isn't fair. How can I debate when it takes every molecule of willpower to keep my brain from drifting off when a light breeze hits?

The older I get, the shorter my paragraphs become. Why, you may ask? Did you ask me something? Oh yeah. So anyways,I'm just stalling until it comes back to me. Paragraphs. I'm not that far gone yet. Or maybe I haven't forgotten how to fake that I have it together yet. The paragraphs have shrunk because that's what I enjoy. Blurbs. I raged against the boom of blurbs in newspapers and magazines not three years ago and now I get it. You can keep that concentration going like a white-hot laser for the first three decades and then the intensity wears off. It's best to hold it, rest, and bolt on to the next topic. Focus, relax, take a nap, wander around in your own senility, forget to zip up your pants for half the day, and then try and pick up the pieces in time to catch the next paragraph.

Zipping up your pants. What a luxury that was. If I had a nickel for every time I've forgotten to zip up my pants in the last year, I could transplant a fully functioning brain into my head and not have to worry about the embarrassment. You may mock now, but just you wait, grasshopper. I go to the bathroom to attend to business, read my short paragraphs, wander off staring into the mirror in my apartment at the decomposing stranger in the reflection, pull my pants up, latch the belt on, and somehow the zipper thing is lost in the mix. I didn't always wear a belt until I had the paunch necessary to hide it with, so perhaps that extra step is too much. Maybe it works into the rule of seven equation (plus or minus three). Those aren't even the right numbers for that equation, so don't call me out on it, because my mind's not right.

It's not a staggering amount of steps: 1) drop trou', 2) sit down, 3)grab reading material, 4) (optional) light cigarette, 5)take care of business, 6) flush, 7) (and this is crucial) get up, 8)pull up pants, 9)latch belt, and 10) (so it was in the 7-10 ballpark after all!) pull zipper up. I've come to terms with the fact that I often and frequently don't remember to zip, what bothers me is that the world at large allows me to go through three quarters of the day without mentioning it before I notice, which is invariably the next time I go to the bathroom. At that point, I feel as if I'm reduced to a public park flasher or a schoolyard pervert. The vault has been on display for the better part of the afternoon. That's not even close to being right. But this is just one example of a bigger picture.

You can't blame recreational drug usage (heavy in my teens), poor diet (a fat bastard to this day), or lack of sleep (which I'm catching up on). This is just the way things go. I'm starting to envision the mind as an island that breaks off into an archipelago. It's all together in the beginning. It's a solid, lush, beautiful ecosystem; a paradise where the environment is in perfect harmony. And then after it's battered with heavy rains, volcanoes, tourists and gallons of whiskey (I'm doing a smashing job at keeping this metaphor going, no?), the fault lines give up and it drifts. What was once a solid, cohesive geological mass is now two hundred separate forests and civilizations. Much like Hawaii, they're all beautiful, self contained slices of heaven. Part of a brilliant whole. But communication between the off-shoots isn't much further along than a lame carrier pigeon with a busted wing. We all have the ability to be sharp, but it takes a concerted effort. When I'm spending fifteen minutes in the morning on an expedition to find my car keys, some vital component in my brain has gone on holiday to one of those damned islands. The pre-pubescent onset of senility is an inevitable, interesting journey. Please let me know how it was. And that my fly was open the entire time.

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