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My Youth (Circa 1986) Is Calling Me

It’s a quiet Saturday night and I want to get out.  The problem is all my friends are my age, which means too old to call up and say, “Let’s go out and find some excitement.”

Not only that, but I don’t think I have the energy to spend more than an hour anywhere tonight.  I don’t want to go out, but I don’t want to stay in.  So I just sit here feeling old.  I’ve been listening to music from the 80s on YouTube.  My youth is taunting me from the far side of a canyon 20+ years wide.  That little smartass.  I want him to shut up. 

Sometimes his bragging and boasting are pretty broad in scope.  Other times, he’s very specific about his exact location, mocking me with memories of it.  Tonight he’s shouting at me from 1986—a time when I felt especially bold and ready for a new adventure every day.  By early July, I’d been out of college a couple of months and in Tampa only a month.  That young version of me had no real plan, no idea what his next move would be.  But a fresh sheepskin and a wallet full of shiny credit cards keep that from bothering him.  These are his talismans, his shields from worry proof that he was a full-fledged adult.  He didn’t have these things only a few months earlier.  This was the time he dreamed of for four years.  Now he would savor it and take his place in the post-collegiate world.

Never mind that he doesn’t have much money and the humidity in Tampa is almost a hundred percent.  He’ll go out because it’s Saturday night and he’ll have so much fun it won’t matter that his clothes cling to him like they’re afraid he’ll go off and forget them at the nightclub or wherever else his whim might lead him.

If it’s July, 1986 he still loves the latest hit by Journey called Girl Can’t Help It.  It won’t end up being one of their biggest hits, but it will end up being his favorite song by them.  Maybe it was the steady, strong drum beat, like his steady, strong young heartbeat. 

He’d be deciding what to put on with his stereo turned up loud (to hell with the neighbors upstairs) playing his favorite Top 40 station, called Q Zoo.  Ironically, he’s sliding into a pair of button fly Levi’s 501s with a 28 inch waist and a madras shirt with the sleeves rolled up.  He surveys himself in a mirror and is quite please, thanks to his newfound habit of working out at a gym.  His confidence has seen a huge uptick.  This while We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off is on.  It seems this song is always on when he’s getting dressed to go out or in the car headed out to prowl.

This song, World Destruction, might fill the dance floor.  He loves it and is pretty sure it isn’t being played back in Arkansas.

He sees the movie Ruthless People and likes it as much as this Luther Vandross song from the soundtrack.

Maybe 1986 stands out so much because my body enderwent a bit of a makeover.  I found out i actually liked lifting weights and, even more surprising, it was working.  I heard this song, The Other Side of Life, alot at the gym.  It reminded me of what I was doing in Tampa.

By October, he’s made several friends, almost all of them transplants from other states, just like himself.  There’s a big street party in Ybor City at Halloween.  It’s warm and people wear costumes leaving little to the imagination.  He spots several other young people, all with perfect bodies, dressed up (or maybe I should say down) as Baby New Year.  Twenty-two year old me has on old army pants, a green T-shirt, combat boots and a black bandana.  Rambo.  Word Up comes on and he climbs up on a 4-foot wall to watch the crowd dance in the intersection.  He sheds his inhibitions, along with his T-shirt, and carefully dances on the wall.  He feels free, alive, and fearless.